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When and how to disclose in college.

Should I tell people? What if they begin to treat me differently/like I’m stupid? What if I begin to attract predators? What if they react badly? What if they pigeonhole me? Do I really want to be known as the autistic girl on campus? What if they say the dreaded words: “But you don’t look autistic!” “But you don’t look disabled!” These words are incredibly painful and totally invalidate our experiences as people on the spectrum.

Unfortunately, Autism Spectrum Disorders and social disabilities are still misunderstood, stigmatized, and kind of taboo in this society, and disclosing is a tough personal decision. I know that I, like many others in our community, was raised to believe that my diagnosis was a facet of myself to hide. My diagnosis was to be a personal condition that nobody is to ever know about. Before college I asked my mom if I should have my diagnosis on file. She simply replied with “Oh no honey, we don’t want you going in with that.”

Growing up, assimilation was the ultimate goal. The message was that I’d have an easier time in life attempting to assimilate into nuerotypical society.

Coming out as gay isn’t a bad analogy to coming out as on the spectrum. Personally, I still haven’t disclosed to the vast majority of people in my life (and I don’t really plan on it). I’m not yet ready to deal with the aforementioned adverse reactions. However, looking back at my university experiences there may have been some useful times to disclose. Instead of full on disclosure I personally prefer a middle ground tactic called admitting vulnerabilities. Here is an instance in college when I believe it would have been beneficial to admit vulnerabilities.

One day first semester freshman year, I was called in to speak my freshman year guidance counselor. She mentioned that she was concerned about why I was having some significant social troubles in college. She mentioned a freshman year teacher who was perplexed by my atypical facial expressions and the trouble I seemed to have getting along with my peers. Earlier, the teacher had called me aside to ask me about why I seemed “checked out” in class. He then reached out to my guidance counselor. I simply replied to them both “I don’t know, I’m not really sure what to do about this.” and refused to elaborate.

At this point in my life (age 18), I was completely obsessed with masking, blending in, and the mere thought of revealing any type of vulnerability to anyone was entirely unthinkable. I was completely in the closet about my handicaps and too proud to ask for any help. Looking back I wish I had at least disclosed to the guidance counselor and the freshman year teacher. You can not hide a full on disability, it will come out in other ways. If you are uncomfortable with revealing your diagnosis, there are ways to disclose without using the key words “disability, autism, Aspergers, NVLD etc.” I prefer the euphemism specific challenge. You can disclose by revealing what the specific challenge is. I probably would have said something like this:

“I have a challenge that is characterized by x,y,and z. A neutral facial expression is an external indication of this, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not paying attention. I just have a different way of processing information. Here are the specific accommodations I need to succeed academically and socially.”

or

“I have a tough time reading social cues and can be a bit socially awkward sometimes, which is probably what my peers and teachers are picking up on. However, this has no bearing on my academics, I can still succeed academically despite being a bit socially awkward. I will let you know if I need additional academic support.”

Upon reflection, it is completely unfathomable that I went four years hiding my diagnosis from my teachers and counselors and not requesting any type of help. When you have a significant additional challenge, that means that you need significant additional support- it will make your college journey much smoother. I wish I had broke down to all of my guidance counselors and teachers all my specific challenges and strengths. If you have your diagnosis on your school’s file, I would recommend providing your guidance counselor with your diagnosis report. I know it can be difficult, but I would recommend being open about your distinct challenges and weaknesses with your guidance counselor and teachers in the beginning. It will help to avoid confusion, misunderstandings and negative feedback later down the line.

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How to cultivate a healthy self-esteem in the face of adversity.

“A.G. As a disabled black woman you are just going to piss people off just by existing.”

These words were told to me by a therapist a couple of years ago. At first I couldn’t wrap my head around these words. How could my mere existence piss someone off? Then it dawned on me I’m a triple minority- a woman, black, and with an invisible disability. At the lowest estimate I’m literally less than .01 percent of the population! For all intensive purposes- I only exist in most people’s imaginations. Even in the rare media representations of young adults with autism spectrum disorders, its always a lower functioning young white male- its never a high functioning black woman (i.e. see Rainman, The Good Doctor and Atypical for examples). The face of autism spectrum disorders is a stereotypically awkward white male.

