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Different, and that’s OK

The Daily Reflector - 4/17/2017

I have Asperger Syndrome or high functioning autism.

But let me be the first to tell you that I do not consider Asperger Syndrome to be a detriment.

Sure, I have days when I’m easily frustrated because I stutter or can’t articulate sentences. I get easily panicked, even downright out of sorts. I’ll forget things or misplace them, and I am socially awkward. Yet, I’m still human.

I’m also a proud graduate of East Carolina University who works in the field of communication doing public relations: the antithesis of what someone who has autism should do. Yet, I work through my challenges, and by facing my fear of talking to large groups and giving presentations, I find an inner strength that can’t be tamed.

However, were it not for my mother and countless others providing me with proper socialization over the years, none of these things would be possible. When I was younger, my mother had me participate in recreational sports, volunteer in the community, go to church and participate in youth group, when I just wanted to stay home and play Xbox. I even played sports in high school and was a member of every club. And most importantly, I had a mother who refused to let me quit.

Now, college was a struggle for me, and I wanted to throw in the towel many times. But in addition to my mother “motivating” me, I had my now, wonderful fiancée spending hours arguing with me about why I needed to do my Latin homework.

I made it, even if it took me forever. The point is that I reached my destination, not how I got there.

The challenge that many autistic people feel is that sometimes we think we’ll be stranded forever. However, the hope is having community members who instead of just being aware that we have autism, choose to include us in as many activities as possible and by doing so, will help us catch our connecting flight.

Something as simple as observing Autism Awareness Month and changing your profile picture on Facebook is a small but important step. But, it cannot stop there. Choosing to hire individuals with autism or spending time and mentoring individuals with autism goes a long way.

What people with autism don’t need, however, is mollycoddling. No matter where we are on the spectrum, we have talents and abilities, even if they are not apparent at first. I was a late bloomer.

Making autism awareness go beyond the month of April is something I wish more people did. The fact remains, I’m human just like everyone else.

So, even if I have trouble looking you in the eye or acting “normal” in social situations, I am just as capable, just as creative, just as intelligent as the next person. I see the world a little differently. And that’s okay.

Tyler Stocks is a Greenville resident, graduate of East Carolina University and a community advocate at the Center for Family Violence Prevention.


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