By Nick

My name is Nick, and I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when I was 13. When I was told about it, I thought it was the end of the world. I acted out way too much in school. When one little thing went out of normal, I lost it. I didn’t have a lot of close friends in school because of it, and for years I spent a lot of time in my room. In all honesty, though, school wasn’t too bad. I loved going to school sporting events whenever I could, and I was active in band, chorus and drama club. But why was hanging out with classmates after school outside of my house so hard for me? I certainly didn’t have a problem at school speaking out (meaning all the times I was sent to the principal’s office for being disruptive). But it got easier in time.

After a recent move in high school, my mom and I were watching this movie about twin autistic boys trying to cope with living with autism. During the closing credits, I looked at my mom and the first words out of my mouth were, “That’s me. It’s not the end of the world after all.” It was then I realized that I didn’t have a “problem” at all. I was my own person. I graduated from high school in the top 10 percent of my class, with a scholarship for college. But I still had one thing I needed to do for myself — being able to talk about my autism.

Two years after high school, I started working at a customer service center for a major office supply company when, during training, I met this kid about my age named Stephen. We got to talking one day on a lunch break, and became really close friends. He was as outgoing as I am, so it was easy striking up a friendship. One day while we were on a break, we were talking about what only our closest friends know about us. I knew then it was time I had to say something about being autistic. I told him. His response was, “Really!? But you’re as outgoing as I am. I would never have been able to tell.” The only thing I felt silly about at that moment was making such a big deal out of it for so long.

It’s been a long struggle, but in talking about it I have a saying, “I have it; it doesn’t have me.” I’m 21 now, and my life is pretty normal, with the occasional speed bump. I still have my days where it all resurfaces, but give me a moment or two, and it’s all good. I don’t like to be in large crowds too much, and at times I’m a little uneasy meeting new people, but it falls right into place easily. I have a group of friends I hang out with on occasion, and I’m still as into music and theater as I was when I was growing up. I don’t see being autistic as a disability (I hardly ever use that word anyway), but as a different way of thinking than most everyone else.