Saturday, December 29, 2012
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
“Individuals with Asperger’s are capable of violence in the sense they are as human as everybody else. Human beings are known to commit crimes of passion or may react strongly if provoked long enough. But no human being with or without a disability is capable of what the gunman committed in Newtown, CT. My peers have a much greater chance becoming a victim of a crime than a perpetrator, as well.”
Emily asked more questions and I tried to very cautiously give her the best answers. I even got a little bit personal and revealed the extremes I have had to go through to give myself a fighting chance in society. I worked at a funeral home for a while to condition myself to stop blurting out inappropriate comments. My rage was never a threat to the rest of society and merely motivated myself to continue pushing for better realities. My anger was the catalyst for a bestselling book and skydiving adventure.
Unlike Adam Lanza…my failures and disappointments eventually waned. I still have not been able to earn my old life back, but am putting teaching on a backburner while embracing my new reality as a public figure. Like many of my peers…I have little ability to “let go” and will keep pushing. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if nothing worked out for me as an adult and my failures continued. I would have been miserable, depressed, and could have given up hope. But no matter what…my humanity still would have remained intact. I would never have reached the breaking point and gunned down twenty-six innocent lives.
I am still waiting for my words to air on “Inside Edition” but my interview has been temporarily scrapped in favor of more pressing news stories. It is the nature of the media and nothing personal. They always go with the story that takes more of a priority. But I thank Emily and the rest of “Inside Edition” for understanding this tragedy will affect more than the victims of Newtown and my peers deserve a voice.
I would like to say a few final words. We have a right to be angry and search for blame in this senseless act. But I wish society would stop villain-izing the mother, Nancy Lanza and treat her as one of the victims. How could she have known? Maybe she and her child were only able to bond over this common interest and he showed no traces of violent tendencies until that fateful Friday morning? My kooky interests such as donating blood every two months and skydiving have separated me from the rest of my family. The only way my father and I are able to bond is over our mutual love of Blackjack at casinos. Maybe she needed that bonding or anything at all.
Friday, October 26, 2012
Thursday, October 18, 2012
I have never claimed to be perfect and having a case of Asperger’s tends to exacerbate these imperfections (at least according to public scrutiny). But there are plenty of private imperfections that cause me immense shame. I know I could be better and these quirky weaknesses tend to rage against my adulthood.
For some reason, I have always had a great deal of trouble keeping things clean. It never starts off as messy and the process is painfully gradual. This is the way most disasters occur. Credit card debt…grotesque weight gain…drug addiction…and messy cars or rooms progress with the speed of a tortoise from hell. My former nickname for my silver Toyota was, “The Mobile Landfill.” The only reason the front passenger seat was clean is because the garbage had been continuously thrown in the back. When I did have a guest it was shameful. At times, I was also ashamed to be a role model for the boy with Asperger’s I mentor at the Poughkeepsie Children’s Home. How could I side with his staff about keeping his room clean when I could barely do this with anything in my own life? At long last, I decided I had enough and bought the largest box I could find at the post office. Alas…my car sits in the driveway as a recently-polished gem and the box of debris sits in the basement. I am positive that most of the box contains useless papers, but will still go through it someday to figure out what is quasi-valuable. The car was defeated and the mess had died. But there was a more formidable disaster waiting to be conquered.
Most nights I ended up sleeping on the couch, which is probably why I also starting going to the chiropractor for most of the summer. But it had become somewhat hazardous to navigate a path in my own bedroom on account it was filled with garbage and bags of newly-washed clothes that had never been put away. Not all of the boxes were mine and over a period of a calendar year, my mother had turned my personal space into an unofficial storage room. But MOST of it was my own doing and I had nobody to blame but myself.
In the movie, “Limitless,” the protagonist played by Bradley Cooper is a procrastinating writer living off a book advance and in his own filth. One day he takes a free pill with a value of hundreds of dollars. An alien, electrical potency erupts in his brain as he starts writing his book just days before the publishing company’s deadline. The book is written in just a couple of days. Another sense came over him during the same time period. “I suddenly realized that I had to clean the house,” he says. The apartment quickly becomes spotless with his newfound motivation. I did not take a fictional pill, but the same light went off in my head the other day!
My electrical impulses of motivation started firing at around eleven o’clock at night the other day just out of the blue. I looked through the doorway at the pathetic state of affairs and realized this had gone on long enough. Furthermore, I had run out of lame excuses that seemed justified due to my public speaking schedule. Now…here was a block of time without any significant commitments that would allow me to move heaven and earth.
