Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Saturday, July 14, 2018

To See Or Not To See?

Wow, I've been out of the Blogosphere for a while!  I am trying to make my big comeback and start blogging again. I've been wanting to for a while and just haven't gotten around to it, but when I found myself starting to write a really long Facebook post, I realized that it was turning into a blog entry... and so here I am. 

Anyways... Last night I got to be one of the first people to watch "Dominion", a new documentary about how animals that are raised for food are treated.There was not a dry eye in the theater! Some people were worried that I might get too upset if I saw it... and they were right, it was very upsetting... but it is sort of like, EVERYONE should watch it and we SHOULD be upset.

As you know, animals are my main "special interest." More than that, animals are my heart. But I am going to switch directions suddenly and without warning right now, to bring you the following information. In Sweden, a group of people that call themselves STHLM Panda routinely film pranks and social experiments. Recently they decided to do a more serious social experiment than usual. They wanted to find out how people would react to witnessing domestic violence happening... in, of all places, an elevator, where they could not just ignore it or walk away. The group predicted that about 50% of the witnesses would intervene. The man who was portraying the abuser was even prepared to get punched a few times by other men who would defend the woman.

Instead, out of 53 witnesses who rode the elevator at various times and saw the domestic abuse taking place, only one person made any attempt to intervene. One witness even asked the man to let her (the witness) get off the elevator before he abused his victim. Does that seem sort of surprising?

What would you do if you were in this situation? Would you try to think of some way to diffuse the man's anger or distract him? Would you try to physically defend the woman? Would you grab your phone and dial 911? Or would you ask to be let off the elevator so you would not have to witness the woman's pain and would not have to take the responsibility of doing something to help her?

Okay, back to animals. Now you are trapped on an elevator, but this time it is with a man who is punching a lamb in the face repeatedly while roughly shearing the lamb's wool in a way that leaves her bleeding. Or he is throwing live newborn chicks into a grinding machine, or kicking a piglet in the side while using an electric rod to electrocute him in the head, or he is killing a mother goat while her newborn kid bleats helplessly. What do you do? Do you say something? Do you beg him to stop? Do you try to get help? Or do you get off the elevator and walk away, trying not to think about it?

The reason I wanted to see "Dominion," despite knowing ahead of time that it would break my heart, was because if I purposely didn't see it, I would feel like I was choosing to ignore it. I did bawl through most of it. It was hard because I have friends who are animals, so when I saw the baby cows and goats being stolen from their mothers I was thinking about Popcorn and Spock the cows, and Moxie and her goat babies, and so on down the line... every animal reminded me of someone I know. But I am glad I saw it, because it is better to see something than purposely not see it. (Does that even make sense?)

"Dominion" isn't usually in movie theaters. You have to go to a private screening I got to see it because I am in with the in cool crowd I got invited by my friends who run Odd Man Inn. You may be able to find a private screening in your area by going to this page and searching for your city or state, or you can even request to host a private screening. You can also rent it online here.

The thing that upset me most about it was that the people in this movie seemed to be enjoying hurting and killing the animals. They were purposely being cruel to the animals. It is horrendous enough that the animals are being killed, but these people were laughing and calling the animals names in the process. It is overwhelming to think about how many animals go through these torturous deaths every day.

The documentary is so upsetting, that the website actually has a page on self-care that urges people to get help if they find themselves having trouble processing their feelings about what they saw.

If you see it, I'd be interested to hear what you think of it!

Friday, August 11, 2017

I Tried A Treat Box!

Have I mentioned to you that I've been very interested in subscription boxes lately? It is mostly because, sometimes as a way of falling asleep, I listen to YouTube videos on my phone (not really watching them, because my eyes are closed, on account of I am trying to fall asleep) and I've listened to a lot of ASMR unboxing videos. It made me want to do some unboxing videos of my own! Unlike  many unboxing videos, I actually ordered and paid for this subscription box. Treats is a subscription box where they have a different country each month, and you get a box of snacks from that country. I had a hard time waiting for my Treats Box, (#trytreats) and now I'm going to have a harder time waiting for the September box! For now, here is my first unboxing video. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


I've realized lately that I've been slacking off on a lot of things in my life. I frequently just don't have the energy to do things that usually would be considered part of someone's normal day... for instance, taking a shower, or making a lunch to bring to work. My life seems to have turned into a quest to get as much sleep as I can. I've always considered myself a person who likes to live life to the fullest... but in times like these, it is a struggle to get myself to live life at all. Not that anything bad is happening, really. It's actually been pretty good most of the time. I finished my nightmarish school year job, I got to go on a weekend trip to the coast, and then the autism conference, and then my trip to Chicago. I guess it is more like, because I had these two trips back to back, combined with the homesickness I felt after returning from Chicago, I've had a hard time getting everything reorganized and getting a routine in place.

