The Best Defense is a Good Offense

The enemy approaches. Stand your ground.

A woman once told me that I can’t be friends with everyone. I told her if I’m not friends with everyone it won’t be due to a lack of trying on my part. I can understand why a person wouldn’t want to open up to everyone. What I can’t understand is why people seek to limit their experiences.

People are particular about who they keep company with. That’s understandable. Enemies do exist. I’ve had my fair share of bad experiences. Love and loss define me. It makes sense to have guidelines for whom we choose to let in. How should we go about deciding who makes the cut?

I’m sure all of us have fallen out of touch with old friends. It’s been months since I’ve heard from my pen pal. I’ve removed people from my Facebook friend list who I haven’t spoken to in years. It hurts to say goodbye to people you know. Why would we make friends with those we know we can’t keep? It saves heartache to not let anyone in.

All of us have our own defense mechanisms. We try to protect our fragile hearts from abuse. I’ll provide three examples of how we choose to combat the oncoming threat of human connection.

1. The Loner

You’ll find plenty of loners at my college. A good day for them is spent in front of a laptop. They rarely go outside and don’t make any attempts to meet new people. You’d have to drag them out of their apartments for them to make human contact with anyone.

A little “me” time can be a healthy thing. You have to get away from people every now and then. A loner is one who gorges on alone time. People are not designed to be alone.

2. Selective Isolation

Can you count your friends on your fingers? Personally, I prefer to carry as many as I can in my arms.

Many people choose to get by on just the one friend or maybe two. They will form a tightknit group which doesn’t allow for any new members. The group itself has its own mindset and mentality. The only difference between them and the loners is that they are alone together.

3. Casual Reasoning

Ever had someone tell you they just want to be friends with you? Many people tell me that. I have no idea where they are now.

Keeping things casual maintains a connection with people by way of a weak bond. The bond can be severed any time at either person’s convenience. This method allows you to have the social aspect of a relationship without investing any deeper feelings. You will not have many arguments together because you won’t care all that much about what the other person thinks. When they say goodbye you won’t miss them. Friends will become replaceable things to you. Love will not be sought for nor appreciated.


Most of the people we meet are not bad. We are mostly defending ourselves from ordinary men and women. It took only a few bullies at school and a lot of name calling to push me to strengthen my defenses. The problem is that once you’ve become so good at protecting yourself from others you realize you don’t know how to handle being around real friends. What good is a soldier in times of peace?

I was lonely as a child. I became so good at taking care of myself that I failed to learn how to rely on others. Being the only one to build up your self-esteem for so long makes it difficult to let others contribute.

We must not view each other as enemies or threats. A bad experience with a few people does not make the rest of mankind faulty. We risk so much more by not opening up to others. Armor can be so thick it becomes a prison. Instead, we need to go on the offensive. Never stop seeking your next new friend. As for me, I don’t carry a shield anymore. I have already surrendered to those who feel I’m worth fighting for.


People Acting Like People

Take a seat. Let me ask you a few questions.

Getting interviewed is one of the primary functions for those with behavioral disorders. Doctors, psychologists, and therapists; they all get a piece of you. Personally, I always look forward to visiting them. They make me feel like I’m interesting.

The people in charge of social services eventually got a piece of me. I don’t know what they intended to evaluate, but I certainly wanted to make a good impression. Most of the tests they gave me came from previous exercises I had taken to measure IQ. I exceeded the evaluator’s expectations when it came to memory. Long sets of numbers were dictated to see if I could recite them. He ran out of sets after I repeated everything he had on his evaluation sheet. I can even remember the three words he asked me to memorize before the interview began; wing, ocean, and school (in that order).

The last half of the interview took the form of a casual conversation. My likes, dislikes, and talents were discussed. I’m not used to being asked questions about myself. He did like my responses, though. The breadth of my knowledge was made apparent. I had an opinion ready to go on every subject he brought up. I really wanted to impress him.

The evaluator’s report was delivered in a large envelope. His description of my personality was very complimentary and I received high marks in mental ability. It was in the recommendations section where I discovered a less than favorable review. He suggested I should seek employment in a place where I wouldn’t have to work with many people. Where did he get that from?