For the first time in many months, my block of space looks like someone else’s bedroom. And there is nothing BUT space! The “room” technically sits in a huge box in the basement along with my “car.” But it is finally clean and I am “square with the house.” The challenge will be continuous just like any other aspect of newfound self-improvement. It is difficult for those with Asperger’s syndrome to maintain a sense of self-esteem and mercy in a world that fails to delegate either. For now, I am able to look at myself in the mirror and clean out some of the neurotic anguish cluttering up my own mind! Furthermore, I have shed the chains of hypocrisy when lecturing the boy I mentor about being more responsible. That is enough…for now.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
On the date of Thursday, October 4th, 2012 I had the privilege of delivering a lecture at the University of Buffalo, which was sponsored by a company called, People Inc. People, Inc. runs the Museum of DisABILITIES just down the street. A man named Doug gave me a tour of the museum that paints the bitter realities of how those with “differences” have been viewed throughout history. They were known as “imbeciles” “idiots” and “morons” more recently than we would like to admit. It is hard to imagine these terms were once freely tossed around in educated social circles and/or were seen as politically correct. But even with this unvarnished view of history…some aspects of the tour stood out like fine lines of sunlight fighting their way through tight blinds. There were the occasional sports heroes and I learned the hand signals in baseball were germinated from the first hearing-impaired player around the start of the last century. Furthermore, there were a nice number of individuals who decided that they could not live with the miserable realities that clung to “their kind.” I witnessed historical examples of individuals who really played the horrible hand they were dealt in this life. Some people with disabilities found their niche. Those with dwarfism ended up posing as fantastical creatures in movies like “The Wizard of Oz” and even had shows to raise money for their conditions. I have some faith they were very happy while playing the hand they were dealt. The exhibit also talks about those who were exiled from their communities and even deported from this country out of fear their imbecility would contaminate the normal population’s gene pool! I am sure there was a lot of bullying during those days and it would take another museum to do it justice.
Bullying is a merciless reality for so many individuals these days and it is especially tenacious for those individuals who suffer from disabilities. We have evolved in society so that someone with a very noticeable physical or intellectual disability is not tormented. We were taught better than that in early childhood. You know? Don’t stare at someone with a disability! And how dare you laugh at that man in the wheelchair? You know better. But what about that grey area where someone just seems like a kook or is abnormal? Maybe they have a disability or are just downright weird? But the purpose of my visit to Buffalo was not to determine who deserves to be made fun of and who is entitled to be left alone. As is the case in all of my presentations, I try to emphasize bullying is a disabling misery that leaves newly-disabled individuals in its wake!
The auditorium at the University of Buffalo was vast enough to accommodate hundreds of attendees. They started off the night by screening the movie, “Bully” that paints a brutal and somewhat-hopeless portrait of schoolyard torment. It is haunting and now I understand why most theatres refused to show it. People tend to flock to the movies to escape their troubles. But “Bully” has the effect of making you relive the horrors of junior high school. The main subject in the movie is a painfully-awkward child named, Alex Hopkins, with oversized lips. He is one of the survivors, however. One of the most wrenching scenes involves a child in a casket who has given up in the worst way possible. There was really only one way to end the abuse…
The movie is not possible to describe in a blog entry because it is too painful. It was a terrible movie because there was no ending that gives a semblance of hope of this epidemic ever getting better. Perhaps this is the whole point because it is time for us to finally write our own ending! My subsequent speech was received with modest applause and minimal book sales (compared to the other presentations), but it was the only time when I did not mind so much. The night was all about the movie and I believe the audience was too emotionally-drained to stand up and cheer. I would like to thank the Weinstein Company, the kids depicted in the movie, and all those involved who made us want to rise that particular night. The greatest lesson I learned from “Bully” is how, “Apathy is the glove in which evil slips its hand.” Therefore, it is time to rise!
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Friday, April 27, 2012
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Monday, April 16, 2012
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
|Photo by Maribel Lopez-Gabiger|
A few hours before my big day…I even found time to attend the Dutchess County Anti-Bullying Walk on the Hudson River Walkway. Brendan Caldwell and his amazing sister, Julia were two of my guests at Roller Magic and here is a photograph of us posing on the Walkway!
