By Lyle Lexier
Hi, my name is Lyle Lexier. I’m 51 years old. I am proud to be Jewish, I love foreign languages and I taught myself fluent Hebrew. I also studied French throughout high-school and Spanish and German at college. I have a degree in Computer Science. I live independently in Vancouver and have a wonderful, warm-hearted, intelligent, very attractive lady-friend who I met at the Jewish Community Centre who I really love, named Julie. I am going to talk to you about my experience of being a person with autism. The autism isn’t me, it is just a label.
“Ableism” is a term used to describe the discrimination against someone with a disability. It is unfortunate that even nowadays, this still occurs. I prefer the term “diverse ability” to refer to people with disabilities who can have abilities and talents like everyone else or better. Some of these talented people can be musical, mathematical, or language savants. Although some people with autism have savant qualities, most people with autism do not. Many strive to live a normal life.
Autism is a spectrum disorder meaning that there are different degrees of autism from mild, also called Asperger’s, to severe. Someone with severe autism has a very difficult time with living a normal life. I am a person with Asperger’s and am also known as a high-functioning autistic. People with autism can have different interests even if they both have the same degree of autism. For example, one might be obsessed with trains while another might be fascinated by bus schedules and weather. With autism, many people have obsessions with their favourite topics.
The challenges I face being a man with autism are: I lack the ability to make close friends, I am not able to read facial expressions or body language, I can’t recognize faces unless I stare at them or see them over and over again, and I may appear rude, insensitive, shy, selfish or inconsiderate. I have experienced bullying at school because of my autism. Sometimes I might misunderstand what a person’s real intentions are and I might be too trusting of people with bad intentions. I also take everyone at face value. It is easy for people to take advantage of me.
Some ways that I have learned to cope with being a person with autism are: to learn patience to get other people to know me and not judge me, doing relaxation exercises such as yoga and prayer, getting more involved in my special interests such as learning foreign languages, learning about dinosaurs, playing music on the piano or guitar, and watching sports. Another of my coping strategies is to educate people about autism and other disabilities.
Some advice I offer people is that not everyone with autism is the same. Some misconceptions are that people with autism don’t like to socialize, make eye contact, have friends or to be touched. This is true in a lot of cases, but not for everyone. There are different types and varying degrees of autism. People with autism have different personalities and varying interests. The only suffering that I undergo is when others perceive and treat me in an inferior way. I really want people to understand that just because a person has autism, does not mean that they are violent, dangerous, mean, stupid or weird.
I want to see a world where all human beings are equal. We aren’t that different. We want the same things that all people want such as a girlfriend, an apartment, a job, independence, and friendship. Next time you meet a person with any disability, remember to treat them with respect and dignity.
Lyle is a regular contributor to the BC Self-Advocacy Foundation’s blog which can be found online at www.bcsaf.org/blog.