I Want to Tell You a Story…

I just sent a personal letter to my childhood hero, Jason David Frank. To those who do not know, he played the Green and White Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers on Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Zeo Ranger V on Power Rangers Zeo, the Red Ranger on Power Rangers Turbo, and the Black Ranger on Power Rangers Dino Thunder. It has a personal bearing on my Asperger’s Syndrome and some of the early progress I made during my early childhood. I’m posting the letter below:

Dear Jason David Frank,

My name is Jonathan Dorfman. We met this past June at Wizard World in Philly. You signed my Dragon coin, and it made my day. I wanted to let you know the kind of impact you made on me as a child way back in 1993. It’s very difficult to find the right words to articulate what I want to say, but I’m going to give it my best shot, anyway.
I was mere months away from my fifth birthday when Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers first aired in 1993. At the time, we didn’t know yet that I have Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of Autism Spectrum Disorder (we wouldn’t know until 1998). You see, despite barely communicating with the adults around me, I was absorbing what they were saying about me without issue. I had anxieties over feeling lack of control of my life, that I felt I couldn’t communicate what I wanted and how I felt effectively. I had the impression that I was a burden to my family because of it, and therefore, I desperately wanted to prove I could do good things.
Then the show came out, and I found out there was a green Power Ranger. Green was my favorite color. I never could figure out if green was my favorite color because of you, or if you started out as my favorite ranger because you were green. Nevertheless, I suddenly had a reason for excitement for 30 minutes after school each day, and I could not stop talking about it. With the popularity of the show constantly rising, I soon made friends who also liked the show. Social interaction helped with my symptoms of my Asperger’s Syndrome tremendously because it gave our parents countless opportunities to teach us social skills.
I always felt a strong emotional connection with the Green Ranger, specifically. It’s not that I don’t like the White Ranger; I’m pretty sure you’re the reason my favorite cat (I’m a cat person) is a white tiger, after all. I just never felt as strong of an emotional connection with the White Ranger as I had with the Green Ranger.
I don’t know if it was because of the progress with my social skills I associated the Green Ranger with that such a solid foundation was set with the Green Ranger that the White Ranger didn’t have as much of a job to do, or if it simply wasn’t my favorite color, but something just didn’t feel the same. I still carry that emotional bond with the Green Ranger with me to this day that I never felt as much with the White Ranger.
No matter how bad my day was at school or at home, at 5:00 PM, it didn’t matter for half an hour because I got to watch you do your thing and inspire me to want to be like you. To me, you were the biggest childhood hero a kid could have. What you represented to me was that (going back to Green With Evil for a moment) even if you lose control of yourself for a moment and do bad things in the process, it doesn’t make you a bad person. You can still do good things and move past it, and the more good things you do, the better you will feel about yourself.
So, when you saw the little kid about the same age I was in 1993 in the authentic-looking homemade Green Ranger costume at Wizard World back in June and made the statement that you have to always do your best in everything you do because it affects everyone else, and what would it have looked like to the kid if you had blown us off at the meet and greet, it struck me on a deeply emotional level. That kid’s going to grow up thinking just as much of you as I do.
You always put all that you are into everything you do, and then some. That’s a lesson I strive to emulate from you. You’re always so passionate about your fans and the people who look up to you, people like me. I grew up idolizing what the Green Ranger stood for – redemption and the potential for good in anybody.
I plan to attend the meet and greet in Philly on May 9. I’m going to buy my ticket in January when I have the money. I’m hoping to get my White Tiger coin signed and complete my set. When you sign it, I was wondering if you would be comfortable enough to give me a hug for the photo opp, since I’ve always believed in spreading positive vibes. Given what the Green Ranger has done for me when I was just starting out with my therapies and treatments, it would mean the world to me. Your call on that one. I’ll understand if that’s asking too much.
Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how I felt. I’m very open about my ASD, so you can repost this letter if you want. I received my Master’s degree a month before we met, which just proves that with the right motivation and the power of the morphing grid, there’s potential for everybody.
-Jonathan Dorfman
“The Aspie Ranger”
I just wanted to touch on this for a moment. EVERYBODY. HAS. POTENTIAL. Everybody has the potential to do good deeds and be a good person, even if they feel like they are a drain on their loved ones who only does bad things.
I once insisted on reading a book to my mother when at about that same time period that the above story occurred just to show that I could do something good. I was too young to understand the difference between my difficulties and being a brat. Case in point:
When I was two-years-old, I carried on that I wanted my mom to carry me home from taking my sister to the morning bus stop via the alley behind the neighborhood. She complied and tripped on a crack. I vaguely remember helping her pick up her shoes and handing them to her. If I was incapable of being a good person, I wouldn’t have helped her. Instead, I would’ve continued my tantrum.
To bring this back to where it began, the Green Ranger started out under an evil spell and nearly defeated the Power Rangers. Once the spell was broken, he joined the Power Rangers and helped them save the world on many occasions (about 225 episodes worth, actually). He had the potential to be a good person the whole time, even though he lost control of himself and did bad things. It didn’t make him a bad person. His actions alone didn’t define him, neither did mine, and neither do yours.
I just wanted to bring this up while it was fresh on my mind.
Also, don’t forget to start thinking of who you want to win the Puzzle Pride Award for 2015. I don’t want another situation like last year where I almost had to call on random people. I want suggestions, people!
Have a happy and safe whatever holiday you celebrate at this time of year. May you find peace with yourself, within yourself! I’ll be back soon with more posts.

