Nobody would have been able to convince me of this while I was growing up. Back then, in the 1980’s, my as of yet undiagnosed Aspie profile was such that writing was burdensome and therefore would only be done when assigned by one of my grade school teachers. I struggled to write properly, was painstakingly slow at it, and consequently, I always worried that I wouldn’t finish the paper by the due date. Thankfully, my thirst for good grades kept that from ever happening. As is often the case with those of us on the Spectrum, I strongly preferred math and science, probably in part because these subjects did not emphasize composition to the extent that other subjects did.
Looking back on these years, it becomes apparent to me that I could not get excited about writing largely because I was expected to do so much of it on other people’s terms. I was told what to write about, how long the paper had to be and the deadline by which time I needed to wrap it up. Nonetheless, a strong college preparatory education in high school combined with a collegiate liberal arts education helped me increase my aptitude for writing which, over time, eased my anxieties around it, gradually. Eventually I was able to take pride in what I was writing. What a difference a quality education can make!
In 2016, my mother passed away after a long, hard-fought battle with dementia. When she was alive and well, her chosen career was that of social work, in a mental health center, in a school district helping kids with emotional challenges and as a marital and family therapist. Her passing was transformative in the sense that out of the blue, I all of a sudden felt compelled to continue her legacy of giving to others because of how much she had helped me when I was contending with a learning disability and an undiagnosed Autism Spectrum profile. I chose to give to others in her memory, of all things, by writing blogs. The eulogy I delivered at her funeral became a blog after some in attendance recommended that I write it out and publish it. A bunch of other blogs would follow, and I’m still at it, and probably won’t stop. In addition, I just wrapped up the initial manuscript for my first book, now in the hands of the publishing company that will help me get it off the ground.
Finally, I write on my terms, what I want to write about, only when I have the time to do so and for as long as I see fit. As such, writing has become therapeutic. Sharing ideas and insights which I believe will be of value to folks in the Autism Spectrum community, and maybe to some people outside of this community, is beneficial in that I have always felt good about myself whenever I give of myself to others. Writing the tribute to my mother, and a year or so later, to my father, helped me cope with all of the emotions that arose after I lost them. Writing about when I was bullied allowed me to come to terms with some very unpleasant memories as I thought through what had happened and how I dealt with the adversity, ultimately enabling me to understand how I was turning that adversity into positivity.
My book includes self-help content intended for use by the community, and it is also a memoir. The book’s latter aspect has enabled me to arrive at a greater understanding of my past and why it unfurled the way it did. While writing, I frequently drove myself to tears, or laughed out loud, or smiled, recalling all that I have lived through while also looking ahead to the future. Writing the book has reinforced much of what I have learned from my speech language pathologist as well as from other clinicians with whom I worked in earlier years. And what great exercise for the brain this has been. Phenomenal therapy for both mind and soul!
If you are a writer, I hope that you have reaped the benefits that I have, and then some. If you do not write, I strongly encourage it by virtue of all that it has done for me which may also be beneficial for you. As I have, do so on your terms, in your own good time, and about whatever crosses your mind which you feel is worth getting on paper, or perhaps sharing with others. If you are on the Autism Spectrum as I am, I would love for you to share your story. Each of us has a unique profile unlike that of all others, and noteworthy life experiences as well. As more of us express what we have to say, we inevitably foster greater understanding of what life can be like with a Spectrum profile, the challenges, the adversity, and yes, how wonderful it can be!