Most people have never met/seen/ or heard of a person with my profile in their entire lives- and its entirely jarring for them. Because I do not fit any predesignated categories, most people’s gut reaction to me is to “fight” or “flight”. As a society we have a long way to go for accepting differences and people who don’t fit the mold. People who don’t fit the mold are still penalized and stigmatized.

For my entire life I was told that there was something fundamentally “wrong” with how I am made and that I should change. How do you learn to love yourself when the world is telling you that there is something wrong with the way you were born? Similar to almost everyone else on the spectrum, my struggle to self-acceptance was arduous, frustrating, and tedious.

During my teenage years, I felt like a martian on the fringes of planet weird. I’d fantasize everyday about how awesome my life would be if I was simply born nuerotypical. I felt slighted. I spent literally every minute of the day trying to hide and mask who I am. My biggest fear was that someone would “discover” that I have an invisible disability. I was in an extremely dark place and I was ashamed and mortified to be disabled.

I see now that this is a ridiculous notion to internalize! When you have a disability it becomes difficult to separate who you are from your disability. My disability does NOT define who I am. I was 18 when I decided I did not want to be another statistic and I wanted to take control of my life. When I was 21 I graduated from a top college with numerous internships under my belt. At 23 I began my own successful business. I’m thinking about getting my MBA and beginning another business. Now at 26, I am just now slowly beginning my path to self-acceptance. It took a near death experience last year for me to get to the point on making peace with myself.

We don’t fit the norm. We are weird as hell, we are special, we are unique. But we are not broken. I’m too blunt sometimes, I’m “rude”, I’m honest to a fault. But I’m also passionate about social justice issues, extremely introspective, funny, big-hearted, extremely open minded, and the most tolerant person you’ll ever meet. I’m also beautiful, witty, and intelligent. I speak my mind and I can debate circles around you. The friends I have in my life now have stayed by my side for years and years and adore me just the way I am. The fact that I was chosen to be so out of the norm is actually a privilege, I have my own category and have overcome distinct hurdles that almost nobody ever else will. Who really wants to be like everyone else?

There IS beauty in differences. I have a fresh perspective on life and can see and evaluate things in a different lense. Everybody (nuerotypical or not) has distinct challenges and hurdles, and life is what you make it. If I did not have this challenge, I would certainly have a different one. There is nothing embarrassing about being disabled. This is MY challenge.

A healthy self- esteem is vital to have the resiliency to get through life and your university experiences. I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I’m not- cliche I know, but true! Please, please, don’t worry what people think- find people who understand your quirks and will leverage your strengths (these people do exist I promise you!) and ignore the rest. Was the therapist right- will I piss some people off? Hell to the yes. Whose problem is that? Theirs of course. I will not apologize for who I am. It is NOT my job to make other people feel comfortable.

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Top 12 tips for Aspergers/ NVLD/ HFA students to navigate college