Bad Behavior

Do you like me? I think I’m an okay guy. I’m definitely a lot better than some people I know. Sure, I make mistakes. Doesn’t everybody, though?

I feel like every person I meet is just another interview. They ask me questions and measure my capacities. An executive decision is made on what to do with me. Sometimes I get a promotion. Most times I’m archived for later.

I try to give everyone a good performance. I eat my vegetables, go to church, and pay my taxes. What am I missing? When I ask friends to describe how I come off to them they either say I’m fine just the way I am or they give me a laundry list of complaints. I’m sure they all mean well.

Our behavior is defined in many different aspects. I will go over three of them: the mental, the social, and the emotional.

Mental Case

Do our brains determine who we are? Thoughts do lead to action. However, we change our minds all the time. How we think can be altered by our surroundings, the substances we take in, or the people we interact with. Is the brain just a mechanism to make our bodies do what we want or does the brain tell us what to do?

Memory is central to why we behave a certain way. We act on what we know. You know how to read because your brain can recall the lessons you’ve been given. Remember who taught you how to count? I can. My earliest memory was of the special education class I took back in kindergarten.

I can remember facts, figures, and films fine. Friends, family, and fun I forget. I cannot recall conversations with loved ones. Most of what occurred back in elementary school is a blur to me. The domestic part of life never stuck in my head. The only days that stand out to me from my early years are Christmas mornings. I can remember all the little details from those holidays. It’s funny what stays with you.

Social Menace

The greatest influence on our behavior is found in our fellowmen. Every example we encounter leaves an impression on us. We say hello because that is what people do. We learn how to act like people from people. Friends teach you how to be friendly. Family teaches you how to be familial.

People come in varieties. Not everyone matches up effortlessly. We choose whom we associate with based on how we view another person’s behavior. Don’t like somebody? Simply wave them away. Don’t like someone’s opinions? Act like they don’t have voices.

I love people. I love everything about them. They can’t be quantified. Each person is unique and ever changing. Why would I avoid them? Let us say I did choose to avoid them. What do I stand to gain from that? Should I count it a blessing when I go through the day without meeting someone new? Is anyone better off alone?

We all need people. Someone out there needs me. I’m not going to get better at working with people from a distance.

Emotional Wreck

How do you feel? Seriously, I want to know how. Where do feelings come from? We can feel either good or bad. The feelings can be either strong or weak. The bottom line is you cannot not feel.

No one can behave perfectly logical. What we do is because we feel like doing it. Feelings are reactions to the world around us. Stimuli will cause us to react either positively or negatively. Why? Because we care. You can’t have feelings for things you don’t care about. We cry when someone’s words hit home with us. We are happy when we see someone we love. Feelings reflect the things we deem important. Strong feelings for the important things, weak feelings for the little stuff.

I’ve been accused of being emotional before. Who isn’t?

The Diagnosis

The way I behave is a result of my experiences and what I’ve gained from them. People made me the way I am today. Not every experience has been pleasant. I’ve learned from the good and the bad and I’m stronger for it. However, it’s hard to get the practice you need when the experiences never come.

I can’t remember one story my parents read to me at night. Can’t recall a time when I spent the whole day with a friend because they just wanted to be with me. When coming home from school I would get excited if I saw my brother’s car because it would mean I might have somebody to talk to that day. I still am taken aback when people begin talking to me because I am unused to it.

I’ve done the best with what I’ve got. I slowly make progress each day. However, things haven’t got much better since kindergarten. People act the same. I could try to avoid people to make things easier for myself. I don’t think I will, though. You see, I recognize souls in need. I know which words make a world of difference to those who feel they might be invisible to the world. Someone needs to be the one to make a positive change. That change is not going to come from a person trying to act like people. It comes from someone who realizes he is someone.

Words Like Swords

I told a guy he talked too much. He became quiet after that.

Being diagnosed with Asperger syndrome causes people to scrutinize your every move. What you lack becomes more interesting than what you achieve. I’ve learned to accept all comments about my performance with a grain of salt. At the same time, a performer is nothing without an audience.

My religion course at BYU-Idaho consisted of little more than open discussion. Most people would not share their opinion publicly. Others were almost hostile. No one could speak his or her mind without upsetting a select few. One particular man stood out to me as being long winded. His opinions were nothing revolutionary and he would take a long time to make just one point. It must have been the Fates who put him in my peer discussion group.

