Today I have a guest post from a fellow Aspergian in Canada.
I’ve never ever known what Autism was like. Nor did I suspect that I may be diagnosed with Asperger Syndrom, who according to the DSM, is a mild form of Autism, and part of the Autism Spectrum. To me, Autism was a stigma, something to be ashamed of if you happened to have it, a form of social disability. I remember I was a high school senior in 1991 when Rainman came out, and Dustin Hoffman, who won an Oscar for his excellent portrayal of a Savant individual, seemed to me what “All Autistic People Look Like, Act and Behave”.
My name is Steve Norris. But some of you may remember me as “Jim Perry”, the name I went by before legally changing it in Ontario. The main reason I changed my name was to distance myself away from the past and turn a new page in my life, as someone who acknowledges and accepts his Asperger Syndrom, and lives with it rather than denying it. I was born in St. Catharines in 1973 to an Irish-Italian family. My father has never accepted me being a kid. He used to hurl insults at me as “stupid”, “idiot” and claim that I was “odd”, “weird” and “bizarre”. My social interactions with my peers were poor since I could remember myself, and I was a target for physical assaults and bullying until I went to high school. Then the bullying stopped but I was still marginalized and ostricized. After my parent’s divorce, my father became estranged, wanting nothing to do with the entire family. That’s the main reason why I changed my name, so as not to carry his legacy.
In March 2011, I was officially diagnosed as having Asperger Syndrom. Finally I got an explanation as to what was “wrong” with me when it came to social interactions or failed employment opportunities. Drew and the office team were trying to help me out ever since (special thanks to Jay Burford who suspected I had Asperger in the summer of 2010). I gradually started to put my trust in Christ as well as learning what it’s like to live with a mild form of Autism.
Recently, after a bitter break up with a fellow Autistic woman, I lost my shelter and clothes in the process as well as my monthly rent. Neurotypical friends and acquaintances I gathered in Toronto due to my volunteer activities garnered clothes for me and gave it to me. They also supported me throughout this tough time and it made me proud to realize that even though there were trying times when I thought I didn’t fit, I finally and ultimately came to understand that the church has saved my life, and that I wouldn’t be able to make it elsewhere.
I hope to be able to use my newfound understanding about Autism to promote a better understanding between “mainstream society” (“Neurotypicals”), and the 3% of us who are born with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. I hope to be an activist of promoting rights and accomodations for Disabled people in general, and Autistic ones – in particular.