  1. Find a “mentor” who can translate social situations for you if you can. I had two: one was my junior year roommate who was an older international graduate student. The other was a kind classmate. This relationship was the highlight of my college experience. I’d recommend finding a compassionate, trustworthy and open-minded nuerotypical who can help you to learn the rules. Some ideal places to meet these type of people: A religious group, an LGBT group, animal rights group, or a disability center. However, you need to be very cautious about who you choose- I’ve always had success befriending other outcasts/misfits/ “weirdos”. I’ll get more into this in another blog post. 
  2. Limit your social interactions and be comfortable with solitude. We all know the harsh reality that because our deficits we will have trouble fitting in/ finding a peer group.  I wouldn’t recommend entering college with too high of expectations in the social realm- you need to know your limitations before going in. For example, in freshman year I joined a cafe that was a fast-paced, busy, socially charged environment and it was a disaster. You need to know your limitations so that you can avoid catastrophic situations. I know it can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. Consider deactivating your facebook, so you are not constantly comparing yourself to other people. Focus on finding activities where you can be comfortable and content being alone- whether that’s reading, doing homework, or watching Netflix. For me, it was going on long bike rides. Solitude can actually be a strength rather than a weakness. 
  3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Because of our social challenges, you WILL encounter hurdles that other students do not. This includes possible social ostracism. This is an unfortunately reality. I’d recommend developing tools to cope with these challenges before going to college. Don’t take these incidents to heart and learn to let them roll off.  Although these incidents are painful, in the grand scheme they ARE minor- don’t sweat the small stuff! 
  4. Evaluate your coursework to ensure that it leverages your strengths and weaknesses. For example, if your strengths are in math focus your courseload in that direction. For example, by senior year I was able to attain a 3.96 GPA by discovering my strengths in the social sciences. 
  5. I’d definitely recommend requesting a dorm room without a roommate if possible. Roommates require a large degree of social skills and can later lead to conflict. 
  6. Have a clear career path for after graduation (I’d recommend entrepeurship/ I’ll get into that in another blog post) and steer your coursework/ internships in this direction. 
  7. Although it’s tempting, DO NOT get involved with drugs, hookup culture, or alcohol in order to fit in. I made this mistake freshman year. It will end badly and put you in dangerous situations. It’s really not a good look!
  8. Focus on your leveraging your strengths and not your weaknesses. For example, I love to cook and was able to become president of the cooking club by senior year. 
  9. Consider hanging out/ connecting with international students. International students are usually looking for guidance/ are open to friendship and usually don’t have the same cultural norms of other people. I was able to make lifelong international friends in college.
  10. Establish a routine. I was happiest senior year when I had a strict routine. For example: Breakfast, classes, pilates, gym, homework, Netflix to relax. Routine and structure will relieve anxiety and help you to smoothly get through the day without mishaps.
  11. Do not be afraid to seek support from a disability center. While on campus, I wish I had reached out to the disability center for extra support. Think about investing in regular therapy if your college offers free mental health services. You need to have a way to cope with challenges that arise and regular therapy is an excellent way.
  12. Develop a healthy self-esteem and a thick skin. I know it can seem hard- or even impossible at times- but DO NOT give up! Expect to encounter distinct challenges, but this is NOT a hinderance, in fact every challenge can be treated as a learning experience. It’s okay to get frustrated, but let out these frustrations in healthy ways. Breathe. Keep your eye on the prize- first and foremost your here to get a degree! You CAN do it! I promise you. 

Using the Divide and Conquer Method to reach your goals.

It’s easy to get sidetracked with all of the pressures of schoolwork, extracurriculars and just life in general. Some of our major weaknesses lay in organization, multi-tasking, time management, and executive functioning. It’s imperative to have an extremely clear sense of direction and to be able to compartmentalize your goals. If you do not then life will become hectic and you may not be able achieve your academic goals. We thrive off detail, routine, and extremely concrete structure and organization.

I’ve created a method for myself called “The Divide and Conquer” method. I divide my overarching goals into micro and macro goals. I write down an agenda and split up my larger goals into small pieces step by step, month by month, week by week, day by day.

Let’s look at the Divide and Conquer method as it relates to my granola company last year.

Overarching Goals for 2020

To expand my company, land a distributer, and book 50 more accounts.

Macro goals for January

Land 10 new accounts and begin researching distributers.

January

Week 1: Research local distributers and compile a list of new accounts in San Francisco.
Week 2: Call each account daily and reach out to grocery store buyers in San Francisco to set appointments.
Week 3: Meet grocery store buyers in San Francisco person.
Week 4: Follow up with grocery store buyers through email.