Let’s Talk About Our Mental Health

By now, you already know Robin Williams took his own life over this past weekend. I’m not here to rehash what you already know. I write this post to help (myself) make sense of a tragic moment in our lives.

For those of you who were too young to have seen Mrs. Doubtfire before, this scene will always resonate with me. Here, Robin (dressed as Mrs. Doubtfire) explains via a children’s TV program some of the changes life brings as we grow older. Sometimes, parents get divorced, but that doesn’t make it the affected children’s fault. In the end, he assures a young viewer that he will be okay, even if he doesn’t feel like it will be in the moment.

But sometimes, hope isn’t enough on its own. I previously wrote about the five different types of moments we experience in our lives. You can read about it in more detail here. Robin Williams experienced an Ugly Moment.

He was a man who brought tremendous joy and laughter into countless people’s lives. I’ll admit it; Patch Adams was my favorite Robin Williams movie. Robin lived to inspire people and make the world a better place to be, if only for a moment. He possessed a talent  of taking a Bad Moment and making it feel like a Beautiful Moment.

Case in point: I remember about 5 years ago, when Conan O’Brien was airing his final episodes of The Tonight Show. Robin Williams was one of his final guests. This was a time of much tension between fans of Jay Leno and fans of Conan O’Brien. Robin sang Conan a spirited song and tap danced on Conan’s desk. The song and dance number had to be censored for language, but it still aired. In that moment, Conan was laughing so hard, he probably forgot that he was losing his job.

Robin Williams could make anybody laugh, except for himself.

Suicide is a very serious topic. Say it in schools, and the adults around you are required by law to take it seriously. They can’t take the chance of calling a bluff and receiving a phone call later on that a child has taken his own life.

Your life impacts the lives of everybody you surround yourself with. If they are decent, humane people, they will care a great deal whether or not you’re alive and well. They will celebrate your life and mourn your death. They will notice if you’re not around.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve verbally wished I would die before in front of my friends. The good people that they are, this disturbed them a lot.

Sure, in a rational state, I wouldn’t have the conviction to end my life. But what happens when my depression sets in, and I can’t think rationally enough to tell myself, “I matter. I’m not a burden on my loved ones?”

This past summer, two of my mother’s former co-workers informed her that their sons had both (separately) committed suicide. And now the man who radiated joy and laughter has, too.

My mother has already forced me to promise to talk about it if I ever felt like I didn’t want to live anymore. Friends. Family. It doesn’t matter whom you feel comfortable talking about it with, you just need to talk to someone.

Tear down the wall and let your loved ones help you.

For those of you who fear someone close to you may be on the verge of suicide, here’s what you can do:

TALK TO HIM ABOUT IT.

That’s it. It’s that simple. Let him (or her) know you care enough to say something. Let your loved one know that he’s not a burden on you or anyone else. Let him know that it’s okay to have an Ugly Moment in life.

Life moves on, whether you’re around for it or not. Not having you around is more of a burden to bear than your presence around us. It’s okay to be yourself. Some people take years to learn this lesson, others never do.

Even if you don’t feel like communicating your thoughts of suicide with a loved one, do it anyway. It’s a mental sign that tries to tell you that you’re not thinking clearly. Give it some time to turn around. After all, after the storm comes the rainbow.

Shine on, and find peace with yourself, within yourself.

PS – The national suicide prevention hotline and relative information can be found here. If you or someone you know has these feelings or you suspect he or she has these feelings, please call immediately. Thank you.

Some Good News

Yesterday, I finally received my diploma from my Master’s degree I earned back in May. Words cannot describe the relief I feel just knowing that I can now officially close the books on my graduate studies.

