Monday, January 14, 2013

A CRAZY GATHERING OF GRASP, INC. AND MY AMAZING PEERS



It was a pleasure to return to a group that has helped me get through some very dark times in my life.  The attendees are a multi-faceted bunch and are a testament to the popular expression in my community, “When you have met one person with autism…you have met ONE person with autism!”  I had a neurotypical friend with me that night for support and because she wishes to learn about this unique population.  She was in for quite a night!

The gatherings of the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP), Inc. meet the second Wednesday of every month unless there is a disaster like Hurricane Sandy that prevents it from happening.  The meetings are as predictable as the train schedules so many of my peers obsess about if their “special interest” happens to be the New York City Railroad.  The meetings always revolve around a specific topic and this week it was “Disclosure.”  It is always a battle to know when to tell you have Asperger’s syndrome, who to tell, if it is necessary to tell, if it will make things worse or better, and how to tell?  Considering that lecturing about my case of Asperger’s is how I make a living these days…telling people is almost as natural as pulling up my socks.  When you have a book titled, “Atypical: Life with Asperger’s in 20 1/3 Chapters,” telling everyone is part of the deal and I no longer have much fear.

But there was a time when the level of fear and hopelessness was so potent.  It was when I was attending these GRASP meetings so many years ago.  This was the first time I had been to a meeting in probably six months…at least.  It is too far away and takes too much money to travel into the city from Poughkeepsie.  My life has also grown easier these days as a respected public figure.  When I began attending the GRASP meetings a few years back I was an angry, bitter person who was met with irrational fear from my own community.  My four years studying to be a teacher in college were proven to be worthless when schools caved into the natural feelings of discomfort so I ended up working in purgatory for a while.  But they did not call it that.  It was known as, “The Twelve Hour Night Shifts of IBM.”  In retrospect, I attended the meetings because there were people in much worse shape than myself.  Sometimes it helps to understand that things could always be ten times worse.  There were also people who had survived and broken out of their desperations by building flourishing careers and romantic connections.


Sometimes the meetings resemble a circus in the sense you never know what to expect.  Nonviolent outbursts are common and it is probably because this is the only time when a group of us may loosen our ties and let our hair down for a little while without fear of consequences from a world that does not understand.  I looked down and noticed the attractive, fiercely-quirky girl doing yoga moves on a mat in her bare feet.  My companion looks at me and she says, “Why is she doing that?”  I replied, “Because she has Asperger’s syndrome.”  Apparently, the yoga girl has found success in the entertainment world and this leads me to wonder how many A-list celebrities walk among us who are affected by the autism spectrum and probably know it?  When will one of these celebrities come out of the Asperger’s Closet and advocate for the rest of us?

Personality clashes are very common during these meetings when people are talking over others.  Interruptions are as plentiful as salmon in a genetic hatchery.  Tempers flare and inadvertent rudeness happens all the time.  As I finished adding my two cents to a conversational topic, one of the members asked me, “Do you know you have patches of white hair all over your head.”  I wanted to say, “Wow!  Really?!  I never actually noticed that myself while looking into the mirror every morning for the past two years, but thank you for pointing that out in front of everybody!”  But I simply composed myself and explained that the white hair is caused by an autoimmune condition known as vitiligo, which causes the skin pigment to recede.”  The same man helped me stuff envelopes in preparation for the Benefit last April and remarked, “You look thinner than when I saw you a year ago.”  The comment may not have been meant as a compliment, but was cherished considering how hard I was struggling to lose weight.”  My peers and I do not wake up in the morning to ask, “How can we creep people out more than yesterday?  How much weirder can I be than last week?”  It just happens and this is a group filled with forgiveness and understanding.  How dare we cast stones when we all dwell in glass houses?”

As a public figure and role model, I felt it was my obligation to give the group advice on how to disclose especially given a job situation.  It is always good to acknowledge the elephant in the room especially considering most people are not going to bluntly ask, “What is your deal?”

