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Fitting In and Speaking Out: 
Me and Asperger's Syndrome

by Martin

Hello. I am Martin, of Ms. L's 5th grade class. Those of you who have been around me a lot have noticed that sometimes I act like I'm from another planet. 

I may flap my hands, or not look at you when I talk, or not understand your hints or body language. Things you think are nothing may really upset me, and things you can ignore may distract me from the job at hand.  I have trouble following a long string of instructions, but I can get so involved in a book that I don't realize I'm in a room full of active, noisy people. I seem uncoordinated or clumsy, yet I can talk forever about computers and video games.

During the past 6 years, some of you may have asked me why I do these things. I usually answered, "Don't ask", or "Ask my Mom". I didn't want to tell you the truth because I was afraid you'd misunderstand. But now I'm ready to explain, and I think you're ready to listen.

I have an abnormality in my brain called Asperger's Syndrome, which is a form of autism. No, I'm not crazy or retarded: My brain functions on a high level, just differently than yours. My senses work, but the information they sent to my brain can get misfiled, or come in on the wrong pathways. (Can you imagine "hearing" bright sunlight?). Sometimes, all the info from all my senses hits my brain all at once like a million radio stations playing at the same time, and I don't know how to filter out the junk and pay attention to what's important.

This gives me advantages and disadvantages. On the good side, I can be unbelievably smart at some things, like remembering different computer codes, or remembering dates and facts and trivia, or having different formulas for getting the right answers to math problems. I can read technical books written for adults, and "talk shop" with people at Dad's computer lab at work, sometimes even helping them solve programming problems.

On the bad side, I am prone to asthma, allergies, and thyroid problems. My muscles aren't strong or coordinated, I have trouble working in groups, and bullies use me as an easy target. I can't keep my desk and folders organized, I really hate being outdoors, and certain clothes just don't feel right and bug me to death. And sometimes, I just get overloaded and need to get away for a few minutes to find my center again.

I'm not asking you to feel sorry for me. Because if you pity me, you are also pitying all the great people like me, for example: Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and Shatoshi Tijjaru (creator of Pokemon) who all have autistic traits.

We're not looking for a cure for Asperger's; just your understanding, and the understanding that comes from research. After all, if autism was cured, society would lose access to many of its great geniuses and inventors. We need you to accept us and be friends with us, while we learn to survive and be successful in your world. 

I know there are lots of kids in our school with different levels of autism who are very lonely, and afraid of being made fun of. And I know you'll meet more autistics in middle school and beyond.

I'm asking you, in the future, to be more tolerant of autistic kids. Autism is a disability, like bad eyesight or deafness. And who knows? The person you are friends with in school may end up discovering an anti-gravity energy source, or develop the first physical-object transporter, like on Star Trek, or solve the world's hunger problem. Or, more likely, help you with trig or physics in high school!

Please take time at home to read the folder I'm giving out today. You'll be surprised who's on the list of famous people with Asperger's Syndrome!  See if you can find Mark Twain and Jim Henson's names, and think about anyone else you can add to the list. (This list is incomplete, and being added to every day).

Finally, to the students and teachers here at Meadowland who took the time to care and be my friend, I end by saying "Thank you".

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