Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Justin Colman. I am a 26-year-old male who lives a very average lifestyle. At the very least, I live a normal life on the outside. Inside however, I am a complex individual with a lot of quirks and odd social behaviors. When I tell you that I have Asperger’s Syndrome, you may understand from the start as to what Asperger’s means. However, some of you may not know about Asperger’s – and that’s okay. Some of you may know it as a form of Autism, but have a hard time understanding it – that too is okay.
While there is an objective description as to what Asperger’s Syndrome is, experiences are all subjective. When I was approached by Jack’s Place for Autism Foundation about an opportunity to share my experiences of living on the spectrum, I jumped at it. In my life, I have been pitted against many challenges that were difficult to overcome. Whether it was academics, behavioral issues or social anxiety, I’ve gone through a lot and to not share my experiences would be a shame. The reason it would be a shame is because I know what challenges people may experience. I don’t know every single challenge someone on the spectrum might have, but I know enough to know that not confiding some of these lessons that I’ve learned in life that are share-worthy would be a shame.
Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I struggled to accept myself for who I am. There was a sense of shame and guilt that presided over me for quite some time. I had friends as a child, but lost them all toward the end of middle school. Conversations that used to be simple and enjoyable turned into something difficult and tedious. Hearing derogatory terms thrown around and negative assumptions about people with special needs in the hallway made life difficult. I hated what I thought I turned myself into. But once again, it was fate that decided what I would become a long time ago.
Eventually, in the midst of high school, I was able to discover myself and grow to appreciate myself. It wasn’t because I changed myself into someone new – I remain the same quirky male with eccentric tastes. It wasn’t because I found a new group of friends outside of my public school district, who to this day, are still my closest friends. It was because all the hardships I endured helped me become the man that I would eventually grow into. I no longer saw having Asperger’s as something to be ashamed of. In fact, I wanted to be vocal about it. I wanted to share with other people what I have gone through, and tell them that no matter what hardship they have or might be going through, they are not alone. You see, nobody lives life without struggle. We all have our own struggles, but we all have a singular goal – overcoming the struggle. Perhaps most important was that I wanted to make an impact in the very community I grew up in. I wanted to give back to the community that empowered me and made me into the person I am today.
I have volunteered at various organizations with the purpose of providing direct support and care for individuals with autism, as well as increasing monetary and social support for autism. Currently, I work for two groups, Jack’s Place for Autism Foundation, and another company that provides mobile services for individuals who are impacted by autism. Here at Jack’s Place for Autism, I serve as the social media coordinator, as well as being the “emcee” of this blog page.
This blog will have the intent of sharing life’s experiences from one man who has grown up with Asperger’s. Because this is a perspective on one man’s life, I do want to just say for the record that this does not represent the experiences of every man, woman or child who may have Asperger’s or may be on the autism spectrum. It would be unfair for me to claim that my experiences are applicable to everyone who shares a similar diagnosis with me. We’re all wired differently. However, I will provide advice which may help you in a way to better understand how someone with Asperger’s thinks and feels when handling different situations.
Where I am now however is a lot different compared to where I’ll be tomorrow, or Wednesday, or two weeks from now. That is why I feel like it is important to share with you my experiences – because maybe I can provide you with perspective and give advice, but I am also looking to know what perspective I can gain from you. So whenever you read my blog posts, maybe you can provide me with some perspective as well. Share with me and other members of our community your thoughts on the issues that will be discussed on this blog. In order to better understand how we can be better people, we need to feel comfortable telling people about ourselves. I look forward to sharing my perspectives and experiences in life with you, and I hope you do as well.
Until next time,