Asperger syndrome was not a diagnosis when I was a child, yet my early medical records indicate I have always had the hallmarks of AS. My first visit with a psychiatrist at the age of 4 pointed out I had too much anxiety, too few social skills, obsessive-compulsive disorder, literal thinking comprehension problems, math dyslexia, confusing sensory integration, and hyperlexia. Rather than seeking invitations to birthday parties or slumber parties, I preferred to spend time with anything having to do with the Wild West, my animals, riding my bicycle everyday for 10 miles on the dot, and swimming in circles.
Luckily, I was faithfully supported by my parents, physicians, teachers and a few friends who understood me and provided me with the kinds of strategies and skills today’s experts in the field recognize as essential for kids on the spectrum. I have no doubt their early and consistent supports made it possible for me to achieve an EdD in pyscholinguistics; build a career as a teacher, author and motivational speaker; own and operate a horse boarding facility; serve as an advisor on a long list of international and national autism boards; work as a consultant with Behavioral Resources and Institute for Neuropsychological Services; write as the Senior Editor of Autism Spectrum Quarterly http://www.asquarterly.com/; host www.aspie.com and now blog for Psychology Today. In 1999 Dr. Tony Attwood formally diagnosed me with AS and my life has not been the same since then. It has been better! Finding there was a reason behind my differences was like finding a map to happy land. I am humbled people seek my advice and read my internationally popular books which include Safety Skills for Asperger Women: How to Save a Perfectly Good Female Life (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2011), Pretending to be Normal: Living with Asperger’s Syndrome (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1999) and Asperger Syndrome in the Family: Redefining Normal (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2001), and Adolescents and Asperger Syndrome in the Adolescent Years: Living With the Ups and Downs and Things in Between (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2003).
I am grateful to give back to our community by providing the Holliday Willey Psychology Scholarship to students who study pervasive developmental disorders at Grand Valley State University and by keeping a few horses at my barn who are only too happy to provide equine therapy for people with differences. My favorite message is simple… know who you are, know who you can trust, be true to yourself and celebrate differences!