Peter Eichler has lived with Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism, for years - even before he had a name for his condition. His experiences and subsequent triumphs led him to found Adam 2 Adam, a non-profit organization intended to promote awareness of autism spectrum disorders and provide mentoring to young adults with Asperger's and other autism-related conditions.
The 43-year-old non-profit founder recently faced a new challenge - developing a stand-up comedy routine. Eichler has been given the opportunity to perform at New York City's Gotham Comedy Club. While people with Asperger's Syndrome are often very serious, Adam 2 Adam encourages creativity, relaxation, and humor as a form of therapy - so Eichler felt that his stand-up debut would be leading by example.
Chris Cragwick isn't that different from any other student. He likes listening to music and watching old "Walker, Texas Ranger" episodes on YouTube.
"No show has had fight scenes with surround sound," he says. "But that show does."
The thing that makes Cragwick just the slightest bit different from other students is the fact that he has autism. It's only noticeable when he takes long pauses, combing his fingers through his beard while he thinks of what to say. He doesn't make eye contact too often, but when he does, it's easy to see his bright blue eyes.
Despite his condition, Cragwick doesn't consider himself disabled. He's held jobs before and is getting his bachelor's degree in English. He's even written several book-length stories.
"It's hard to think of things I can't do," he says.
At a Neuro Networking Club Meeting Saturday, Cragwick sat in a dark room with other members of the group. The fluorescent lights made a buzzing sound that bothered members with hypersensitivity, so they turned them off.
Most of the members arrived at the meeting with club organizer Anna Olsonoski, who drives members to and from meetings. The goal of the meeting was to set up the group's calendar of events, with members' input. Members decided they'd spend their next meeting volunteering at Animeals, an animal shelter and pet food bank.
"It's basically giving a good name to autism," Olsonoski said.
FOR many people, leaving behind the comforts of home to work as a volunteer in Namibia would be a daunting prospect.
But for Stirling University student Robbie Newton (20), who has Asperger syndrome, the 17,880 kilometre round trip to the city of Windhoek to teach local children will be “the biggest challenge of my adult life”.
People with the condition often prefer predictable routines that help them feel secure and make sense of the world around them. An estimated 50,000 Scots have autism, with nearly 400 thought to live in Stirling.
Adventurous Robbie is on track to raise the £500 online he will need to make the journey. When he arrives in the Namibian city of Windhoek in August 2012, the Joint Honours Sociology and Criminology student will be rolling up his sleeves and helping with painting, gardening and general local village maintenance, as well as teaching children at the local village summer school.
They sound like any indie rock band. Unlike other bands though, five of the six members in Melbourne-based Rudely Interrupted have a range of medical disabilities, including Asperger's Syndrome, Down's Syndrome, epilepsy, deafness and blindness.Kingston This Week (Ontario, CA) reports:
But that doesn't mean you should diss their ability, said lead singer/guitarist Rory Burnside. Said the 24-year-old: "It's wrong to automatically assume that these people are disabled so they're going to be no good."
Talking with Burnside at the M Hotel - the band was brought in to Singapore by Leo Burnett & Arc Asia Pacific to perform at the Spikes Asia Awards after-party last month - it's his personality you're most engaged by. In particular, his rather wicked sense of humour.
"I was born on May 2," he announced when we met. "Should've been born in the middle of April though. I'm trying to make up the two weeks I was late. For example, if the traffic light's on orange, I like to just go through, because I'm trying to make up for lost time," he laughed.
The inside joke is that he can't actually see the lights, having been born without any eyes. Incidentally, the band's name was coined by Burnside because he felt "my life has been rudely interrupted". "Not just by being born two weeks late, but by being born with no eyes, a cleft palate, Asperger's Syndrome and epilepsy."
Perhaps it's this drive to catch up that has enabled Rudely Interrupted to achieve more in the five years of their existence than most other "normal" bands who've been together twice as long.
Don't ask Jay Serdula, "How are you?" Don't ask, that is, unless you have at least 30 minutes to hear his answer.
That's because, as a person with Asperger Syndrome, Serdula takes the question literally. As an adult "Aspie" he realizes that sometimes people use the question to mean 'hello', especially if they just keep on walking past as they pose the question.
"When people say the same thing to mean two different things, that's what confuses me," he told a graduate class on autism spectrum disorders at St. Lawrence College recently. "It would be less ambiguous if they would say 'hello' when they want to greet me and save 'how are you?' for when they want to know the answer. I find it a burden to answer 'how are you?'."
Serdula came up with a solution to this recurring problem. He designed a T-shirt that reads on the front: 'If you ask me 'how are you?' it will take me 30 minutes to tell you. Do you still want to know?' And on the back it further instructs: 'Remember, if you only intend to greet me say 'hello', not 'how are you?'. Do not ask 'how are you?' unless you really want to know the answer and you can spare at least 30 minutes to listen to the answer. If I appear to be in a hurry, do not ask me any questions.'
Apparently Aspies aren't the only people with this problem, since several in the class placed orders for one of the colourful T-shirts.