I create a list like this at the beginning of each month. Using the Divide and Conquer method, I’ve been able to meet all of my yearly goals for my business since 2018. A weekly basis works for me, but you can even go day by day if you need more structure. You can apply this method to internships, schoolwork, activities, jobs etc. If you clearly write out and divide all of your goals, you’ll be able to conquer all of your overarching academic and extracurricular goals without becoming sidetracked or overwhelmed.

What socializing is like with a social disability.

This blog post is dedicated to nuerotypicals (people without autism/aspergers/NVLD). I can’t count how many times people have given me the advice to simply “be aware of how you are coming off to other people.” I don’t think nuerotypicals realize how incredibly difficult socializing and life in general is for us. One of my goals with this blog is to raise awareness on the nuerodiversity movement. This post is just to provide a snapshot of what we go through to people who may not be able to conceptualize our tribulations.

  • We are only .01-1% of any given population. We’ve only met a minuscule amount of people with our neurological profile or that we can relate to.
  • From birth we are forced to assimilate into nuerotypical society and mask who we are. We’ve been forced to mask our natural behaviors since we came out the womb.
  • We were the loners and outcasts that had no friends at summer camp, in elementary school, in middle school, in high school, and in college. We have been ostracized from almost every social situation we’ve ever been in. We’ve been made to feel like freaks by adults, teachers, students, and peers alike.
  • We are prone to depression, bullying, social isolation, anxiety, are 5x more likely to be raped, we have a low life expectancy, and rampant (90%) unemployment.
  • When we are socializing we have to consciously try to make sense of all of the non verbal communication that makes up at least 65%- (at its most modest estimate) of communication. You are hardwired to read this communication. We are not.
  • We have to try to understand the unwritten social rules and guidelines that everyone else seems to just know instinctively.
  • We have to try to manipulate our own facial muscles, body language, and tone of voice to match the scenario (and there are thousands of combinations to choose from).
  • In groups of people, we have to try to keep track of everyone else’s body language and tone of voice that we are not hardwired to hear or see.
  • We have to try to figure out if we’re saying something “innappropiate” or rude with no framework or guide. We live in constant fear of saying the wrong thing.
  • We have to try to sort out all the hidden meanings, intentions, innuendos, and implications of what people say.
  • We have to force ourselves to not be overly direct and honest.
  • We have to consciously try to identify white lies.
  • We are literally driving blind with no stop signs, road signs, or traffic lights.

…and heaven forbid we make some type of minuscule mistake or get in an accident. People become threatened. We’re rude. We’re difficult. We’re disrespectful. We’re bitches. We’re assholes. Heaven forbid we want some time to ourselves or to take a brief break. We’re stuck up. We’re snobby. We’re anti-social. We’re mean. We’re just not trying hard enough. Heaven forbid we have a meltdown because of all the accumulated stress and anxiety. We’re drama queens. We’re overreacting. We need to calm down.

And it’s all our fault.

To make a long story short every time that we are socializing we are trying to conquer the impossible. And we go through this every time we step out of the house. All day, everyday. For our entire lives. It never ends.

Next time that you give the advice to “just be aware of how you are coming off to other people.” Remember that we ARE trying our absolute best, but we can’t get it right all the time. It’s incredibly hard. It’s extremely frustrating. It’s maddening. It’s fucking draining. Sometimes it’s entirely impossible. But remember that we are trying. So all I ask is…

Try to have a bit of empathy for us. Please.

How to deal with the pain of social ostracism.

You were ostracized in elementary school, middle school, and high school. You were probably that kid always picked last in P.E. You were probably that kid never invited to birthday parties. Probably the teen who struggled to find a prom date. I was too. We all were. We’ve been ostracized our entire lives for reasons beyond our control. It’s extremely painful and I’m still healing from the scars. It’s the nature of Autism/Asperger’s/ NVLD. You’ve probably already built up some significant endurance in this area. You already know what I’m talking about.

I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you.

