Friday, April 27, 2012

AHA-NY's Annual Spring Autism Conference

This is me moderating a workshop at AHA-NY's annual Spring conference on Saturday, April 21st at Adelphi University. Although I have moderated conference panels previously, this was my first turn as a room moderator (i.e., the person who makes the announcements at the beginning and end of the workshop, introduces the speakers, and corrals the audience). The speakers were Dr. Stephen Store and Dr. Faith Kappenberg, two people whom I have been fortunate to know for a very long time now.

The subject of the workshop was the implications of the forthcoming changes to the DSM-5--specifically, the removal of the Asperger's Syndrome and PDD-NOS diagnoses, and the implementation of the broader "Autism Spectrum Disorders" diagnosis.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"I'm Not A Model."

I sometimes hear myself saying this, usually in the following context: “I look pretty good today. I’m not a model, but…” And I’m realizing how much it bothers me, that that phrase has become some sort of qualifier.

“I’m not a model.”

Most women aren’t. We aren’t models…we’re us, yet somehow the barometer by which we measure our self-worth, our “good hair” days or “good skin” days or “skinny” vs. “fat” days or whether our butts and breasts are appropriately perky…is models.

I don’t just mean the comparing and contrasting that goes on when you read a magazine (such as Cosmopolitan). That’s an active form of comparing, where you’re consciously processing this printed material and aligning next to your own perceived misshapen bulk.

I’m talking about the unconscious comparing, such as I described above. Deciding, without even realizing it, that the absolute best, #1, top-of-the-line you can be is a model or model-like.

“I’m not a model.”

Today was the day I had an epiphany regarding that phrase. Today I realized how utterly absurd it is, in any and every context. I’m not 5’11”, nor will I ever be. I’m not gonna be struttin’ down a catwalk anytime soon, or gracing the front covers of any publications, nor will I probably ever.

So instead of making models my barometer…instead of saying, “Well, I came thisclose to model hot today,” I need to say, “I was a pretty good Me today. Not my best Me, but good. And tomorrow, I’ll try to be an even better Me.”

Because here’s the thing: Even on my very worst days—the days that eat away at me, the days that wrench my insides, the days I want to be over before they start—I still want to be me. If I was a model on my worst days, I could never appreciate or be happy with being me on my best days. So that’s why I have to be me, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

I may not always like it. Nobody looks in the mirror and loves what they see all the time, unless you’re Narcissus. That’s just the way the world works. But I can no longer get down on myself for not being or looking a certain way. I spent too many years doing that already, and it’s no way to live.

It’s not living at all, really…it’s existing just for the hope that you someday might escape who you are.

Except I don’t want to escape who I am. Not anymore.

“I’m not a model.”

But why should I have to be?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Welcome and Some Housekeeping Items

So, I've noticed some new followers on my blog in recent months, as well as e-mail inquiries from readers of this blog. I thought, therefore, that I would take a moment to welcome everyone here and introduce myself and my blog to you.

First, I would like to thank for choosing my blog (for the second year in a row!) as one of its Top Autism Spectrum Blogs for Parents. I am very grateful to have been selected and I hope that this distinction will help to bring in new readers. As you may be able to tell, this blog is not updated as regularly as I would like it to be, so I am working to try and change that.

Because of this thus-far irregular updating, I am not completely certain as to who the exact readership of this blog is. I've aimed my writing to be accessible to individuals on the autism spectrum and neurotypical people (friends, family members, parents, professionals) alike. I want everyone to be able to read my entries and take something away from them, no matter where on the developmental continuum they may fall.

So who am I, exactly? And why do I write this blog? Well, I'm a woman who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at the age of 10. In 2009, while pursuing my Masters degree in Applied Behavior Analysis, I became certified as a college coach for students with Asperger's Syndrome, which is how I am now hoping to make my living. Upon completion of my degree in 2011, I opened an office for my newly-founded college coaching business, A.S.C.O.T. Coaching, LLC, in Fairfield, New Jersey.

I currently serve on the Board of Directors and as the Board Treasurer for GRASP, the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership; on the Self-Advocate Advisory Board for the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation; and on the Communications Committee for Autism Speaks. Through the work I do for these organizations, and through my work as an Asperger's consultant and public speaker--speaking at conferences, professional development workshops, and assemblies across the country as well as at the United Nations last year--I am able to act as a voice for individuals on the autism spectrum who do not have one.

I'm also writing a book at the moment, titled The Naughty Autie. It details my experiences as a woman on the autism spectrum with dating, relationships, and sexuality. I've been referred to as "the Aspie Dr. Ruth" because of my willingness to speak frankly and openly on issues of sexuality and relationships. The book takes on a "single girl," Sex and the City type of perspective that is unique to the current autism literature base, with me as the "Carrie Bradshaw" of the Asperger's world. I do not have a publisher for the book as of yet, but I am currently looking for one.

I've been a writer since the age of 10, starting with poetry, then later branching into short fiction, and now non-fiction. My writing has been published in a number of outlets, including the official blog of Autism Speaks, Autism Spectrum Quarterly, AHA's On the Spectrum newsletter, and most recently, the "Transition to Adulthood" chapter of W.L. Heward's Exceptional Children, a widely-read textbook for undergraduate and graduate special education students.

My primary area of interest is working with college-age individuals and adults on the less affected end of the autism spectrum. For my Masters thesis, we were required to design and run our own research study using the principles of ABA. For my study, I taught adult men with Asperger's Syndrome how to ask someone out on a date. As I build and cultivate my business, I hope to continue this work and offer dating skills workshops for both men and women with Asperger's Syndrome.

What you will find on this blog is a collection of my ruminations about situations with which I am dealing, announcements about events that I am involved with, and my reactions to news items related to and issues being faced by the autism community as a whole. I have also been approached for book reviews and author interviews, so look for those to potentially become a bigger feature of this blog as time goes on.

For more information about me or about A.S.C.O.T Coaching, I invite you to check out my website, Several of my media appearances, including my talk as a member of a panel of autism experts at the United Nations last year, are featured on the Media page of my website.

Any questions, comments, suggestions, or speaking/PR inquiries can be directed to me at, or to my business manager, Nicole Turon-Diaz, at

Thank you so much, and I hope you have enjoyed, continue to enjoy, and will enjoy my blog for a long time to come!