My name is Taylor Selseth. I'm a 23 year old guy with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of Autism. I grew up in the little rural town of Ulen, Minnesota and am currently living in Moorhead, Minnesota, across the Red River from Fargo, North Dakota. I was diagnosed with Asperger's when I was 15, I wish it had been much earlier.
I was always a shy and eccentric kid. Looking back on my childhood it is almost shocking how much of my odd behavior is explained by my diagnosis. My mom remarked that I always liked to walk on the tips of my toes, which I now know to be common autistic behavior. I also liked to arrange things, dixie cups were a favorite when I was at my dad's (my parents divorced when I was 4 years old), another common autistic behavior. I never made friends easily, I tended to bore my peers to death with my special interests (I could never figure out for the longest time why everyone didn't find astronomy to be as interesting and wonderful as I did).
When I was 6 I was diagnosed with ADHD. Asperger's Syndrome did not exist as a diagnosis until 2 years later in 1994, and the term "Autism" was associated with non-verbal individuals one one girl I went to school with named Bobbie. I was put on the stimulant medication Ritalin, which, it turned out, helped a lot. Looking back I can definitely say it reduced my autistic sensory sensitivities as well making me better able to multitask and focus on things I am not interested in, since I like many autistics have what is called Executive System Dysfunction, the Executive System being the areas of the brain used in planning and attention. Executive Dysfunction is why many Aspies (people with Asperger's Syndrome) that are in their 20s and 30s were originally diagnosed with ADHD.
School was hell. I was regarded as one of the smartest kids in class and my teachers were consistently frustrated by my difficulties doing my school work and my behavioral outbursts caused my other kids doing things like tapping pencils on desks that drove me bonkers but didn't bother anyone else. A particularly nasty 3rd grade teacher that gave us endless amounts of multiplication homework (200 problems!!!) drove me to meltdown constantly and left me with a horrible habit of lying about my school work, especially math, just to avoid meltdown because I had become so overwhelmed sensory-wise and socialization-wise at school.I had pretty much 2 friends at this time, Steve and RJ, mainly because both were, like me, into video games, because Steve was a bit of a science geek himself, and because RJ had ADHD himself.
My Asperger's diagnosis when I was 15 was like a revelation. It was the result of pure luck, my mother's insurance happened to switch my pediatrician to Dr. Ron Miller, a wonderful guy who is probably the pediatrician most knowledgeable about developmental disorders in the Fargo area. He suspected Asperger's Syndrome almost immediately and had various diagnostic things done which confirmed the diagnosis.
I graduated from high school in 2004 and have been living in Moorhead ever since. I started classes and Minnesota State University Moorhead that fall, but quit after 2 years because I lost eligabillity for Pell Grants and because I has simply burnt myself out. I plan on starting to take classes again next fall. I have staff for a few hours a day 4 days a week to help run errands, clean my place without having a meltdown, help being out in public without a meltdown, etc. I also have job coaches so I can work without having a meltdown or ending up getting fired because of being oblivious to how to behave around supervisors.
There is a lot of popular nonsense about Autism now days. Vaccines do not cause it, it's genetic. There is no "Autism Epidemic", just more people getting diagnosed and getting diagnosed correctly. There is no "cure" for Autism nor should there be. Autism is not a "tragedy", we are worthy human beings, not damaged goods. There are many famous individuals that are thought to be/have been Autistic. Albert Eistein, Thomas Jefferson, Bill Gates, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lewis Caroll, and Paul Dirac among others. We wish to be treated with dignity and respect as human beings, not at "problems" that need "fixing". A world without autistic traits would be a world full of people that socialize and play petty political games to rise in the social hierarchy, but really don't get much truly objectively constructive done.