State of the Nerd Report


I’ve never really consistently given this personal blog of mine much love. Instead, I’ve tried to support larger soapboxes from which to either share my own stories or coordinate and recruit for others.

I’ve done a good bit of writing over the last couple of years for Red Hat, and now for Bronto. I had a piece on OpenSource.com that got a good bit of traction. But most of my writing for the last four months has been going into Autism Daily Newscast.

ADNewscast reached out to me last December through social media and asked if I might like to contribute a guest article from the perspective of an Autistic professional to help others like me to get started in their careers. I submitted the article, and it was well-received, so they asked if I’d like to write another.

Next thing you know, I’d become a Staff Writer, and was in charge of the weekly Careers column. I don’t always know what I’m going to write about next, but it’s been good for me to knock out an article every week and to get into the habit of writing regularly.

Then last week my Editor in Chief asked if I’d like to take on a larger role with the site and join the team of Editors. I did accept that role, and it’s proving to be a rewarding one.

I am autistic. This is not something that was known to me or the people around me for most of my life. But I know it now. And so much of the mysteries of my life make sense now. How come people sometimes say I talk too much? Or too little? How come I sometimes don’t know when to shut up? Or sometimes I can’t speak at all? Why, during periods of prolonged stress (often over really petty things) do I hide in a dark, quiet place and just silently decompress? Why do I have a long trail of broken but intense friendships smoldering in my wake? Most of these mysteries have now been answered with that new fundamental understanding of my self.

I’ve since been “out” about it more. I’ve made my needs known. I’ve engaged in self-advocacy, because those who claim to speak for people like me are often not themselves autistic. The largest Autism advocacy groups that you can think of have no legitimacy. So now I have to face people who dismiss me as being “too high functioning to understand their child’s needs”.

Thirty years ago, I was your autistic child. I was the kid that quietly read the dictionary from cover to cover, and then moved on to the encyclopedia. I was the kid who had memorized the taxonomic classification of every fish species in the public aquarium. I was the kid who would “spaz” (melt down) or simply and quietly shut down when things got to be too tough. I was the kid who was always being told “look me in the eye”, even (especially) when it seemed impossible for me to do so.

I know what it means to be that autistic kid, even if I didn’t know that I was autistic at the time. I’m very comfortable in knowing that I’m in a stronger position to advocate for autism than the parents who have never walked a mile in my own shoes.

As such, I’ve largely been disengaged from tech geekery at home for awhile. I’m getting more and more plugged in to the community of my peers, finding my voice, getting more comfortable with the knowledge that I am different and I do need and deserve some understanding in order to better succeed in this world.

And I’m not going to fight this just for myself; I’m going to fight it so my autistic daughter, who I understand better than Autism Speaks ever will, can enjoy a better chance of success when it’s time for her to live as an adult in this world that will never understand her.

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