I was thinking about it and I remembered how, when I first moved to Washington, I was working as a substitute teacher. I had so much anxiety about going to work, that I ended up making my own incentive plan, the way I would for one of my little kids with behavioral challenges. For every hour I worked I got a sticker, and once I got 100 stickers I would get myself a treat. Once I had that visual reminder hanging on my wall, and the satisfaction of putting stickers on it each day, it was somehow a lot easier to go to work. Don't ask me why, but it worked.

So I've decided to try something similar for now. I wrote down all of the things I might have to do in a day to take care of myself and my apartment. I assigned points to each of the things, with things I hate the most being worth the most points. I broke things down into small pieces... instead of "clean house" or even "clean kitchen," it was "load dishes," "unload dishes," "sweep," etc. Each day I will add up the points I've earned. Once I get to 100 points, I will get a treat. I don't know what it is, but most likely I will order a new subscription box, since I've been fascinated with them lately.

Here is the list of activities and points so far.

Unpack - 20 points (I really hate unpacking, especially from a trip to Chicago because it makes me feel homesick to look at all the things that I haven't seen since I tearfully packed to come back. So, my suitcase from Chicago is still in my trunk, and my duffel from the coast is still at Auntie Em's house!)
Shower - 5 points. (Yeah I know that sounds like it should be worth less, but although I love taking showers, it can be really hard for me to motivate myself to actually take one. There are just too many steps involved.)
Grocery shopping - 3 (Should maybe be worth more... sometimes I do it online and get groceries delivered, but I find it somehow stressful to grocery shop at all, and tend to avoid it.)
Take Lily for a walk - 3 (This is worth a lot of points because Lily walks as slowly as a snail, so going for a walk with her is very time consuming!)
Fun extra thing - 3 (This is included, and worth 3 whole points, because it is hard for me to motivate myself to leave the house for any reason if I don't have to leave for work. My apartment is like a nest of safety.)
Making a healthy lunch - 2
Scrubbing the floor - 2
Taking recycling out - 2
Taking garbage out - 2
10 minutes of decluttering - 2
Vacuuming - 2 (I actually like vacuuming, but having Lily barking her head off and Yoshi hiding under the bed refusing to come out makes it a lot more difficult.)
Clean fish tank - 2 (Probably should be worth more, but I actually like doing it.)
Fold laundry - 2
Put away laundry - 2
Go to work - 2 (because that should be worth something, right?)
Eat breakfast - 1  (Less points than making lunch, because I am actually hungry for breakfast when I wake up, which is sometimes a motivator, whereas packing a lunch is impossible because I am not going to eat it until later and I can't imagine ever being hungry for it.)
Load dishes in dishwasher - 1
Put away dishes - 1
Sweep floor - 1
Mop floor - 1
Wipe counters - 1
Dust - 1
Wash laundry - 1 (Less points because all I really have to do is carry it down to the laundry room and toss it in. The washing machine does the hard part.)
Dry laundry - 1 (See above.)
Take Lily out -1
Take meds - 1
Scoop litter box - 1 (I do this multiple times per day because Yoshi demands a clean litter box, so this should help me rack up lots of points!)
Stay awake - 1 (Yes, I get one point just for staying awake all day and not taking a nap, because when I get home from work I'm exhausted and drained, but napping messes up my sleep cycle. Weekends are an exception because, you know, its the weekend. )

After I manage to get to 100 points once, I may up the ante and add in some more things, such as 1 point for drinking a glass of water, 1 point for making a phone call, etc.

For now, I already made 7 points today, so the system seems to be working!

I probably seem like a lazy bum. But if I was truly lazy, I wouldn't be trying so hard to find ways to get myself moving, right? RIGHT?

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Day My Head Almost Exploded

This is just a quick post which is more like an addition to my previous post. There was something interesting I wanted to point out, and I meant to put it in my previous post, but by the time I actually wrote that post it slipped my mind.

