One Faith, Many Paths: Trevor Justin Gawthorne

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This month for my “One Faith, Many Paths” project, I decided to interview one of the members of my Autistic Christians group on FB. Here’s Trevor Gawthorne from Down Under!

1. How old were you when you became Christian? When I was 16. I got bullied a lot over it.

2. What was your childhood like? It was all right. Most of it was decent. Eight years old was the last time I remember it being good.

3.When were you diagnosed with autism? Did you receive any help? I was diagnosed at 6 with autism and ADHD.

4. What is your current job? Unemployed.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Sue Abramowski

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For this edition of “One Faith, Many Paths”, I am interviewing my Facebook friend Sue Abramowski. When I started joining autism groups, she was the first person to friend me. I always enjoy seeing her posts on my feed. She always has a positive outlook on life, and I thought she would be a great person to interview.

1. How did you first discover the possibility that you were on the spectrum?

I’ve always known I was a little different. I was diagnosed with ADHD, OCD and anxiety at 25. I don’t remember how, but one day I stumbled upon a blog titled Aspie From Maine. As I read the author’s story, it stuck a chord with me: I could relate to her on such a level that a light bulb went off. Could I have Asperger’s, too? I did a lot of online research and took quizzes, and they all pointed to me being autistic. My psychiatrist at the time wasn’t convinced, simply because I gave eye contact and “engaged” while talking to her, so I got a second opinion. I also realized that the same psychologist who had diagnosed me with ADHD conducted autism assessments! I got an appointment, and three sessions and a few questionnaires later, it was confirmed. On March 19, 2014, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (or ASD Level I on paper).

2. What was your childhood like?

I had a fairly typical childhood, despite not being a very typical child! It was suspected that something was up back in preschool. While the rest of my class was paying attention to the teacher and doing as they were told, I was off in another direction, doing whatever I pleased. I’d often go to the Little Tykes playhouse, or just do cartwheels on the circle time rug. I went to a psychologist at that time, too, and remember playing with toys as he spoke to my parents. He dropped the ball, though, when his wife had a baby and he took a leave of absence, as he never got back in touch with my parents. Something tells me that had I actually had some kind of assessment, something may have been discovered from the get go. Through the years, I was always a bit different from the other kids. I remember trying to play along, yet something just didn’t click. As I approached middle school and later, high school, the differences became more apparent. The other girls started becoming interested in things like boys, makeup, their appearance, and fitting in. None of those things mattered to me. I wasn’t interested in the least bit (and still am not, at 33!). As I got to college, I continued to do well academically as I had all along, and changed my major from Biology Education to Social Work after I realized where my niche lay. I received a Bachelor’s in Social Work in 2006, and have been working in mental health and developmental disabilities ever since.

3. How does your autism manifest? Do you stim? What about things like synesthesia?

My autism flew under the radar. While it’s definitely there, one may not recognize it until they really get to know me. I interpret things literally, see things in black and white, have sensory sensitivities, and notice the fine details. I do stim. For me, it entails fidgeting with my fingers and examining them, wiggling my legs, looking from side to side, and playing with fun stimmy toys! I also have to feel every fabric I pass by in the clothing store. I’m a sensory-seeker, and a very tactile person. I also have synesthesia! For as long as I can remember, letters and numbers have colors. It carries over into days of the week, months, and street names. Friday has always been orange, for example.

4. What evidence can you give for God’s existence?

The evidence I can give for God’s existence is that everything happens for a reason. He created me different, because He has a special purpose for me. I feel that this is to help others, especially those on the spectrum and with mental health issues, since I live with both. I’ve also had dreams in which I feel God has given me a “heads-up” for what’s to come. I feel that it’s the gift of prophecy, in a sense.

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More Autistic Websites

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Last year, I gave you a list of autism-themed websites and blogs. I’ve decided to make a sequel of sorts. Not only will this be blogs, but also a couple web-based magazines and another YouTube vlogger.