Monday, April 2, 2012
“Autism is an epidemic that seems to be growing grimmer with less hope of reversing its severity,” says Saperstein. “As we fight for answers, whether they may be scientific or spiritual, our collective mission should be to adapt the world to accommodate those who are affected by this enigmatic disorder.
Reverse the bullying, knee-jerk impressions, and irrational fear that have marred so many lives as we open our eyes to the gifts that have finally allowed me to succeed as an adult with autism."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDP), the new statistic is a 78% increase since the study first began in 2002. The latest figure reconfirms that autism is more prevalent than juvenile diabetes, childhood cancer, and pediatric AIDS combined. ASD is a range of complex neurodevelopmental disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication challenges, and restricted, repetitive, or stereotyped patterns of behavior. Autistic disorder is the most severe form of ASD, while other conditions along the spectrum include milder forms known as Asperger's syndrome (AS), Childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD) and Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).
Saperstein, who earlier this year began an Anti-Bullying movement across the country for individuals with autism, says he will continue to spread the message and needs others to join him in the crusade. Saperstein’s video, “Free-Falling to End Bullying in 2012” (www.youtube.com/JesseSaperstein) has become a popular staple on You Tube and is being screened at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, MN on Thursday, April 19, 2012.
"Let this be the first generation to enjoy acceptance while having something to fight for. It cannot get better someday. It will become better TODAY," says Saperstein.
According to the Kennedy Krieger Institute, children with Asperger's may be more prone to bullying because they are often placed in mainstream schools with “typical” students. The Institute also said certain behavioral traits including clumsiness, poor hygiene, rigid rule-keeping, talking obsessively about a favorite topic, frequent meltdowns and inflexibility may make children with an autism spectrum disorder more vulnerable toward abuse.
Saperstein urges the public - children and adults - to find their own unique way to become heroic.
"It's time to advocate for those who deserve a friend. Or give somebody a voice that has been silenced by abuse and ignorance. The person you fight for today could be the life you're saving tonight."
"Jesse changed my life," says 10-year-old Todd Weaver of Hyde Park, New York. "I see my Asperger's like my super power now. Jesse really made a difference in my life, and now I want to help other kids like me in the same way."
Saperstein visits schools on a regular basis and has been successful with stomping out bullying or at least dramatically alleviating it with every presentation. He is currently working on initiatives to pioneer a middle/high school class in New York State that will be similar to health, but shall focus on educating young people about misunderstood disabilities as well as the psychological and legal consequences of bullying.
For more information about Jesse A. Saperstein visit www.jessesaperstein.com.
For speaking inquiries and press interviews, contact D. Plump Consulting at email@example.com.
About Jesse A. Saperstein:
Jesse A. Saperstein is a best-selling author, autism advocate and motivational speaker. He is considered one of the most respected leaders in the Anti-Bullying movement of his generation. Jesse has a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome (AS). Individuals with Asperger’s are impaired by a profound lack of social skills, common sense, and resistance to change in routine.
After graduating from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 2004 with a BA degree in English, Saperstein set out to conquer the 2,174-mile Appalachian Trail to benefit the Joey DiPaolo AIDS Foundation. He began hiking from Georgia to Maine on March 9, 2005 and successfully completed the journey on October 18, 2005, raising more than $19,000 for children to attend summer camp who had contracted HIV/AIDS through prenatal transmission. Shortly after his hike ended, Saperstein was exposed to some of the cruel realities of living as an adult on the autism spectrum and was treated as a social pariah by members of the community who did not understand. His decision to write a book was an opportunity to escape these realities and advocate for his peers who are not always granted a voice.
Saperstein’s story, “Atypical: Life with Asperger’s in 20 1/3 Chapters,” was published by Penguin Group (USA) in April 2010 and became a popular memoir due to its practical advice and outrageous humor. He chronicles his misadventures and extremes to improve his social skills. The book quickly rose to the top of Amazon.com and placed Saperstein as a dynamic media personality, motivational speaker and most important, an advocate for people with disabilities. After receiving a grant from Anderson Center for Autism (ACA) in Staatsburg, New York, Saperstein completed his first skydiving jump in front of his community in an effort to eradicate bullying. “Free-Falling to End Bullying in 2012" is currently a popular video on YouTube (www.youtube.com/jessesaperstein). Saperstein resides in Pleasant Valley, New York.
For more information about Jesse A. Saperstein, visit www.jessesaperstein.com.