In my last post I wrote about how upset I tend to get when it gets close to the time for me to leave Chicago and come back here. My anxiety gets really high and I can hardly focus on anything. It tends to come in waves, where I will spend some time totally freaking out and bawling, and then I will be able to distract myself and be somewhat calm for a while, and then it will start rising again. This goes on and on for multiple days... meltdown, calm, panic, meltdown, calm, panic. And even during the "calm" times, I just mean I am calm compared to my previous state, but still very tense.

 During one of my somewhat calm stages, I went to CVS with my mom to pick up her medication. I was antsy and trying to amuse myself, so I took my blood pressure using the giant blood pressure machine in the pharmacy. I wasn't seriously worried about my blood pressure, because I've been to the doctor a few times recently and they always say it is fine. (My cholesterol is a different matter, but I digress...)

So I took my blood pressure, and it was 165 over 80! That fell into the highest possible category on the chart on the blood pressure machine that tells you whether you have high blood pressure. It said, "Stage 2 Hypertension."

I was amused by this and it sort of cheered me up for some reason. Not that I was cheered up about having Stage 2 Hypertension, but I was just distracted and interested about it, and that made me chill out a little. For years I have always tried to tell people that when I am feeling anxious, I actually feel physically ill, People are usually like, "Hmm, yes, sucks to be you," and try to explain that although I may feel like I am dying, I am fine.

But now I actually have proof that anxiety can effect your physical health. PROOF! My blood pressure was so high, I was surprised my head didn't explode.

So if you have high anxiety, this is a reminder to try to take especially good care of yourself during that time. I shouldn't even be saying that, because I am awful at that... my self-care tends to go down in direct proportion to how far my anxiety goes up. So I guess this is also a reminder to others... if you have people in your life who have high anxiety, try to take especially good care of them during those times. Because you wouldn't want their heads to blow off.

That is all.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

I'm Going To Camp! As A Camper This Time! And Other News.

The thermometer in Washington right now! 
Hi everyone! This post is mostly just a check-in with some random information.
So I arrived back in Washington on Sunday evening. I had an awesome time in Chicago with my parents and got to see my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and little cousins! I spent Saturday evening and most of Sunday bawling and having a lot of anxiety about leaving. If you were to scroll through my blog posts since the beginning of this blog, you would find a ton of posts covering that exact same experience. For instance, June 2015November 2015April 2016, and December 2016. I'm a wreck when it's time to leave Chicago. I am usually bawling and making a scene in the airport. Then after I've been back here for a few hours or at least a day, I get back to normal. I don't know why. It is kind of like when I was a little kid and I would have dreams where I would know I was dreaming, I would feel sad about having to wake up because I felt like I was leaving my "dream family." There were my parents and brother in my dreams, and then my parents and brother in real life, but I felt like when I woke up my family in my dream would still be existing and would be upset that I was gone. (I was an odd child.)  I feel like Chicago sort of exists in another dimension, and when it is time for me to leave and come back here, it feels like a much huger separation than it actually is. I mean, I see my parents multiple times per year, much more frequently than most people do who live far away from their families! But I just can't seem to make that transition work for me.

Anyways. I'm back now and back to normal. Once I've looked around a little at the trees and the river and everything, I feel better about being here, although I do call my mom at least once a day. I had taken 3 weeks off from my summer camp job, and then went back to work on Monday and Tuesday, and then it turned out that camp is closed for Wednesday and Thursday due to excessive heat. Usually the Pacific Northwest is a little dramatic about any weather other than rain. For instance in the winter, if they see one snowflake, they cancel school. But this time, I have to admit, the heat is excessive! It was supposed to get up to 108 degrees today! Now they're saying 105, which I think may be because the sun is partially blocked out by smoke from some fires in Canada and northern Washington. (That also explains why my allergies are going crazy and my throat feels scratchy!) Not having air conditioning in my apartment, I was worried about how Yoshi and Lily and I would survive. The town has opened up emergency cooling centers, and I could bring Lily to one if I went, because she is a service dog, but Yoshi is not a service cat. Plus cooling centers are probably boring. Luckily, we are at Auntie Em and Uncle J's house hogging their air conditioning!

Oh yeah, and the title of this post... I should probably get around to mentioning that. I enjoyed the Autism Conference so much, I decided I wanted to go to Kindtree Friends And Family Camp, which is a one weekend long summer camp for autistic people of all ages and their friends and family. ( I don't know if any of my friends and family are going to come with, but if anyone wants to, you totally can... for $75! Plus you have to pay $25 for a bunk in a cabin, or you can get a tent there or bring a tent. I picked the cabin because I can't find my tent and when you get a tent from a camp it is usually full of spiders and junk, so, yeah.) I thought it would be fun to actually get to do camp activities, instead of having to look after little kids who are doing the activities. It is going to involve campfires, swimming, canoeing, Qi Gong, martial arts, nature walks, arts and crafts, and other cool stuff. I can't wait!