Once in a while the teacher would leave us to our own devices. We would be required to talk for one hour with our assigned group and provide the names of those in attendance for the grade. This particular group session happened to be the last one of the semester on the last day of class. Most of these sessions are slow with hardly anyone contributing. I took it upon myself to be group leader to get the conversation rolling. I should have just kept my mouth shut.

The talkative guy took a good five minutes to say one thing. Nobody responded to what he said. They just smiled and nodded. Another person got a few words in before the talkative guy started on a new spiel. Fearing he would dominate the whole hour I said to him, “Excuse me. Brevity is not your strong suit.”

I didn’t mean to be mean. If given a moment I would have explained what I meant. However, one of the hostile people in the group spoke up. I was instantly accused of being insensitive and controlling. He also gave a few comments that were vicious and not completely related to the topic at hand. He finished with a defense for the talkative guy by saying he can talk as much as he wants to. I didn’t reply. Neither did the talkative guy.

No one knew each other in that group talk. We all left for the winter break with little ado. No friends were made.

Everybody is a Critic

I’ve received a good amount of negative feedback in my time. A teacher yelled at me in front of the class once. A group of students would often ridicule my clothing. It seems schools are more proving grounds than houses of learning.

You learn words in school that carry on throughout your whole life. Stupid. Ugly. Weird. I never took much thought for each individual criticism, but they all taught me the one thing I needed to know; whether or not people liked me.

I didn’t know I was diagnosed with ADD as a child until I was in high school. No one ever brought it up. Things like that are not usually discussed openly until something goes wrong. The label of ADD can be used as either an observation or a criticism. It all depends on what people prefer.

Measuring Up

I was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in my early twenties. The diagnosis came as a result of seeking answers. Why am I different? Why do people treat me the way they do? Just so you know it was my family asking these questions for me. I didn’t care about such stuff. I liked myself the way I was.

My parents wished to modify my behavior (or at least the results). They wanted to see improvement and a psychological analysis seemed like a good place to start. The Asperger’s diagnosis is supposed to be my first step to “recovery.” I still don’t see the problem.

People need to tell you what they don’t like about you. They will often dance around the subject hoping you will get the hint. How would you know you weren’t good enough unless someone openly expressed their disappointment in you to your face?

The Trick

I know what you’re thinking. How can more criticism be a good thing? The truth is criticism is neither good nor bad. It is solely opinion which has as much power as you give it. Do you value the opinion of a stranger? Does what your parents think matter to you? Our lives are filled with attempts of impressing those with opinions we deem of highest importance. What does it give us in return?

The answer is to find a balance. We have two voices that matter to us: the inner voice and the outer one. What we think of ourselves counts, but so do the people we regard. I work hard to make my father proud. I live well to make my mother happy. All the while I never sacrifice what matters to me personally.

What you think matters. What other people think matters to them. Nothing will change until someone speaks up. Years ago a man at a talent show performed who couldn’t carry a tune. The people in charge of the event had him leave the stage to give more time to the band performing after him. He was allowed one song while the band got to play as much as they wanted. He was so upset afterwards. People were trying to console him. I walked up to him and said, “Cowboy up.” Some guy cheered when I said this and raised his hand for a high-five. This guy thought I was trying to be snarky. I waved his hand away. The performer talked to me about how he was feeling. I didn’t think all of his frustrations were justified, but I listened to them all while everyone else eventually left. We both came to the conclusion that everyone is a critic, but it’s still good to have an audience.

Go Figure

Poetry class may not be the best place to learn the trade. You are surrounded by beginners and rely on a teacher who probably isn’t a Poet Laureate. How long do I have to study until they expect me to be good at writing poems?

I do enjoy my class. It’s nice and casual. You can write using whatever structure you want for that week’s submission. I was surprised my haiku counted as a full week’s work:

Happy as can be
Standing alongside my friend
Learning how to hug

The best part is being able to just write. Writing is fun. Everybody should do it. The only downside is the criticism. My latest poem was censured by the class for using Old English words like thee and thy. I felt it was appropriate:

Ode to a Greeting Card
Not a day goes by that isn’t thy birthday,
Not an hour goes by without rejoicing.
I’d ask for thee to get well soon,
But I know thou art made of tough stock.