Expect to not be the most popular kid on campus. Expect to not really be liked. Expect to not fit in. Expect to struggle socially. Shit, you can even expect for some people to hate you. This is simply the reality of having Autism/ Aspergers Syndrome/ NVLD. Let’s keep it real: Social ostracism is the main reason that we end up dropping out.

When I was applying for colleges my mom didn’t even want me to go. Her words were “You are not going to fit in/ make friends and you are going to want to come home. I’m just telling you what is going to happen.”

So, do not go in with any expectations in the social realm. Nuerotypicals are simply not primed to accept us. The nuerotypical brain is hardwired to detect differences and exclude those not in their tribe (homophobia, sexism, transphobia, racism, etc). We are only 1% of the population, and the vast majority people are not going to understand or tolerate our idiosyncracies. Our nuerological profile compared to nuerotypical’s is akin to mixing oil + water. We don’t mix. It is what it is.

For example, freshman year, a teacher told me in front of others that 6 people in the class refused to work for me on a group project. I was devastated. I didn’t leave my dorm room for weeks. I almost had to go home. I wanted to stop then and there. But I refused. I kept going.

In order to deal with situations like these, your self-confidence and self-esteem must be completely 100 % airtight (see my blog post: “How to Cultivate Self-Esteem in the Face of Adversity). You’ll need to develop a thick skin and stamina. Don’t ever give other people the power to define how you feel about yourself.

The upside of being on the outskirts of society is that the people that stick around are true gems. All my friends are the most open-minded, patient, kind, tolerant people that you’ll ever meet. They’ve all supported me throughout the years. If you don’t go in with any expectations you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you do find a buddy. So most people probably won’t like you? So what? That’s their problem. Focus on the minority that do. Don’t let other people dictate how you feel about yourself. That cowardly teacher was just a minor speed bump, not an end all.

Focus on discovering some brand new hobbies, build up your resume, secure some internships, invest in regular therapy and don’t worry about what people think. Some of those students who wrote down my name didn’t even end up graduating themselves. If somebody does not like you simply ignore that imbecile and remove yourself from the situation. Life is too short to have low self esteem and to be worried about fitting in. You’re here to get your degree and make the most of your college experience. Don’t worry about fitting in and don’t sweat the small stuff!

How I taught myself body language.

I am definitely no expert in body language but this is how I have drastically improved my non-verbal communication competence. Here are the tactics that I have personally used to drastically improved my skillset in this area. You need to focus on improving your non verbal communication skills if you want to improve your social skills (see my example: An Avalanche of Misunderstanding). At it’s most modest estimate body language is 65% of communication. So if you do not take the time to read people you are only receiving 35% or less of the relevant information. I know it’s easy to shrug off, but it’s imperative to invest in taking the time to study body language and read people.

Firstly, I find websites with static pictures of facial expressions and body language unhelpful. I find it more impactful to watch the movements in real time.

  • People watching on the street and at the grocery store. Now it’s impossible with everyone wearing masks due to COVID, but sometimes I would just sit on the bench and watch people’s faces and movements and try to figure out their mental states. You can even do this with a trusted nuerotypical who can help to translate for you.
  • Watching movies. You can begin with cartoons because these are easier to “read” because they are exaggerated. Then you can graduate to Pixar movies, and then finally real life movies. This has been the most useful tactic for me.
  • Practicing with your parents. They can emulate body language with you and you can guess what they’re feeling.
  • Reading Paul Eckman’s book of facial expressions.
  • Playing the Sims.
  • When people are talking to you focus on their eyes and lips to try to guess their mental states.

Nuerotypicals subconsciously express their social intentions and feelings using facial expressions and body language all the time. It will never be intuitive for us, but there are ways to bump up your skills in non-verbal communication.

How to have a conversation.

This post is a branch off my post “how to begin a conversation.” Here are some tips I discovered while attempting to have conversations in college. Note, that I still struggle with this concept myself and I am no expert. These are just my personal insights.