Okay. That is really all I had to say. I have about 42.5 more hours before I have to be back at work, so I'll just be relaxing and enjoying it. Stay cool, everyone!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Advice For A Young Girl With Aspergers And Her Family and Friends

Me, age 9, in Chicago. 
Someone I met in one of my Facebook groups, upon finding out that I have autism, told me that she has a 9-year-old family member, a little girl, who has Aspergers.  She wanted to know what advice I could give to her family and what I might say to the little girl herself. I've actually been asked this question before, and I thought I would dedicate a blog post to it.

Its actually hard for me to think what I'd tell a little girl with Aspergers. See, I never even heard of Aspergers or autism until I was an adult. So, at age 9, all I knew was that I didn't quite fit in at school or anywhere else.

People tend to think that kids with autism aren't interested in making friends. For me, the opposite was true. I was just about obsessed with making new friends. When I was 7, we moved to a new town. My brother and I were staying with our grandparents, and they brought us to visit our parents at the house where we'd be moving to. A group of curious neighborhood kids came wandering over. When I spotted them, I started jumping up and down, screaming, "Kids! Kids! Kids!" I grabbed my grandmother's hand and pulled her over towards the kids. In my memory now, I can see that the kids looked startled and sort of taken aback, but at the time I didn't notice the expressions on their faces. I just kept jumping and yelling and waving excitedly as my grandmother asked the kids their names and then introduced them to me. When we eventually moved in, I became part of the neighborhood kids pretty quickly and they were my playmates for many years. Later one of them told my brother that, when they'd first met me, they thought I was "retarded" and they'd been sort of scared.

Actually, I mostly played with the younger kids in the neighborhood. There were a few who were my age or older, but socially I was more at the level of  the kids who were 2 or 3 years younger than me... my younger brother's age. I didn't think of them as younger than me at all. At school, I did have friends. In kindergarten, first and second grade, it was all about playing on the playground and it seemed like everyone was friends with everyone else. You could play on the monkey bars or build a sand castle with someone without even knowing their name. But in 3rd grade, kids were starting to notice who was a little different and who was the most "popular." Girls were already starting to pay attention to clothes and hair styles. When I was invited to sleepover parties, the other girls spent less time playing, and more time gossiping and dancing to music videos. I wanted no part of it. I still just wanted to play. In my neighborhood I played Barbies and My Little Ponies and pretend games like School and House. I had a few weird "special interests" as well... I was obsessed with orphans and orphanages (I used to watch the movie version of the musical "Oliver" over and over) and "olden days" (I loved the Little House On The Prairie books.) I loved playing pretend games that were based on these two subjects. I found one friend who was somehow interested in the same things I was, and we played together constantly. In third and fourth grade I no longer really played with the other kids besides that one friend, although I was in Brownies and considered the other Brownie girls my friends. I was still invited to their birthday parties and things. But these were the grades in which the kids were starting to notice I was different. I also noticed I was different but I sort of blamed it on them. I thought the other kids were trying too hard to be cool and act like teenagers, and I was happy just being a kid. I also did some peculiar things that I had no clue were weird. For one thing, I loved to read, almost to the point of obsession. I hated math and science (although this goes against the stereotype of people with autism) and had a terrible time sitting through these subjects. So I devised a plan. In the morning I would get a book from the bookshelf, and hide it behind the toilet in our classroom bathroom. When it was time for a subject I didn't enjoy, I'd get up and go into the bathroom, where I'd sit on the toilet and read. It never occurred to me that the teacher would notice me disappearing for 20 minutes every time math rolled around. I also amused myself by pouring my Elmer's Glue on my desk, letting it dry, and then scraping it off with my scissors, because for some reason it was a great sensory feeling for me. If you've never scraped dried glue off a desk with scissors, you should try it. But it has to be a thick layer of glue, or else scraping it off the desk will feel more like nails on a chalkboard. But I digress...