But that’s not the whole reason I’m writing today.

The Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support is hosting a 5K as part of Saint Joseph’s University’s Hawktoberfest celebration on September 27.

I started a team page for it, located here.

If any of my readers will be in the area and want to join my team, that’d be great! If you want to support the team but can’t run or won’t be in the area, you can also donate to Team Puzzle Pride from the team page.

The run (or walk, if that’s your thing) will cost $25 per runner, $100 per group of 5 individuals, or $10 per SJU student. Or you can donate toward the cause, like I described above.

For those of you who wish to join Team Puzzle Pride, check in starts at the Kinney Center at 7:00 AM on Saturday, September 27, and the race kicks off at 8:30 AM. You can sign up the day of if you wish. There will also be music and a carnival for the kids after the race.

I hope to see some of you there!

 

PS – If you want the specific URL for the team page, it is

http://alumni.sju.edu/PuzzlePride

Many thanks for supporting the cause. I couldn’t do it without your support.

These are a few of my [least] favorite things…

Have you ever felt so close to major progress that it frustrates you to no end when it doesn’t work out?

For me, it happens every time. I recently heard about SAP’s Autism at Work Initiative. I figured, “Great! This is just what I needed!” Only, things are moving so slow, I wonder if I’ll even get my foot in the door.

I’m still looking at other opportunities for employment, but so far, nothing solid has cropped up. I define “solid” as any opportunity that I have been contacted back about. So far, nada. Not so much as an interview.

It doesn’t always refer to my professional career, either. In my personal life, things are moving slowly, too. So slow, I’m pretty sure I’ll be single for the next while.

Even in the event that somebody says, “Sure! Let’s meet up!” it still doesn’t guarantee that anything will ever come of it. I’ve known that for the past eight years straight.

So how does one vent these frustrations? I’m still working on an answer for that for myself.

In the meantime, I’ve had so much time on my hands, I don’t know what to do with it all. My friends all work, so hanging out isn’t always an option. Some of my friends hold more than one job at a time. (You’d think they could learn to share. :P)

Meanwhile, I’m driving myself nuts just trying to find something constructive to do with my mass abundance of free time.

I figure sooner or later this has to end, so that’s something that’s still keeping me sane right now.

In other frustrations news, I submitted a screenplay to a screenwriting contest five months ago, and I still won’t know how I did until September at the very earliest.

Sometimes, you just have to wonder, “When will it be my turn for progress?” Sometimes, you may not like the answer. Other times, you might. Right now, I feel so close to the answer, that I’m almost afraid to face it when it does come.

I hope all of you are having more fun this summer than I am, right now.

At least I still have that M.A. to fall back on, right? Right?

Puzzle Pride Climbing

I know I’ve been absent from the blog for a while. Long story short, my father recently broke his hip, slipping on the ice about a month and a half ago. Time to write on the Aspie Epilogue has been scarce.

Perhaps you’ve heard the latest from the CDC, but for those who haven’t, I just learned today that ASD now affects 1 in 68 people. For those of you playing the home game, that’s a dramatic increase in prevalence over the past two short years.

Welcome to the blog where the numbers DO count, and the points DO matter.

This means that instead of 1 in 88 children growing into 1 in 88 adults with ASD, 1 in 68 children with ASD will grow into 1 in 68 adults with ASD. That’s a big difference from the 2012 numbers. A few years ago, it was 1 in 110. Clearly, this is a trend that’s not going to stop any time soon.

What bothers me about this is that now there is potential for another push to “cure” ASD. For many of us, this implies that there is something “wrong” with us. That idea is a myth.

We operate by a different brand of logic from the neurotypicals who create this myth. Even if a brand of logic is flawed — we do have a more literal definition of the world around us — it’s still a brand of logic.

It’s not that we can’t understand the world around us and contribute to it. It’s that our brains are wired to see the world differently than others. That’s not a problem, and it certainly doesn’t require a “cure.”

What it requires is resources to go into helping us use our way of seeing the world to advance it.

That’s enough of that rant for today. I have another important announcement to make today.

I’m still looking for suggestions for the 2014 Puzzle Pride Award recipient! I’ll give you guys all of April to comment and discuss on the blog about it.

If we get to May and nobody’s been nominated yet, I’ll have to call on random people, which is less than ideal for the intent of the blog. I know we don’t it to come down to that, so let’s get the ball rolling.

Until then, Puzzle Pieces…

Hallmark or How I Learned that Commercializing Emotions is Bad

I’ve touched on this before; this is nothing new. Today is Valentine’s Day, or VD to some (and there is a reason for that which is inappropriate for this blog).