  1. Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism–Probably the best web magazine for autism. Lots of great articles here.
  2. Proud Autistic Living- I’m Facebook friends with the blogger of this site, Richard Johnson, a native of Australia. He’s the founder of a Christian group called AU Christians, which I co-admin with him.
  3. Hannah Riedel- A vlogger I met in a Facebook group called Autistic Allistic Alliance. She has videos on a variety of autism-related topics.
  4. Respectfully Connected –A great autism-related blog. No complaints here.
  5. ASAN (Autism Self-Advocacy Network) –The home page for the Autism Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN)

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Jason’s Jukebox: Talking Heads

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Well we know where we’re goin’
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowin’
But we can’t say what we’ve seen
And we’re not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out”

–“Road to Nowhere”

David Byrne is a true visionary on the autism spectrum.  His band, Talking Heads, created a new form of rock as one of the first “alternative” bands.  In this edition of Jason’s Jukebox, I will be ranking each of the Talking Heads’ studio albums. First, let’s look at the line-up:

  • David Byrne (lead vocals, guitar)
  • Chris Frantz (drums)
  • Jerry Harrison (keyboards, guitar)
  • Tina Weymouth (bass)

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Talking Heads 77 (1977)

Singles: “Uh-oh, Love Comes to Town”, “Psycho Killer”, “Pulled Up”

Rating: ****

The debut showcases the promise the band had in their days as one of the premiere bands at CBGB’s, a New York City bar that was a venue for such acts as The Ramones, Sonic Youth, Blondie, and the Pretenders. Tina Weymouth shows off her bass skills well on “Psycho Killer”, while Byrne’s guitar work caused Rolling Stone to call them one of the most promising acts of 1977.

Best tracks: “Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town”, “Don’t Worry About the Government”, “Psycho Killer”

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More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978)

Single: “Take Me to the River”

Rating: ****1/2

This album begins Brian Eno’s relationship with the band. Brian Eno, who also worked with Roxy Music and David Bowie, produced three albums for the Talking Heads. This “trilogy” is the band at its best. The album gave the band its first top 40 single, a cover of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River”.

Best tracks: “Thank You For Sending Me An Angel”, “Artists Only”, Take Me to the River”

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Singles: “Life During Wartime”, “I Zimbra”, “Cities”

Rating: *****

I think this is David Byrne at his most vulnerable. He once said “I’m not an entirely comfortable person…but that isn’t necessarily neurotic.” This album captures Byrne’s darkest and experimental side, making it their best album. It’s almost like a commentary on fear itself, as the title suggests. He even immortalized CBGB’s in the song “Life During Wartime”.

Best tracks: “Life During Wartime”, “I Zimbra”, “Heaven”

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Remain in Light (1980)

Singles: “Once in a Lifetime”, Houses in Motion”

Rating: ****

The creative tension between the members began with this album, so much so that Tina and Chris began their side project, Tom Tom Club. Songs like “The Great Curve” and “Once in a Lifetime” were influenced by African musicians. (The expanded CD has an outtake called “Fela’s Riff”, named after the revolutionary founder of Afrobeat Fela Kuti, which later became “Once in a Lifetime”)

Best tracks: “Cross-eyed and Painless”, “Once in a Lifetime”, “Houses In Motion”

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Speaking in Tongues (1983)

Singles: “Burning Down the House”, “Girlfriend is Better”, “This Must Be the Place”

Rating: ***1/2

By this time, the band was becoming a sensation, having just released their live album The Name of This Band is Talking Heads. They even scored one of their most loved music videos for “Burning Down the House”. This began the band’s most commercially successful period (the album’s tour resulted in the movie Stop Making Sense).

Best tracks: “Burning Down the House”, “Girlfriend is Better”

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Bookworm: Neurotribes by Steve Silberman

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I recently read Neurotribes by Steve Silberman. In my opinion, it is one of the best books about autism you will ever read. It tells the history of the research of autism, beginning in the 1940’s with Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger (where we get the “Asperger’s Syndrome”).