I know that for us having a simple conversation is akin to rocket science. What the hell do I say? What does that face mean? What do I do now? How do you know when to stop talking? How do you know when to begin talking? Do I pause now? How do you make facial expressions? What does that tone of voice mean? How do you make a tone of voice? Which movements do I make? What that an appropriate comment? Oh and group conversations. Oh brother, that’s a whole ‘notha ballgame. These are all questions we struggle with when it comes to conversations.

I will say that there are some conversations topics that you should always avoid talking about: sex, money, politics, depressing topics (i.e war and death) and religion. I would also keep your “honest” opinions to yourself. It is expected that you employ social lies in conversations (See my blog post “the fine line between masking and adapting”). I would recommend focusing on the other person’s facial expressions. I know it’s extremely difficult but try searching the face for non-verbal reactions. For example if the mouth frowns (the corners move in a downward) that means that they do not like what you just said and you should either apologize or change the topic. If the arms are crossed, the body is turned away and the feet are turned from you then that means they don’t want to talk to you at all!

I used to have entire conversations not realizing I was supposed to be looking at the face for visual reactions. I was missing 60%+ of the conversation without even knowing it (See an my blog post: An Avalanche of Misunderstanding). I would recommend reading Paul Eckman’s facial expression book and matching the expressions in the book in real time. You can also practice role playing conversations with your parents. Your parents and a therapist can emulate different expressions, and you can guess how the conversation is going. It’s a wonderful exercise that I do with my social coach all the time.

The thing I can tell you I am happiest not worrying about the aforementioned questions. Conversations are supposed to be fun and natural, and worrying about all those questions will only serve to fluster you. If you make a mistake so what? Surround yourself with people who don’t mind you being a bit awkward in conversations. Surround yourself with people you can let loose around.

Really, don’t worry if your awkward at conversations. Just try to be natural, avoid the controversial topics and scan for negative expressions. As long as you surround yourself with safe people in safe spaces then you should be okay.

How to release stress.

This post is all about managing stress. So, let’s be real: navigating a college campus with a disability is extremely stressful. The stress, anxiety, and frustrations of a college campus is sharply amplified 10X for us vs. our nuerotypical peers. Just getting through the day in one piece can be a tremendously challenging endeavor.

However, if you have healthy ways of relieving your stress these challenges can be greatly diminished. In order to keep your grades up and to a maintain a clear mind, you need to have some healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress in place. Stress Relievers are mandatory– or else the stress will drive you insane. Let’s review healthy vs. unhealthy coping mechanisms using examples from my undergraduate experience.

Unhealthy Stress Relievers

Meltdowns. I know that many of us are prone to “meltdowns”. I have nothing against meltdowns. Emotional outbursts are a perfectly natural part of having Asperger’s Syndrome (scream, cry, and throw that book if you want to!). In my opinion, meltdowns are totally normal every once in a while, but lets not make these your main stress relievers- there are healthier ways to relieve stress.

Binge drinking, drugs, and crazy partying. I made this mistake freshman year. Even though it is fun, it is literally the worst way to relieve stress and will put you in dangerous situations. You’ll also make a fool of yourself if you accidentally drink too much. By senior year I was basically sober and had the highest GPA I had ever had (3.96).

Unhealthy Diet. I know that freshman year I ended up gaining 15lbs from junk food (I was ordering pizza at 1:00am). Junk food will only make you feel groggy and bogged down.

Lashing out at the people around you. It can be tempting to release your frustration on other people, but this is also unhealthy and unnecessary.

Healthy Stress Relievers

Intense Cardio. By senior year I was going to gym twice a day, burning a total of 800 calories a day. When I was doing cardio, I was the most content I was during my time in college. Cardio releases endorphins and is a natural stress reliever. Added bonus, I also lost that freshman 15.

Bike Rides. Long bike rides are wonderful. Get those endorphins pumping.

Pilates/ Yoga. Pilates and yoga are a wonderful way to center your mind.

Cooking/ Special Interest. Whatever your special interest is try immersing yourself in it that when you become stressed.