I express my love as I fold thee in my arms.
Thy words share better the feelings I cannot speak.
Sing me a verse, my muse!
For nothing rhymes with silence.
I’ll hold thee till thy last birthday,
Then find thee in the trash can.

I understand everyone is a critic. I can take it. The one thing that does get to me, though, is when they say, “I don’t get it.” It’s almost insulting to say that about someone’s work. I put a little bit of myself into everything I create. It hurts when they don’t see the point.

Ever had someone tell you they can’t figure you out? I don’t think it’s meant to be a compliment. Being overly complicated is not seen as an attractive quality in a man. People like things to be simple and easily understood. Who doesn’t want to be in the know?

This is one of the reasons people are hesitant to associate with those diagnosed with autism. Nobody gets them. Talking with someone with behavioral issues leaves you with more questions than answers. Most people give up on them like they would a jigsaw puzzle they can’t seem to solve quick enough so they can get back to their own lives.

I’ve had doctors and other interested parties interview me in the attempt to figure me out. They always leave disappointed. What do they hope to find? Does the cure for Asperger’s rest inside my brain? Do my words hold the meaning of life in-between the syllables?

I used to want people to understand me. I thought if they could just see through my eyes for a second they would discover the truth and then everything would be better. Naïve, I know.

Not everything has to have some profound meaning. A video game I played once had this to say: “Agents of the Light or children of the Dark? In reality, we’re neither; nothing special. Pondering your own existence is a waste of time.”

I’d much rather be appreciated than figured out. You don’t need to understand the grand purpose behind the Mona Lisa to know what makes that painting amazing. You don’t have to comprehend Shakespeare completely to recognize his talent. People don’t need to be figured out. They’re already good to go.

I’m just a man. There’s not much to me beyond that. I’m sorry if you expected there to be more. You’re not going to find any cosmic answers here. You won’t ever analyze Asperger’s down to its core. All you have is the individual. Focus on him and not the disorder.

I Am
I am an idea. Think of me.
I am Time. Wait for me.
I am Death. Mourn me.
a man. Forgive me.
In the end,
I am



Help me.

Those words are difficult to say out loud. Actually, they are easy to say. It just isn’t easy to say them to another human being. The funny thing is those words only have meaning when spoken to another human being. You see the dilemma, right?

I never gave much thought to behavioral disorders until I was sitting across from the psychologist my mother brought me to see. She went first. I don’t know what was discussed. Probably some embarrassing stories from my childhood I can’t even remember. My turn to talk didn’t stand out to me. Just some boring questions about my interests. They made me fill out a bubble sheet asking me if I preferred being alone or with friends. Maybe it was the bubble sheet that did me in?

Getting the proper diagnosis is intended to be the first step in “recovery.” No treatment has been prescribed for me, so far. Doctors are supposed to cure people, right? The question is whether psychologists have ever come up with a plan for after the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome.

I have always wondered what my mother meant by “getting the help I need.” I liked my life. Video games were fun, women were cute, and religion was fascinating. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. However, some changes needed to be made apparently. My mother must have noticed something wrong with me. I certainly didn’t come to her with any feelings of self-doubt. What child asks their parents to “fix” them?

Some things I wish I could fix were things I didn’t want help with. It would be sweet to have people notice me. Having someone to talk to would be heavenly. Spending time with another human being would blow my mind. The problem is you’re not allowed to ask for these things. Having to ask for it defeats the purpose.

Parents will try to help whether you ask for it or not. I never read one word of the self-help books my mother suggested to me. They’re still gathering dust on the shelf. They seemed so foreign to me. One was on the struggles of a mother trying to understand her Asperger diagnosed kid. Another delved into human behavior and how we come off to each other. None of them gave me what I truly wanted; a hug.

I could easily get hugs. I could ask for one and my friends would comply. I’d then receive a nice quick embrace. And it would have an end. Not exactly what I had hoped for.

Psychologists work to help people with their individual behavioral disorders. They can allow a person to recognize their own shortcomings, counsel them on how to overcome feelings of inadequacy, or simply just listen to a person’s situation. Many people have benefited from their involvement. But there are different kinds of help. Doctors only get paid to do so much.