Most of us wonder when and where to disclose about the Asperger’s, but nobody really talks about the Fine Art of Disclosure.  Ninety percent of my success has come from always knowing I have something to offer and continuously trying to show other people even if they do not wish to listen at first.  I believe it is often important to disclose during job interviews especially if you gain the sense that an interviewer is doubting your abilities or asking questions like, “Do you feel like you could fit into an environment with so many different personalities and sensitive situations?”  One should explain they have Asperger’s, but also explain how this will help in a working environment.  Look the interviewer in the eye in a nonconfrontational manner and say, “I have challenges related to Asperger’s syndrome, but have made amazing contributions in past venues.  I am very punctual and take commitments seriously.”

Every single person has their own way of confronting demons.  I choose to put myself in the most uncomfortable situations and attempt to be someone I am not.  I’ll be the square peg grinding its way into a round hole.  “Hello Potential Employer!  I have social troubles related to Asperger’s syndrome, but I also worked very well when I was employed by a funeral home.  I was able to work with people on one of the worst days of their lives and would make a similar contribution at your workplace!”  Disclosure will never work with brutal, unnecessary honesty such as admitting, “It takes me a very long time to learn certain things, I have difficulty understanding basic boundaries, there have been accusations of sexual harassment in the past.”

I wanted the GRASP group to understand that ninety percent of success is achieved by knowing you have something incredible to offer and having tenacious persistence.  There was not enough time to go into much detail about how much persistence has benefited and hurt me over the years.  On Thursday I finally have an interview with a school that fired me seven years ago because I was unable to let go of the fact that it was not fair.  I deserve to be a teacher because of the success in controlling the inappropriate comments and will continue fighting.  I am not able to always let go of the persistence that often rears its head in dating situations, but have learned how to do some serious “backing off.”  There is absolutely no shame anymore and persistence almost always leads to amazing things!

My friend embraced the group as I knew she would and is one of those rare souls who appreciates the beauty of such a misunderstood, sometimes vilified, population.  Now is a time when we have to band together more than ever to dissolve much of the fear that has been created by the gunman from Newtown, CT.  


Let’s show the world who the autism population really is and the talents we have to offer.  Know that you are incredible keep fighting the good fight as the world hopefully gives you a chance to show your “abilities.”

AUTISTIC, BESTSELLING AUTHOR TO SEND NEWTOWN SURVIVORS ON "FIELD TRIP OF A LIFETIME."


Bestselling author and autism advocate Jesse A. Saperstein is urging the nationwide community to be more proactive and compassionate to individuals with autism. Saperstein, who has Asperger's syndrome, says the Newtown, Connecticut massacre by Adam Lanza, who reportedly had Asperger's and murdered six unarmed women and twenty children, is the nation's wake-up call.

"Loner, awkward and shy…could not look people in the eye…intelligent…nervous and fidgety…very flat, emotionless affect…he was an odd kid who struggled to be social," says Saperstein. "When I read these characteristics, I realized my connection with the deceased gunman."

Saperstein was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at age fourteen and is the author of the memoir, Atypical: Life with Asperger’s in 20 1/3 Chapters, which was published by Penguin Group (USA) in April 2010.  He is also a national anti-bullying advocate who started the movement, “Free-Falling to End Bullying” (www.youtube.com/jessesaperstein) by performing his first skydiving jump in August 2011.  He is now issuing a plea to the mass media for assistance in helping to educate the public about the 1 out of 88 children struggling with autism.  Even though autism is not to be blamed for Lanza’s rampage, Saperstein still emphasizes the importance of support systems that could have made a difference in the gunman’s decision.

It is now Saperstein’s mission to eliminate a legacy of fear that could be misdirected toward an already misunderstood population.  Countless professionals, such as bestselling author and psychologist, Xavier Amador, have affirmed there is no link between autism and random acts of violence.  Or as Saperstein states,

“Despite our challenges, we still maintain a sense of humanity and respect for human life.  What walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School was no longer human, nor a representation of anyone on the autism spectrum.  Or 99.999 percent of humanity.”