Let’s talk about what this holiday has meant in the past: People fortunate enough to be in relationships spend massive amounts of hard-earned money in the hopes of pleasing his or her partner. If you don’t have a partner, you become an outcast.

All this “love” only occurs one ONE PARTICULAR DAY OF THE YEAR. What happens during the rest of the year?

Life goes back to normal, as all these supposed “lovers” wait another 364 or 365 days (leap year) to express their love.

WHY?!

If you truly love somebody, you should want to express that love all year long. Valentine’s Day makes no sense whatsoever when love is thought of in its truest, purest sense.

So what do I recommend for the “singles” out there? Love.

Love those around you. All the time. The Beatles once sang that “the love you take is equal to the love you make.” This is true.

Love even though you are angry, hurt, and heartbroken.

For the rest of you, show the people you love that you care ALL YEAR LONG. Do something nice for them. Don’t cut them out of your life for a day just because of Hallmark. These people need someone to show that they care today the most out of all the days in the year.

If you truly love them, you’ll let them know.

May you find peace with yourself, within yourself.

 

PS – I love all of my readers. Without any of you, The Aspie Epilogue would not be what it is today.

Puzzle Pride 2014 is Coming!

Hi, all!

It’s almost February, and you know what that means! The Puzzle Pride Campaign is coming!

It’s only two more months until Autism Awareness Month, and that means I need your suggestions for the 2014 Puzzle Pride Award recipient.  You can submit suggestions via any method listed on the Contact page (Facebook, Twitter, Email), Google+, or even by commenting on the blog! The winner will be announced in April, so stay tuned.

I’m hoping to also start a new Aspie Epilogue project next month in conjunction with the Puzzle Pride Campaign. So stay tuned in March for that.

How do you like the new look? Do you have anybody you’d like to recognize for the Puzzle Pride Campaign? Have any other feedback about the site? Let me know what you guys think!

Let’s Think Ahead

We all know the statistics on ASD prevalence in America — I’ve even posted about it before here — so I’m not going to retrace my steps on the subject.

What I want to talk about instead is what happens now? Where do we go from here? What do we do with these statistics?

Never send a muppet to do an Aspie's job...
Never send a muppet to do an Aspie’s job…

Now, without getting into polarizing and political opinions, I think the Affordable Care Act has some interesting potential to change the game in America.

Up until now, the bulk of the resources has been invested in our children. There’s nothing wrong with that, but what happens when our children with an ASD grow up into adults with an ASD?

Sadly, not many resources, if any, are available to adults with an ASD. I, myself, was bounced from my therapist and psychiatrist when I was in college simply because I turned 21, and they wanted to focus primarily on the youth.

Some resources like the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Research have started offering services for adults, and I applaud them for it.

I’ve always said to catch the symptoms early and treat them right away for the child’s success. What about those who didn’t get such early intervention? They are now adults with very little resources available. Have they missed their opportunity because nobody acted soon enough? Right now, that answer is yes…

BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE!

Here’s where “Obamacare” comes into play. I’d love to see families leverage the Affordable Care Act to acquire more resources for adults on the Spectrum. Since they can no longer be denied coverage because of their preexisting condition (i.e. Autism Spectrum Disorder), that starts to level out the playing field for adults.

Again, I don’t intend to start any political arguments within my posts. That’s not what I’m here to push. My agenda is simply advocating for Autism Equality. I believe the Affordable Care Act can be leveraged for that goal, though I understand many may not share in that belief.

The end goal for all of us dealing with ASD should be to provide the best possible opportunities for success for our affected loved ones. That includes our adults as well as our children.

I could go into the employment rate for adults on the Spectrum, but I think I’ll save that for another post.

Until then, let’s see how the Affordable Care Act actually affects Autism Awareness in practice.

Fame, Fortune, and Sex

NONE OF THESE THINGS WILL EVER BUY YOU HAPPINESS!

Just so that we’re clear on that.

This is the time of year that many people express their love for each other in explicit ways (second only to Valentine’s Day). Every year around this time, I see this all around. Perhaps a friend just announced a new relationship or an engagement. Maybe it’s people kissing under the mistletoe. Heck, it might even be those Hallmark Channel movies that depict a terrible portrayal of how love happens in the real world — usually around the holidays.

Then I look back on the past nine-or-so years of dating failures in my nonexistent love life… Suffice it to say, New Year’s Eve is the most depressing day of the year for me. Yes, it’s even more depressing than Valentine’s Day.

I still haven’t met anybody who’s willing to spend five seconds on a date with me. This year, I’m taking a different approach to my response.