The needs of a boy with Asperger Syndrome are quite simple to understand. He needs what the other kids got. He needs to be picked first for something. He needs to be the best at something. He needs people to be jealous of him. He needs to matter to someone.

The help we need the most cannot be of our own design or creation. Another party must be involved. How can one overcome a social disorder without anyone to be social with? Seeking help may be the first step to recovery, but it is the help seeking us that makes all the difference.

Dance Like Everybody is Listening

Hey, I’m talking to you!

Of course, you don’t need to listen to me. In fact, we don’t really need to talk at all. And yet, we will.

People communicate with each other for the purpose of sharing ideas and information as well as influencing each others’ opinions. I find the motivation behind the majority of all communication to be purely in its enjoyment. This enjoyment is often exhibited by the all familiar form of communication known as the conversation.

Conversation is the ultimate form of communication. Every good thing starts with one. A friendship begins with discussing common interests and a life changing realization is triggered by a serious conversation with oneself. Mastering this causes autism to be nothing more than a diagnosis on a piece of paper.

Asperger syndrome affects behavior. Our behavior is how we communicate with the rest of the world. If our behavior and choices are hindered, then our communication won’t effectively express our thoughts and feelings. Fortunately, we all have the ability to modify our behavior in degrees.

A failure in communication is not any one person’s fault. Communication is always a two-way street. It takes one person to express himself and another person to listen. A performer is nothing without his audience.

Let us compare conversation to a dance. It takes two to tango, doesn’t it? Other people may cut in, but a dance ultimately has two players; one talking and one listening. Dancing is meant to be enjoyed and can only be accomplished if both dancers are communicating effectively.

You don’t have to be incredibly skilled at dancing to enjoy it. Just enjoy having someone to dance with.

Mind Your Surroundings

Conversation is circumstantial. It can only take place if conditions allow it to blossom. First, you need people to talk to. Second, you need a location and enough time to spare being in that location. Third, you need to be free from interruptions.

1. People: Seven billion people populate this planet. It’s very likely you will meet a few of them in the course of your life. Specific circumstances, controlled or uncontrolled, will determine the people you will meet. The different types are broken into intentional and unintentional groups. You can choose to take a bus to visit the friend you want to see, but you can’t choose who will be riding with you along the way. Your family and your co-workers talk with you whether you like it or not. Friends become friends because you intend to talk with them.

2. Setting: Your voice needs to physically reach a person in real-time for an actual conversation to exist. Both people must be planted in the same moment in time whether they are sitting down or walking beside one another. Everyone has restrictions to how long they can stay in one spot together. We all need to sleep and eat eventually. The nature of a conversation changes according to how much time you think you have with someone. Sometimes a simple hello is all you can fit in before you have to say goodbye.

3. Environment: Not every place you go will be conversation friendly. Your attention is constantly being lured away by every moving object and noise you pick up. Also, the type of conversation you have changes whether you are in public or private. You may not be able to control the world around you completely, but you have the ability to choose your surroundings. Look for locations offering you the greatest amount of freedom.

Much Ado about Something

A conversation is a living thing. It’s born, it lives, and then it dies. They can be good or bad, mediocre or meaningful. It’s up to you to decide what kind of contribution you wish to make in your conversations.

1. The “I”, the “You”, and the “Me Too”: You can’t talk with someone unless you have something to talk about. What should you talk about? Someone has to take the lead in a dance. Any conversation can only truly be about two things. It’s either about you or about them. Think back on your previous conversations. Did you say the word “I” more than you said “you?” Conversations are about our relation with ideas and people. How can we relate to others if we are so focused on ourselves? Try speaking to other people as if they are more interesting than you once in a while. And be careful not to add in a “me too” in the mix. If someone wants to talk about themselves, then let them. Butting in with a “me too” makes it look like you only care about things if they relate to you on some level.

2. Flow: The type of dance is determined by the music playing. Conversation has its own rhythm and you must learn to run with it. Fighting to control it makes the dance chaotic and less than pleasant. Each step needs to make sense and lead somewhere. Going off on a tangent is welcome, but it has to make sense. You don’t stop a tango mid step and break into square dancing. Get a feel for where the conversation is naturally heading and move with the beat. You’ll lose your dance partner if each of you is dancing to a different tune.

