Wednesday, July 29, 2009

COMING OUT: A friend I know was a school aide for students with Asperger's, and a personal inspiration (Part IX) (Personal Entry)

Madison happened to teach kids with Autism & Asperger's Syndrome

I met Madison Krehbiel in a volunteer trip to the Katrina-stricken Pass Christian, MS. When we dined at a Waffle House, I had nothing to talk about so I started eating right away. Stacey Novak asked me, "Christian, why aren't you social?"

I had to think of something that didn't give away this personality secret so I told her that "If I talk too much, I won't get to finish my meal by the time everyone else starts to leave." Then Stacey or one of us suggested that we may be able to take food out if we can't finish. I asked a waitress if they gave out take-out boxes and she confirmed.

Madison was particular about my eye-contact, and I later found out why.

Then Madison made a point about my eye-contact (as my eye contact habits were less than stellar at the time.) To save face, I gave another excuse. I told her that as eating causes bad breath, I didn't want my mouth to face them, and to turn my mouth away, I also had to turn my eyes away. I brought up the same situation months later at a "Main Event" (a Navigators campus ministry retreat) and she replied, "Oh, don't worry about that. I accept you for the way you are."

After I returned from the Pass Christian trip and friended every one of us on Facebook, I read that Madison was a Para-educator at Manhattan High School. My first thought was, "She must've deciphered my personality fast; if she works with Aspies, she must've figured out that I am one."

People with Asperger's and Autism generally have trouble with eye contact, and she worked with them, so it was no wonder she was onto me about how I made eye contact.

From my personal experience, teachers who specifically work with autistic/Aspie kids will have their patience worn thin. I was amazed to see that Madison never thinned her patience with me. She was a one-of-a-kind - someone who stays patient with people afflicted with my disorder no matter how "against the flow" they behave socially.

I wish more people were patient and understanding like Madison, especially when they deal with Aspies like me.

More about staying in college with Asperger's

I've stayed in college for well over four years now, and there's a rumor that companies are more reluctant to hire students who took longer to finish college. Faced with that prospect, I can't leave college with all these student loans because there will be no paying them back without a job. Without a job, the only way to keep the student loans off my back is to keep going to college, but continuing college will further lessen my hopes of getting a job.

Faced with this vicious catch-22, I may be looking at staying in college until the Second Coming of Christ. (Or the 2012 Apocalypse, as foretold by a Mayan calendar.)

Many students graduate college with that ticking 6-month time-bomb strapped to their ankle hoping that a new job will defuse that bomb before those six months are up. Other students get a job lined up as long as two semesters before they graduate so they can be guaranteed financial safety from these loans once they're done with school. I will try to get a job offer before graduation, or else I won't graduate.

There is a silver lining to my collegiate predicament: More semesters spent in college mean more opportunities to enhance my social skills. There are ample opportunities to polish how I deal with people while in college, so eventually, my social skill level ought to reach par with a college student's. (As Garrett once said, my social skills are on the high school freshman level. He told me this in Spring 2008, so who knows where I stand now.)

Social skills-enhancing clubs

Toastmasters is one club where I get to enhance my social skills. (Namely, the public communication aspect of it.) I've gotten great, honest, and impartial feedback about how I conduct myself while I took turns speaking to the club.

I wish I knew of other clubs that specifically enhance my social skills, and there are over 350 at K-State, so there could be. Hopefully Disability Support Services may know of a few.

(Continued on Part X)

1 comment:

  1. Hooray!

    A high school freshmen's level. Many people's social skills seem to atrophy when they are 15 or 16, if I have my years right. So it's not so bad.

    Yeah, more semesters may help. it's good that you like school too.