Quite frankly, if you love somebody, you love them all year round. You don’t need one special day out of 365 to express it. You certainly don’t express it on that one day of the year just because Hallmark tells you to.

When we are kids (at least, when I was a kid), we were all taught that we were all special. On Valentine’s Day, everybody was told to bring enough valentine cards for the entire class, and we did. Fast-forward to high school, and it becomes painfully clear that not everybody is special enough to warrant being a valentine.

For those Puzzle Pieces who’ve learned this all too well, this is why I’m writing to you: WE ARE NOT ANY LESS SPECIAL OR LOVABLE SIMPLY BECAUSE OTHERS DEVOTE THEIR HEARTS TO SOMEONE ELSE. We will have our turn to experience this. I can’t tell you when or how, but it will eventually happen. Someday. That’s the only word of encouragement I can offer right now.

For many people — NT or otherwise — the holidays can feel empty. I know mine do at times. Sure, we give and receive gifts, but what’s the purpose of the gift in the first place? Is it because we need to fill some kind of void inside? Or is it because we care about someone so much, we want to make her world that much brighter, if only for a short while? I believe in the latter.

It’s almost sad to think how different the world would be if we all shared our love with those close to our hearts every day, not just during the holidays or on Valentine’s Day. Sadly, life doesn’t always work that way.

There are five different types of moments in our lives:

1. The Good – Perhaps you just bought that high-end item you’ve been saving up for for so long. Sure, it’s nice to receive something, but there’s more to life than that.

2. The Bad – Maybe your favorite sports team just turned over 48 points to the other team and lost the game. Yeah, it didn’t go your way, but you’re alive, fed, clothed, and you have a roof over your head. You can’t complain too much about that.

3. The Ugly – There’s been a death in the family, or your significant other left you for some other guy. These are the moments when you feel like life will never be the same again.

4. The Beautiful – Your wedding day, or maybe there’s a birth in the family. Either way, these are the moments that make life worth living when all else feels lost.

5. The Indifferent – These are just the everyday moments in your life. Nothing is special about them, right?

WRONG!

The Indifferent moments are an excellent opportunity to show someone that you care on a personal level. You don’t need a special day of the year to do that. Maybe it doesn’t even have to be a particular person. There are many people in our lives; you never know which one of them might need that reminder the most.

This year, even if you don’t have a significant other, show the people in your life that you care in some way. Eventually, you will find the person who takes you for who you are. Until then, may you find peace with yourself, within yourself.

Ask an Aspie: Fun-Facts for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Hello, Puzzle Pieces!

I figured that since I’ve been gone for a while, I’d return with something fun for this round of Ask an Aspie.

Bear with me on this. It’ll work; I promise.

Just last week, I tried to calculate various statistics about the prevalence of ASD for an Editing class assignment. Ultimately, the numbers were cut from the paper, but it apparently didn’t matter. I realized today that my method for finding these statistics was inaccurate.

I had assumed from the data that 1/54 were boys was the same as 1/54 people with autism were boys. That’s where my numbers fell apart.

Like that, but with more numerals and less symbolism.

 

So what are the actual statistics? Well, here’s what I found out:

US Census Bureau fun-fact: There were an estimated 313,914,040 people living in America in 2012.

I assumed that 1/54 of 1/88 of 313,914,040 was the correct answer for how many males are on the Spectrum in America. I realized today that I was operating under an inaccurate assumption. It’s not 1/54 males with ASD in America; it’s 1/54 boys in America. So I went back to the Census data. What I should have calculated were how many boys there are in America and how many men, then I should have calculated the ASD prevalence from there. Just for inclusivity, I looked up the same numbers for girls and women. Unsurprisingly, the split between male and female in America is just about half. No, really! It’s literally 50.8% female and 49.2% male!

I also discovered in my research that the prevalence is roughly about the same whether we’re talking about adults or children, so I used the same ratios for both groups. That would be 1/54 males and 1/252 females in America.

Please note: All of these numbers are American. Sorry, Kim…

So now, here are the final numbers broken down in various ways.

313,914,040 people lived in America in 2012.

That makes roughly 3,476,516 people with ASD in America in 2012.

Out of that, 2,863,013 were male, 613,503 were female. Furthermore, 2,647,093 were adult, while 829,423 were children under the age of 18.

To break down these numbers still further:

2,179,959 were men; 467,134 were women.

683,054 were boys; 146,369 were girls.

So, there you have it, people!

The next time somebody says you are one in a million, you can give them the correct statistics.

Hey, I never said it’d go over well… Just sayin’.
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