3. Knowledge: What should your topic be on? It doesn’t matter. Talk about something you know. You can’t waltz if you haven’t learned the steps. A conversation keeps flowing as long as you continue to contribute to it. It also has to be interesting. Your dance will fail if you run out of moves or if your moves are stale. Charge into your conversations fully equipped. Know things. Have opinions. Ask questions.

Not every person you will speak to is going to be special to you, but you can always strive to make your communications meaningful. We participate in chitchat because we want to enjoy each others’ company. We long to hear more than our echo. All people need to connect with others on some level. Good luck finding a suitable dance partner.

All Good Things



Life is like a fairy tale. It needs a happy ending to be a good one.

Each of us has our own dragon to slay, a villain to defeat, or some treacherous expanse to cross. A happy resolution comes to the hero who conquers the opposition.

What if the opposition comes not as an external force? What do we do when the conflict we face is of our own creation? How do you fight the enemy within?

Autism creates a challenge for those living with it. Its very definition describes an inability to function, focus, or communicate effectively. Simply living becomes a struggle. However, something is only a struggle if a chance for victory exists.

No all-encompassing treatment can be prescribed for each person with a developmental disorder. Doctors can’t even determine the cause for it. No one has a clear answer for why some people are born to be hyper, dyslexic, or autistic. The mind may have the final say on how we think, but what if you disagree with your brain?

Can autism be overcome? It’s not a dragon to be slain for this foe cannot be vanquished. It is a trial. All great heroes face one.

What kind of trial is it? Hercules performed twelve arduous labors to achieve peace of mind. However, finishing his tasks meant he was done. Autism doesn’t go away. The brain cannot simply rewire itself into the “correct” settings. Perhaps it is more like Sisyphus who was given the everlasting task of pushing a boulder up a hill. It never ends. This isn’t much better since it offers little hope for a resolution.

The hope is not to eliminate autism. Instead, one must become its conqueror. Happiness is not in the removal of conflict but in the strength gained by facing it. The key word is self-improvement. It’s the only treatment for autism that matters.

I offer three I’s of improvement: intelligence, interest, and identity.

1. Intelligence

Knowledge is power. It puts a person in a position to make his or her own choices. It is advisable to gain as much knowledge as possible. However, high intelligence does not refer to the amount of knowledge one possesses. Rather, it is an ability to comprehend things on a deep level. What good is information if you cannot understand its meaning?

Those with autism may struggle to learn certain concepts. They may have all the information, but at the same time they may fail to see how the different points of data relate to one another. Learning is hampered when one cannot simplify all the details and make connections between them.

On the bright side, learning never ceases. Who’s to say those with autism have a limit to what they can learn? If learning continues, then more power is given to an individual to make a positive change in his or her life. People with autism can learn to understand their own situation and make an intelligent decision on how to improve it.

2. Interest

Life was meant to be enjoyed. Those diagnosed with Asperger’s are often described as having a limited set of interests. It’s hard to enjoy life when you only experience a small percentage of it.

Variety is the spice of life. How much fun can a story be if there aren’t a few twists in it? Numerous wholesome activities need to be sought and seized to achieve that needed sense of fulfillment. More importantly, they need to be shared.

Social interaction provides a unique experience. It’s unpredictable and requires a lot of time and effort. This is just what those with autism need. Life isn’t about finding a single niche that works and remaining loyal to that same pattern till the day you die. Life is made rich by taking what it throws at you and making it work for your good. We are surrounded by billions of unique individuals for a reason. We need them to spice our lives up. Everyone needs supporting characters in their story.

3. Identity

Do you like yourself? Improvement won’t take place if you’re not a fan of your own story. You need to root for yourself. Don’t you want the main character in your story to receive a happy ending?

We choose who we are. How we are born doesn’t determine if we are the hero or the villain. Success is a choice we make. And change needs to be our own choice or it has no meaning.

A hero must have faith in his cause. That faith gives him the strength to face all challenges in the hope of one day attaining victory. He believes in the path he treads. He believes in himself.

A happy ending is our right and responsibility to pursue. No opposition is strong enough to deny us our right. The effects of autism may be a difficult trial to overcome, but it is not the final word of the story. The tale should end like all good stories; riding off into the sunset. Moving forward.