This guest story is by Aidan Allman-Cooper, a young man on the Autism spectrum from New Jersey! He is the founder and chairman of his own special education organization called, “Special Education Committee of Advocates”. When he is not working in his special education organization, he is an instructional paraprofessional in a private school. He has had many opportunities to provide speeches in various venues, discussing issues around in the special education field. He is one of the panelists in Mrs. Jessica Leichtweisz’s webinar series, “Ask an Autistic”.
A common question people have asked of me to answer was what it means to live with Autism. To me, there is no simple answer. I wondered if the people who asked me that question were hoping for a simple response such as “it’s hard sometimes but I manage.” The truth is that there really is no simple response you can give. In fact, I find my Autism rather enigmatic, but I do agree with the response of “it’s hard sometimes but I manage.” A lot of times I will say that exact response, but I’ve found myself recently wanting to describe the enigmatic part of my Autism. I work as an educational advocate and consultant, so I’m used to working with other special needs individuals and managing their issues. Frequently, due to my insecurity, in addition to fear of coming off as pedantic, as I explain the depths of my Autism, I would muddle that simple response. However, the insecurity, fear, and worry I once had about being more intimate about explaining my Autism has chipped away, partly due to the world becoming more progressive in some aspects as well as finding myself more emotionally secure. Consequently, I will do my best to explain my Autism in a more transparent and intimate way now.
To me, having Autism is both a blessing and a curse. To start on the negative sides, I will be honest and admit how lonely it can get for me. I have an incredibly challenging time in making friends, as anxiety paralyzes me in what I like to say “going to the next level.” While I’ve been able to master etiquette skills and am able to not come across as socially awkward, I still find myself unable to elevate friendships. Due to past trauma, as well as a lacking self-esteem, the concept of me being unlikable and unlovable has been a substantial force in preventing me from moving forward with relationships. Where Autism comes in is the rather perseverative thinking I have. Fleeting thoughts are constant as I ponder whether or not I matter to people, or if people would actually want to spend time with me or even love me. Besides the difficulty in making friends and the negative perseverative thinking, I would have to say that one of the most challenging aspects of having Autism is the rejection that comes from it. Unfortunately, some people I have had the opportunity to interact with have mocked the way I occasionally stutter or stammer my words, in addition to how I communicate with people. In the past, I used to try and elevate friendships and be more social, but the names I’ve been called due to some of the effects of me having Autism is devastating. I’ve wanted to stop socializing altogether due to these negative experiences as well as protecting myself from rejection. Lately, however, I have strayed away from that strategy.
On the opposite end of my Autism being challenging at times, there are many positive qualities that it offers to me. For one thing, I feel as though I have a high level of insight which allows me to identify some of the strengths and areas on what I would like to improve on myself. This insight isn’t just garnered to me, but rather, I feel as though I have a higher level of insight on others as well. As I previously mentioned, I did not want to socialize with anyone due to my negative experiences. Due to the insight my Autism provides to me, I have also looked into the values that other people have that may contrast with my own. For example, I would sometimes see myself trying to be friends with people who aren’t necessarily interested in me, but I would vehemently do so just to say that I have a friend. As I’ve gotten older, the increase in insight of others has allowed me to gravitate to people who are non-judgemental, kind, and actually those who are interested in me as a person. I’m starting to learn that I matter, and the values I have are actually shared by others as well.
This revelation has slowly changed my life as I’ve been able to socialize with more people recently and actually develop positive friendships. While I will always have Autism, that means there will always be some challenges and some strengths. I am a compassionate person who has a lot of love to give towards others, in addition to my drive to change the world. Autism reinforces those values due to the perseverative thinking as well as the understanding of rejection. Due to the positive values I find myself possessing, I can conclusively say with conviction that I would not rid myself of Autism if I had the opportunity to do so.
Here are Aidan’s contact information and social media platforms to reach out and follow: Email- firstname.lastname@example.org ; His organization info– SECA Organization LLC- 100 Connell Drive, Berkeley Heights, New Jersey 07922, United States (908) 376-3200 ; Social media platforms- Facebook and Instagram.