A common misconception associated with Asperger’s is the absence of empathy.  In reality…most individuals on the autism spectrum have intense empathy, although they may have difficulty with seeing things from someone else’s point of view or understanding basic social cues. Moments of rage and depression are not uncommon, but typically pose no threat to society.  Most important, Saperstein’s experience clashes with those of Adam Lanza and is a testament to the progress made by those with autism-related challenges.

In addition to promoting education, Jesse A. Saperstein would like to set up a fund with the consent and direction of the Newtown Public School District.  The purpose of this fund will be to send surviving children, faculty, and the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School to Disney World during their spring vacation to make up for the loss of Christmas.  In the event that this proves to be unrealistic or inappropriate, the funding could also be used for another fun event such as reserving the facilities of a local amusement park or zoo just for Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

Saperstein’s web page is:  www.jessesaperstein.com

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Monday, January 7, 2013

RESOLUTION ENERGY


It is not totally safe to claim that this New Year’s Resolution stuff is off to a good start.  For one thing, I am sending out this blog entry seven days into the New Year when it was supposed to be completed by the evening of New Year’s Day.  (So much for the resolution that involves keeping up with blog entries.)

But there is yet another resolution that I will try to keep in mind this year.  It is not to be so hard on myself.  It is a good lesson for all of us trying to be a little better who may lapse from time-to-time.  The need to be a little better is something that so many people yearn for and can seem extremely potent for my peers with Asperger’s.  So many of us are suffering and want a better life…or a different life.  Others practically want to become a different person and who am I to lecture them otherwise.  Sometimes it is impossible to accept yourself “the way you are.”  I am not the right person to give advice and often refer to myself as “The Self-Help Guru from Hell.”  On the other hand, I have succeeded in holding down jobs in sensitive environments and have been making a semi-comfortable living as a public orator traveling to exotic cities.  I am still struggling and infantile in many ways, but must have done a few things right to achieve this level of personal/professional success.  Therefore, I am going to give you some of my wisdom that has helped me carve out a life from something that used to resemble a living nightmare.


When struggling to become a little better and maintain New Year’s Resolutions…here are some of my best strategies that will hopefully make the resolutions last beyond a solid week after the New Year.  I have always enjoyed making silly lists because it is the only time when the creative process seems more natural.  Therefore, this blog entry is going to be composed of two lists.  The first list will show you how to maintain that New Year’s Resolution energy.  This is the time of the year when gyms receive a bunch of new memberships from the New Year’s Resolution Crowd.  While your resolutions may not last for twelve month…it would be nice if they made it past a few weeks or else what is the point?

1. Do not make ridiculous or unrealistic resolutions that set you up for failure.  Nobody in humanity has the motivation to give up caffeine unless they are facing eminent health risks and you will NOT perform fifty pushups every morning for the rest of your life!

2. Avoid too many resolutions where success will leave you at the utter mercy of other people.  It is a good goal to find a girlfriend, but keep in mind that the online dating community may prohibit you from achieving such as a resolution regardless of whether you seem to be doing all the right things.

3. If you are going to challenge yourself with difficult resolutions…be sure to schedule a reward for yourself if such resolutions are achieved.  Your prize for losing twelve pounds should be a night away in a luxury hotel even if it has to be by yourself.

4. Prioritize!  The average human being only has so much time, motivation, and resolution energy to go around.  On that note, you must choose the most critical resolutions to tackle before bothering with the small stuff.  If you want to quit your chain smoking or consuming alcohol to drown your demons…this is a little more important than organizing the clutter in your closet.  Go after the resolutions that will dramatically improve your physical and/or mental health.

5. Your motivation will fizzle when you spend too much energy dwelling over momentary failures or being too hard on yourself.  Give yourself the mercy that may not always come from the rest of the world.


Hopefully this will help and I will follow such advice myself.  Anyway…here is a list of my Resolutions and I have faith that at least one will become successful between now and December 31st, 2013.  Making lists is really fun and gives me a blog vacation!


JESSE’S LIST OF NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR 2013

1. Start my e-mails and other tasks no later than 8:00 a.m. to seize the day.

2. Stop going to casinos until I am more flush with disposable income that I can afford to squander.  Find other ways to achieve euphoria.