Massages. I invested in regular massages in order to relieve stress.

Acupuncture. Acupuncture is wonderful for anxiety and tension.

Netflix/ Comedies. Think about getting a Netflix subscription and watching funny movies.

Swimming. Swimming is a wonderful form of exercise.

A strict routine. By senior year, I had developed a strict routine. For example: morning cardio, breakfast, classes, lunch, bike ride, dinner, Netflix, homework in the student cafe. A strict routine will help you to get through the day without unexpected hiccups.

Writing Poetry. Express those negative feelings in a poem.

The moral of story is that it is mandatory to have healthy coping mechanisms to relieve stress. So next time you are stressed instead of downing vodka shots, try going on a jog. Same result, with drastically different consequences. Healthy coping mechanisms will help you to keep a clear head and minimize anxiety and the stress of college.

You need to be honest with yourself. You’ve gotta be real.

When I first entered college I was in a complete state of denial about my social skills. I thought I could get through college by sweeping this issue under the rug.

Looking back at that time in my life my social skills were horribly deficient and inept and I was in complete denial. On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being competent), they were probably at a solid 2. Nevertheless, I refused to admit that I was in need of help.

(At age 17) I was literally attempting to navigate a foreign college campus, build life skills, and maintain my GPA while operating almost entirely blind without any type of roadmap or GPS. I didn’t begin to become honest with myself until junior year when I had an older nuerotypical roommate shadow me. She was pointing out relentless social errors all day every day left and right up and down.

When you have an invisible disability it is easy to forget your limitations. I believe that if I had been honest with myself in the beginning I would have been able to seek help and the necessary special accommodations. If I had been honest with myself I would have been able to seek a support system. If I had been honest with myself I would have invested in regular therapy. If I had been honest with myself I would have reached out to the disability center and been assigned a mentor. If I had been honest with myself I would have checked in with the mentor every week. I would have written down all of my social interactions and reviewed it with my social skills coach at the end of each week. If I had been honest with myself I would have requested a single dorm room. If I had been honest with myself I wouldn’t have entered high stress activities.

If you are having trouble with the concept, then let’s think about it this way. Would a person in a wheelchair attempt to run a marathon? Would a person with dyslexia enter a spelling bee? Would a blind person go out in public without a support dog? Would a recovering alcoholic just go kick it in a bar? Would a hearing impaired person hesitate to get a hearing aid? Would a person with one leg hesitate to use a prosthetic?

The answer is absolutely not, because these people realize what their challenges, limitations, and necessary accommodations are. One of the primary reasons that we are discouraged from attending college is because of potentially traumatic situations. These traumatic situations can be avoided if you are honest with yourself and seek out the necessary accommodations and support early on. I went four years without disclosing to anyone and with no additional support system. This only made things significantly harder for myself. There is NO sweeping a disability under the rug- you need to tackle this issue head on from day 1.

You need to take a look in the mirror and be honest with yourself about your deficiencies. We are socially disabled and you need to understand this going in. You need to be honest with yourself about your limitations so that you can seek the necessary support system. You’ve gotta be real.

Entrepreneurship is the answer.

This post is a branch of my previous post “Evaluating your strengths and weaknesses.” Your a senior and you ask yourself: So, what am I going to do after graduation? We all know the sobering statistic that 90% of us suffer from unemployment. Even simple entry level jobs (think fast food) are extraordinarily difficult for us. Before I began my company, I was another statistic. There are very few jobs that align with our strengths. I was getting fired from job after job. However, by utilizing the deep dive method, I was able to begin a successful granola company shortly after graduation. I have plans to begin another business in the next couple of years. Let’s use the deep dive method to look at our strengths as it relates to my granola company.

  • Single obsessive focus on one topic.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Able to concentrate for long periods of time when motivated.
  • A drive for perfection and order.
  • Above average intelligence.
  • Being able to see concepts from a fresh perspective.

