Friday, October 5, 2012

Michael, the real Black Aspie

A few days ago I stumbled upon an interview of an African American male who admits to having autism. Yes, a forty something successful black man is autistic and embracing the label. This guy even started a non-profit organization to support impoverished families in their efforts to pay for therapeutic services and other treatments for autism. I was especially impressed to hear that Michael [a former music producer for MC Hammer] credits his mother’s strength and tolerance in raising him to explore his musical gifts. Incidentally, 2 of Michael’s adult siblings are also on the spectrum. His mom is NT; in her interview she expressed how she always felt that her children were ‘different,’ but she was able to train them by modeling (behaviors) and encouraging them to pursue their inherent talents. I guess I am shocked that Michael and his siblings complied with their mother’s suggestion to be tested for Aspergers.

Michael’s eagerness to advocate for those with autism is so inspirational. My experience with my children’s dad has been more of denial and neglect. In spite of meeting 3 of the 5 criteria for an Aspergers Syndrome diagnosis, taking the Aspie Test and scoring high for Aspergers, and having a licensed psychologist tell him that he definitely had traits for Aspergers, my children’s dad does not support me in my concerns about Marty’s [autistic] behaviors. Marty’s dad believes that everything that Marty is doing is just a phase. He thinks that I am just obsessed with Aspergers and that his own “differences” and quirks are attributed to his high IQ and strict religious upbringing.  Last year his mother sent me a note suggesting that I read the book by David Finch, The Journal of Best Practices. David has Aspergers and was diagnosed in his thirties. In his efforts to understand the neuro-typical needs of his wife, he began to journal in depth about the occasions that called for him to be especially attentive or sensitive to the needs of his wife and their young children. Thus, another New York best-selling author was made.

Michael, the black man with Aspergers, shared in his interview that he has been divorced twice. Sadly, individuals with Aspergers have higher than normal rates of divorce. I think that individuals with Aspergers may find better success in intimate relationships if they date others with Autism/Aspergers or find partners that have lower needs or desires for emotional reciprocity and intimacy. Being in a relationship with a partner that doesn’t understand, relate to, or seemingly care about your feelings is very isolating and detrimental to one’s self esteem.  I often complained to my soon-to-be ex [Marty’s dad] that I wished he could see my point of view. I relied on analogies and dramatic scripts to try to get him to “understand” me.  This exercise was draining, and I quickly grew tired of trying to figure him out; and simply thinking about being in a long term marriage with him became depressing.

I can see that Marty’s dad has low self esteem; he was teased and bullied as a child. I think he always knew that he was different from his peers. I imagine that it is very painful for him to have to address these differences. Especially, if you believe that those differences don’t adversely affect your life or the lives of your family members. Marty’s dad has had 4 different jobs in 8 years, but the job terminations were never his fault. Right, yet he is the common denominator. I think that my children’s dad is afraid that Marty having a diagnosis of Aspergers or autism would make him, as the father, look inferior or somehow disabled. Perhaps he might even believe that he is partially responsible…I doubt it. At this point, I no longer discuss my concerns about Marty with his father. I feel like a single parent with no “baby daddy” when it comes to making important decisions for my sons. Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now; back to Michael, the black Aspie; he talked about how autism affected his mom, and this really moved me:

Q: What keeps you going? A: Knowing how much my mom sacrificed emotionally and physically. She suffered many emotional setbacks and even a stroke, brought on by emotional stress, while continuing to help me, my brothers and father. I owe her and I owe no less to myself and the autistic community.


Reading this made me realize how my actions and advocacy for Autism/Aspergers could help, not only my own family, but other families living with individuals on the spectrum. I write my blog because [number one - it helps me to cope with my stress], it gives me an outlet to share my thoughts, my feelings, and my ideas without fear of reproach.  I believe there is someone out there just like me, and if I can reach that person and let them know that better days will come and support is just a click away, than it will have made all this writing/blogging well worthwhile.

Check out Michael and his mom’s interviews at:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/aspergerwomen/2009/06/22/natalee-buckholtz-and-cathy-gronefeld-derringermoms-from-different-generations-wkiddos-on-spectrum

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