View from the Spectrum – by Anita Lesko
Ringing in the New Year with Autism!

I have a very unique view of being autistic. I went the first 50 years of my life not knowing that I’m autistic, only discovering by chance when a co-worker’s son was diagnosed. During the “Before Diagnosis” years, I accomplished many things, including earning my Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia from Columbia University in 1988. I have been working full time ever since as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. I also became an internationally published military aviation photojournalist and got to fly in an F-15 fighter jet. I also got to spend time with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels elite flight demonstration squadron.

I never knew why I was different and never fit in. I didn’t understand why I had endless social difficulties and couldn’t seem to make or keep any friends. Sensory issues baffled me, as no one else ever expressed any of the challenges I faced. Yet despite it all, whenever I set my sights on a goal, I persevered and worked harder and harder to achieve those goals.

I just completed a book about my great friend Temple Grandin, which is due for release on April 2nd, 2018, Temple Grandin: The Stories I Tell My Friends. I interviewed Temple for several months, over 60 hours in total. I learned many things from her. When talking about her favorite quotes, she brought up one by the great inventor Henry Ford. It goes like this: “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” When I heard this, I realized I had been living by those very words my whole life. Everyone faces obstacles. I simply never focused on those, instead using my energy to figure out ways to overcome them, always keeping my goal in clear view.

Indeed, there were endless times I’d “fall,” but I’d get right back up and keep going. I recently discovered another quote I’ve been living by my whole life. Famous rocker Jon Bon Jovi and he says, “Success is falling nine times and getting up ten.” He is exactly right. It’s not about falling, it’s about getting up.

After I learned I’m autistic, I entered into a world I never knew existed, the world of autism. What I soon came to learn is how so many people on the autism spectrum focus on the fact that they have autism. Because of that, they seem to lose sight of any goals, other than focusing on their autism. Like Henry Ford’s quote, if you take your eyes off your goal and focus on your autism, you will become your own biggest obstacle.

Set your New Year’s goal to think of what you’ve always dreamed of doing, and get out there and make it become a reality! Don’t focus on the autism. Yes, you are different! As Temple says, “we need all kinds of minds!” Use YOUR difference to make a difference! 2018 is going to be your best year ever!

Anita Lesko is a member of the Autism Society’s Panel of People on the Spectrum of Autism