I was able to apply all of the aforementioned strengths directly to my business. In the beginning, I became fixated on learning everything about granola. Granola became my special interest. I was able to dissect my product, packaging, and ingredients as it related to my competitors. I was able to perfect my product and craft. I was able to offer a unique twist on granola that my competitors did not offer. I plan on expanding my company in the upcoming years (I just signed a contract with Whole Foods).

In my opinion, our strengths are a recipe for success when it comes to entrepreneurship. If you have the capital, I would say to seriously consider going for it. If your interested there is a book I like called: “An Asperger’s Guide to Entrepreneurship: Setting Up Your Own Business for Leaders With Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s Employment Skills Guides)”, that you can find on Amazon.

Using the Deep Dive Method to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.

A common theme of my blog is to know your limitations. Before entering any type of environment or activity its imperative to know and understand what your exact strengths and weaknesses are. This will reduce your risk of failure (See me example: “Don’t get in over your head” for an example). One of the biggest reasons we are discouraged from attending University is because we are prone to potentially traumatic experiences.

I believe that because of our challenges, it is easy to forget all of our tremendous strengths. You want to place yourself in healthy environments where you will swim not sink. By utilizing my deep dive method, I was able to begin a successful company at 23 (while failing miserably at a smoothie shop with teenagers only months before). Here are two graphs that I’ve compiled. The two graphs demonstrate some of our strengths and weaknesses, with a column to check if the activity or environment displays these attributes. Personally, I do not enter any activity that will utilize 20% or more of my weaknesses. If you are unsure you can bring your checklist to a mentor or guidance counselor.

Asperger’s Syndrome/ NVLD (I did a combination and you can add your own to the columns).

The Deep Dive Method

Activity:Overall Percentage:
My StrengthsMy Weaknesses
Attention to detail Social Skills
LogicMulti-tasking
Rote MemoryTeam Work
Strong focus on
one topic
Uncoordinated Motor Skills
Recognizing PatternsRigidity/ Inflexibility/ changes in routine
Following Rulesnon verbal communications (tone of voice, body language, facial expressions)
Writing/ Verbal SkillsSensory Overload
Social Justice ActivitiesWeak Visual Spacial (i.e. Reading A Map)
Above Average Intelligence
Organization

How I built up my resume in college.

This post is just to lay out how I built up my resume in college. By the end of college, I had nearly 10 internships under my belt ranging from (marketing, outreach, research, social media) and a ton of campus involvement. Here’s how I did it.

  • I reached out to the alumni network within my college network. I requested the alumni portal white pages from career services. Browsing through the alumni directory is a wonderful way to forge connections. After browsing the directory, I crafted personalized emails to every alumni in a management position in my field (Environmental Science and Organizational Studies). By utilizing this tactic, I was able to secure a wonderful oceanography research project where I worked closely with an alumni in my field.
  • I had many remote internships that were research and writing oriented. The majority of my internships were research and writing based. For example, I worked on a 50 page research proposal for an environmental non-profit. I could do this project entirely alone, with little to no social interaction. I would recommend looking up remote internship opportunities.
  • I doubled up on internships during the summer. For example, I did a marketing proposal for a corporation 2 days of the week, and a research project the other 3 days of the week. I also did internships on campus junior and senior year.
  • If your having trouble getting hired for an internship you can try to create your own. For example, I reached out to the Community Engagement Center on campus and I asked if I could do a marketing project for them. I presented them with an outline about what this internship project would look like and all the ideas I had for the center. They allowed me to structure my own internship which revolved around marketing several events around campus.
  • I chose a common theme and stuck to it. Upon graduation, I thought I was going to be searching for writing jobs in environmental research. Therefore, I centered the majority of my student activities around this common theme. I signed up for an author for the student newspaper, for this exact reason.
  • If you can afford it I would recommend doing unpaid internships. Most of my internships were unpaid. It’s all about gaining experience and cultivating references. You’ll have a leg up on the competition after graduation.
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