Don’t let autism define you

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How I overcame my struggle with Asperger’s syndrome and stopped isolating myself.

Viewpoint by Kyle R. Cotton

Imagine as a child the only thing you ever really wanted was to understand your peers and socialize with them.

You can’t, however, because your kindergarten teacher at a religious-based private school told the other students not to interact with you as if something was wrong with you.

This was what it was like for me to grow up with Asperger’s syndrome, a higher functioning form of autism.

Today, I’ve come a long way from being that alienated kid, and most who interact with me today don’t even know I have autism unless I point it out.

Despite the gains I’ve made in self-improvement over the years, the pain still lingers of being treated like an outcast and not understanding why.

When my mother found out my kindergarten teacher was treating me as if I had leprosy, she immediately removed me from the school.

After being isolated by that kindergarten teacher, I began to isolate myself.

Once I started public school, I met some wonderful teachers who saw my potential.

My life started to get better, but other children still bullied me because of my awkward social skills.

This extended to teammates in Little League who openly mocked me.

Yet I was still the first to congratulate or encourage them to keep their heads up after a loss.

The bullying confused me.

I didn’t understand why the other children did it, which often led to fighting.

I would ask and plead for them to stop, but to no avail.

To overcome this, I put myself in a position to strengthen my communication skills.

Whether it’s acting, journalism or participating in a team sport where members must put the team before themselves, I sought to improve my condition and not to be defined by it.

Now I’ve found my niche and have wonderful people in my life who understand that I’m more than just a condition, I’m a person.

Acting and journalism in particular forced me to become confident.

Being on stage forced me to mimic emotion and learn to pick up on social cues.

In journalism, I learned to think critically and interact with fellow staffers and sources on a daily basis.

I’m no longer the child the teacher tells the class to stay away from as he eats his breakfast at a small table alone.

I’m a confident leader who will not let the world define me by my condition.

No matter what, don’t let anyone define you by your particular version of autism.

You are a human being with amazing potential just waiting to come out.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

There is a reason they say autism speaks: Once you find your voice, nothing can stop you.


1 Comment

  1. Paula C Schuler on

    Kudos to you Kyle! My hat is off for your achievement and self-determination. You shine as a terrific example. Keep writing about it.

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