Fifth grade was where things got really hard. (Don't worry, I'm not planning to tell you my entire autobiography in this blog post... I'm getting to a certain point.) The school district had built a new school, and many of the kids I'd gone to 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade with were transferred to the new school. This included my one best friend who I played Orphans and Olden Days with, as well as my Brownie friends. At the same time, a lot of kids from other schools in the district were transferred to my school. I had been put into what would now be called Gifted And Talented, which meant I was in a class for "smart" kids. Most of the kids in my 5th grade class had come from other schools. They took one look at me and pegged me as a "nerd." They made fun of me every day. It would have been one thing if they had just ignored and excluded me... that would have been painful enough. But they actively tormented me. A group of them would surround me at recess and start making fun of my clothes, my hair (it was uncontrollably frizzy and wild at the time) and anything I said or did. I had never encountered bullying before. It broke my heart. Our Brownies troop had also been discontinued, because it would have been Girl Scouts at this point and for some reason there was not enough interest to create a group. So I no longer had that built-in social experience. Keep in mind, I was undiagnosed, and had actually been identified as Gifted, so there were no social skills groups or counseling or mentoring or anything else available to me. The teachers seemed to feel sorry for me but felt that it was my fault, really, for not trying harder to fit in. My mom tried to help me by picking out clothes that she thought were fashionable and trying to do my hair, but she, too, grew frustrated with me for not trying harder. I still played with the neighborhood girls after school, but that also irritated my mom because they were younger than me and I "should" have been playing with kids my own age, taking interest in fashion and hair and music and whatever it is girls that age are supposed to find exciting. At the same time, adolescence was starting to get its icy grip around me, which meant even more heartache and pain. I got yelled at for not wearing a bra. (It was so uncomfortable, plus in my mind, in which I tended to have strict categories for things, a bra was something for an adult or teenager, not for a kid, and I still saw myself as a kid.) I got yelled at for not putting on deodorant. (That also fell into my category of teenager and grown up stuff.) My face was starting to break out in acne. My mom made me wash my face with this horrid smelling orange antibacterial soap. It was so harsh, it dried out my skin, leaving white flakes around my nose that gave the kids something else to make fun of me about. It did not get rid of the acne, though, leaving my mom to comment. "Its like you make yourself ugly on purpose!"

So you see, it is hard for me to think of what I might tell a 9-year-old girl with Aspergers, because my own experience sucked. There was one thing that helped me get through fifth and sixth grades. At my school there was a special education class. Most of the kids in the class were younger than me. I don't know if that was just a coincidence, or if they just didn't offer special education beyond fourth grade at that school. Somehow or another, a few of the little girls in the special ed class befriended me. I was always alone at recess, either just wandering around or sitting on the concrete reading a book, and one day they just walked up and started talking to me. I remember being a little nervous at first... but then realizing that they were not much different from other kids. They behaved like much younger children even though they were just a few years younger than me, but they were friendly, and playful, and funny. I became somewhat like a big sister to them. I played outside with them every day, helped them stay out of trouble, and defended them from the other kids' teasing. I loved them.

My parents hated that I had found these new friends. They tried to discourage me from playing with them. They couldn't come out and say, "You can't play with the special ed kids," but they just said things like, "Why don't you hang out with the girls in your class," and "Other kids will think you are weird" (which they already did anyways," and "If you spend time with those kids you'll become more like them." Maybe what they noticed was that I was like "those kids" in many ways, and they didn't understand it. One time I gave the girls my phone number and told them they could call me. When one of the girls called while I wasn't home, my mom took the message. She told me. "If that is one of your special ed friends, don't call her back. Don't get that started."

At school though I was encouraged to keep up being friends with the girls. The teachers thought it was nice that I'd befriended them and that I took care of them and played with them. One of my proudest moments ever came one day in the sixth grade. The school was starting a recycling program, and sixth graders were supposed to go to the other classes around the school and explain the recycling program to them. I offered to go to the special ed class where my friends were. When I walked into their classroom, my friends shouted greetings to me. Their teacher said, "It's Angel! One of our favorite people!" I was bursting with pride and I remembered it for the rest of my life.

What would I say to the family of a girl (or any kid, I suppose) with autism or Aspergers? I might say , don't put too much time and effort into trying to get them to look and act like everyone else. If you work too hard at making an autistic child "indistinguishable from their peers", you risk turning them into a shadow of themselves. I would ask adults in the child's family to focus on bringing out the child's personality and strengths. The most important thing might be to make home, and family, a haven for the child. As they grow up, in life, they will face situations where they may feel like they don't fit in or they may be nervous about doing the right thing. Home and family can be a place of true acceptance and love. Of course you still want to teach your child manners, social skills, and life skills, and don't just let them do whatever they want. But avoid shaming them for things like stimming, or not participating in the things their peers enjoy. Let them be who they are. Encourage strong relationships with other relatives and family members who are accepting of them. A positive home and family can make a huge difference.

