Lydia Wayman is our next Heart of Autism! Here she writes about her experiences as a young woman on the spectrum from Pittsburgh, PA. She has self published several books here, and blogs at Autistic Speaks! Her passions are her faith, cats, and, of course, writing. She hopes to encourage autistics in the next generation to find their way of connecting with the world, share their stories, and find joy in being who they are.
In my high school district honors orchestra, my self-taught violin skills didn’t begin to stand up next to some of those musicians. But when we came together and played a piece, my off-key high notes and lack of vibrato were nowhere to be heard; my mom described it perfectly when she said, “The more talented kids just bring the ones who haven’t been playing as long right along with them. They pull each other up.”
The autism community works much the same way. We are a never-ending cycle of mentors and mentees. I have had the incredible experience of connecting with autistic individuals who have been where I am and done what I’m trying to do, and over the years, they have “pulled me up” so that I am now on the cusp of living my own dreams.
All the while, I have been working with people on the spectrum younger than me. I don’t have any formal obligations, though I very much want to do formal mentoring in the future. My way of giving back is by connecting with countless parents who read my blog and then contact me with questions. Some of my friends from church have children with autism; one particular friend has a 6-year-old who was diagnosed with Asperger’s last year. He adores Angry Birds and always wants people to watch him play. He snuggles down next to me in the couch, and for extended periods of time, I make my life about this little guy and his airborne birds. In case you were ever curious about the back story to Angry Birds, I’ve watched dozens of videos and would be happy to retell it. While Angry Birds are really not my thing—in fact, I’m terrible at it and lose patience after a level or two—I know how much it matters to my friend, and therefore, I make it matter to me, too.
Giving back isn’t always about great, big, good deeds. It’s not always about honors and awards. Sometimes, giving back to a young woman who wants to be an author means taking the time to chat with her on Facebook, using that time to exhort her in the direction of her goals. Other times, it means snuggling next to a little one on the couch and watching—really watching—as he launches unsuspecting fowl across the screen of the iPad. It means building confidence in one another in ways that often seem too small to matter, but those are sometimes just the boosts we need to keep going. From you to me, and now me to you, we pull each other up.
Do you have ideas for our Heart of Autism series highlighting individuals on the autism spectrum giving back to the community? We would love to hear from you! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out previous Heart of Autism stories here.