3. Lose a total of fifteen pounds and keep it off for at least four months.  After losing the weight I will celebrate by arranging a visit to the Holiday Inn in Kingston, NY.

4. Clean the cat’s litter box at least once every single day!

5. Make 2013 the year I write my second book for Penguin Group (USA).  If I continue putting it off then my literary agents and editor will retire and it will be too late!!  After nearly three years since the last book’s publication…it is time.

6. Pay off the nagging debt on my Chase Bank card, which was accrued during my attempt to get myself on the Oprah Show.  This will get myself out of credit card debt forever.  Lesson learned…time to move forward.

7. Part of being a public figure is allowing my younger peers to shine.  For all of my future speeches, I want a child with Asperger’s to open my presentation by performing a talent like singing.  It is not all about me and applause must be delegated toward others.

8. I have suffered dearly for the immaturity seven years ago during my careers in the Teaching and Human Service field.  Consequences without the trace of redemption only spells out doom.  Regardless of my current successes in different avenues of my life, I need to get back those careers to some capacity and prove that I have changed enough to earn another chance.  Perhaps what I am trying to say is that success is often achieved by knowing you have something to offer and occasionally other people will listen.

9. Follow a “clean as you go” mentality as opposed to waiting until my room and bathroom have become a toxic waste dump that forces me to clean in one explosion of energy.

10. Write at least one blog entry a week and update my Skype equipment so I may post future entries on YouTube!

Hopefully this is a good start and let me know how you are doing with your own lists!



Thursday, January 3, 2013

BEST-SELLING, AUTISTIC AUTHOR WORKS TO SPREAD AWARENESS AFTER NEWTOWN, CT TRAGEDY

NATIONWIDE, JANUARY 3, 2013 – Best-selling author and autism advocate Jesse A. Saperstein is urging the nationwide community to be more proactive and compassionate to individuals with autism. Saperstein, who has Asperger's syndrome, says the Newtown, Connecticut massacre by Adam Lanza, who reportedly had Asperger's and who murdered six unarmed women and twenty children, is the nation's wake-up call.

"Loner, awkward and shy…could not look people in the eye…intelligent…nervous and fidgety…very flat, emotionless affect…he was an odd kid who struggled to be social," says Saperstein. "When I read these characteristics, I realized my connection with the deceased gunman."

Saperstein was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at age fourteen and is the author of the memoir, Atypical: Life with Asperger’s in 20 1/3 Chapters, which was published by Penguin Group (USA) in April 2010.  He is also a national anti-bullying advocate who started the movement, “Free-Falling to End Bullying” (www.youtube.com/jessesaperstein) by performing his first skydiving jump in August 2011.  He is now issuing a plea to the mass media for assistance in helping to educate the public about the 1 out of 88 children struggling with autism.  Even though autism is not to be blamed for Lanza’s rampage, Saperstein still emphasizes the importance of support systems that could have made a difference in the gunman’s decision.

It is now Saperstein’s mission to eliminate a legacy of fear that could be misdirected toward an already misunderstood population.  Countless professionals, such as bestselling author and psychologist, Xavier Amador, have affirmed there is no link between autism and random acts of violence.  Or as Saperstein states, “Despite our challenges, we still maintain a sense of humanity and respect for human life.  What walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School was no longer human, nor a representation of anyone on the autism spectrum.  Or 99.999 percent of humanity.”

A common misconception associated with Asperger’s is the absence of empathy.  In reality…most individuals on the autism spectrum have intense empathy, although they may have difficulty with seeing things from someone else’s point of view or understanding basic social cues.  Moments of rage and depression are not uncommon, but typically pose no threat to society.  Most important, Saperstein’s experience clashes with those of Adam Lanza and is a testament to the progress made by those with autism-related challenges.

In addition to promoting education, Jesse A. Saperstein plans on raising funds for all children and faculty in Sandy Hook Elementary School to be sent on the field trip of a lifetime!  

To make up for the loss of Christmas, he wants to send all survivors on a complimentary Disney cruise during their spring vacation.  

Saperstein’s web page is:  www.jessesaperstein.com and all media inquiries may be sent to pr@dplump.com.