Also, help them find their community, their "tribe." I still struggle with this as an adult. In my late teens and early twenties, trying to find a place to belong and be accepted led me into all sorts of hazardous situations. Helping your child find their place in the world might involve figuring out their interests and strengths and then running with those. If she loves to read, the local library could be an awesome resource... she could join book clubs, or be a volunteer. This would help her to form more positive relationships, with peers as well as with caring adults. This may also involve looking outside of her chronological age group. If she is happiest talking with adults, then having an adult mentor through a local organization, having a volunteer job where she can have safe and positive adults around her, or "adopting" an elderly person at the nursing home, may be very fulfilling for her. The important part is that she feels like she is part of something and she feels accepted and important. On the other hand, if she seems to really long for more friendships with kids her own age, then you might want to spend more time helping her find those friendships. There are now play groups and social groups for kids on the autism spectrum. Activities outside of school might also help. If she loves physical activity, joining a gymnastics class can help her make friendships that are based on that shared interest, putting less focus on the things that are different.

I should also point out that schools are (hopefully, at least) different now. Teachers are more aware of bullying and of ways to make their classrooms safe and accepting environments. Teachers should be focusing on teaching all of the students to be kind and respectful of one another, and to appreciate differences. One of the things I hated most in school was when the teacher said, "Find a partner," and all of the other kids hurried to be with their friends. I was left standing awkwardly alone, to be placed with whoever else was leftover or to be put into a group of three. Teachers can pre-choose partners and groups based on who might work well together, or encourage kids to meet others by having them randomly choose a shape or bracelet out of a bag and then find others with the same shape or bracelet.

To sum it all up, the most important advice I'd give to parents, teachers, and other family members, is to give the child with autism or Aspergers that place to belong. Help them find their strengths and interests. Build upon their personality instead of trying to get them to tone it down enough to blend in. A feeling that they are loved and appreciated, that they have a place where they belong, and having a positive self image, are the best things you can give any kid. These gifts can go along way in helping a kid with Aspergers as they go out into the world.

All that being said, I think I've led an awesome life so far, in many ways. My childhood was rougher than it should have been. But because I was used to having to work a little harder than other people in order to accomplish things, and because I was used to dealing with anxiety to get through so many parts of everyday life, I've become stronger than many adults I've known. When I was in high school, I still hadn't been diagnosed with autism, but I'd been put in special education and my mother had been told by the psychologists that they thought I might have "some sort of retardation." They told my mom I would never learn to drive, never get a job, never go to college, and never live independently. Well, I've done all that and more! It took me until I was 23 to get my driver's license, but now I drive everywhere. It took me until I was 25 to start college, but I got a Bachelor's degree. Last year I got my first full time teaching job, and moved into my first apartment, where I live alone. I have a service dog that helps me with some of my social anxiety issues, and I have a kitten that I found last fall under a building at work. Animals are one of my special interests, and I volunteer at an awesome rescue farm, where I get to spend time cuddling with goats and geese and pigs and sheep. I've gotten to have some cool adventures over the years, such as taking several cross-country trips by Greyhound bus or by Amtrak train (which sounds like torture to many people but it was a lot of fun for me) and spending a year in AmeriCorps working with at-risk children. Whenever I think of something I'd like to do, I do some research and find a way to do it

So, to the kid with Aspergers... I don't really know how valuable my advice is, but after some thought, here is what I would say: This is not something you need to hide, or overcome. You can learn about your Aspergers and figure out the tools that can help you to do your best. You may meet some rude people along the way, but the friends you do make will be the "diamonds in the rough," the really amazing and good-hearted people that you'll feel so lucky to know. You may have some hard times in your future, but you can also have some awesome experiences if you look for them.

Finally, you may sometimes wish you could be an ordinary kid. But what you have is an extraordinary brain, and with it you can lead an extraordinary life. That is something special.

A few resources I thought I'd share, while we're on the topic...

Emerging From Autism - Website/blog by a woman who is a writer, teacher, and a mother of a girl with Aspergers. 

Asperkids - A website for kids with Aspergers or autism and their families and teachers. They sell some very cool books geared towards kids and teenagers to help them learn about their Aspergers. They also sell a neat, sort of "welcome kit" for kids with Aspergers, called Congratulations! You're An Aspie! I've always wanted to order one, but unfortunately I'm not a kid.