“I am neither low functioning nor high functioning. I am essentially hard functioning.” Rethinking HFA
November seems to have become my favourite month. In November 2015, I got to meet Prof Tony Attwood, a world-renowned expert on Asperger’s Syndrome whose books and videos helped me understand a great deal about myself and the autism spectrum, he really might be the person who knows me best. In November 2016, I went on my first ever solo overnight hike at the Blue Mountains in NSW, Australia, which you can read about here. There was another reason that made my November 2016 trip to Australia more memorable, I got to meet the founder of Special Books by Special Kids, an inspiring young man from the US and a former special education teacher, who happened to be on his first Australia tour. I love his videos increasing awareness of neuro-diversity especially the ones of him interacting with his students. For outsiders, it is hard for me to imagine what goes on inside a special education classroom and his videos cast a positive light of his students with different diverse needs. I hold great respect for this guy and his dedication to his students. My childhood would have been a much happier one if I had teachers as inspiring as him, someone who cared to spend the time and effort to build up that teacher-student trust and relationship and someone who recognised the importance of building up the self-esteem of young children so they grew up to become positive, caring and confident young adults. The influence and life-long impact a teacher has on his/her students must not be undervalued.
I was both excited and anxious about my trip and meeting him. I worried about appearing before the camera and what to say but seeing Mr. Chris successfully connected with many highly anxious and neuro-diverse individuals in the past, I have faith and trust in him that somehow, I’ll be able to feel comfortable and speak. Unfortunately, the day we met, I made the wrong decision of putting aside my ‘normal’ mask and came to the interview without masking my anxiety. It took me a long time to process the questions and formulate a reply, even though I did eventually get the words out, I had the feeling I’ve ruined the interview (I did), although Mr. Chris was patient throughout and reassured I was doing fine. I was hoping to hear some updates from him after the trip, unfortunately, I never got a reply. I’m sorry if I wasted his time for an interview that was incoherent, I wasn’t at my best/normal performance. I wasn’t going to spam his account with countless emails pressing for a reply or closure, however, it does make me wonder what to make of this situation other than it validates that I’m a hopeless case? While the helpless can be helped, the hopeless can’t be helped. I’m not mad (and this post is not meant to discredit anyone), just disappointed at how this turned out and that I’ve kind of messed up my opportunity to connect to the world (and that’s just me, always messing things up).
I wanted to play a part and be a dot in a world of connecting dots except I seem to be misplaced and nobody else is interested in playing a game of find the missing dot. No, wait a minute, how can I be missing when I’m right here, flesh and bone? I’m not just a dot, I’m an extreme hard level dot-to-dot where the solution is unknown and it’s pointless to even attempt it. I’m the dot which even Mr. Chris can’t connect.
The lesson I’ve learnt is that there is no such thing as a helping profession, or rather, every profession is a helping profession. You don’t need to be a teacher, psychologist, lawyer, doctor etc. to be helping individuals in need. Some of the individuals who have helped me are essentially strangers who to certain extent (and ironically), went beyond what my friends did (or did not do) to lend a hand, send an encouraging message and check in on me from time to time. These individuals (it’d be my privilege if I’m allowed to call them friends) might not be able to help me attain my goals but what they’ve given me through their offer of encouragement is a shimmer of hope to which I shall forever be grateful and you don’t have to be a professional to do just that.