The book starts with two historical cases of autistic geniuses, Henry Cavendish (the “wizard of Clapham Common”) and Paul Dirac, who is famous for the “Dirac equation” and an early quantum physicist.

Autism’s earliest researchers were Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger. Both had differing views on the condition. Leo Kanner is the man who actually coined the term autism. He viewed it as a disease, caused by “bad parenting”. His model persists to this day and is sadly adopted even by Autism $peaks. It should be noted that he only focused on early childhood and overlooked differences in the children he studied.

Hans Asperger was different. He studied autistic children in Nazi Germany. Unlike Kanner, Asperger saw it as a positive, saying it was essential to creativity. He called his subjects “little professors” because of their wealth of knowledge. He risked his life to protect them from the Nazism ideal of “perfection”, as mentally disabled people were often sent to the camps, just like the Jews and everybody else who didn’t fit the mold of Hitler’s “dream.”

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One Faith, Many Paths: Elinor Broadbent

For my final installment of Autism Acceptance Month 2015, I have decided to interview a FaceBook friend. This is Elinor Broadbent, who is a moderator of many FaceBook groups for autistic people, such as Âû (Autistic Union) and  Autism: We Are a Race Not a Disease. She lives in Australia.

1. Tell me about your childhood. When were you diagnosed as autistic?

 I was not diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome until I was 32 years old.  As a result my childhood was quite challenging at times, especially at school where I was labeled as a lazy daydreamer, rebellious, stubborn or strong-willed and generally incompetent.  Although I had a close group of friends, I preferred to spend my time alone in my own little world.  I loved to read and was very interested in how things worked.  With my father’s encouragement I learned to rebuild car engines by the age of 8 or 9 and was very much a tom boy.  I had no interest in dolls, dresses or playing princesses. I preferred to explore, build things and to get lost in the science fiction world through books and shows like Doctor Who or Star Trek.
2. Do you have any comorbid conditions often associated with autism, such as ADHD?
School was an extra challenge for me because as well as being diagnosed with Asperger’s I also learned that I have a condition called Dysgraphia. Dysgraphia is essentially a problem within the frontal lobe of the brain which effects handwriting.  While I knew exactly what I wanted to say in essays and school assignments transposing thought onto paper was a near impossibility.  My hand writing, which was done all in capitol letters was barely legible and in those days there were no computers for word processing.  My words often ended up as a jumbled mess and it always took me four times as long as the other students to complete work.  This lead to a great deal of frustration from my teachers and my inevitable failure at school.  I also have a condition called Prosopagnosia (Facial Blindness) where I do not recognize people by their facial features but am dependent on things such as posture or defining features such as scars to be able to recognize someone.  Those closest to me I can recognize by their face but if they change their hair style or something to that effect then it takes me a lot longer to recognize them.  I actually find this much more of a hindrance than my autism.

3. What kind of education did you receive?

 After failing school the first time I, went back and completed my Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE), I think some countries call it senior high, and since that time have also gained some qualifications in business management, mechanics and I have recently deferred a degree in Psychology in order to tend to family needs and job commitments.  I am hoping to return to study next year.
4. What do you do for a living?

 I work part time at a local supermarket as a Customer Service Supervisor which is a fancy title for someone who acts as manager when they are not around.  Customer service and autism generally don’t mix well together, but I have taken it as an opportunity to challenge myself and grow in my personal character.  In the 4 years I have worked there I have certainly learnt a lot about myself in terms of my coping mechanisms, what triggers an autistic meltdown, and in managing the stresses of dealing with people.

5. Why are you a Christian?
My Christian faith began with my mother, who took me to church as a child.  I have always been attracted to the spiritual element of life and when my mum left the church I decided to keep going.  The Bible is full of great wisdom and it gives people a sense of purpose, hope and community.

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Autism Blogs Worth Reading

As an autistic, I like to read blogs by others like myself. Autism $peaks ignores bloggers like myself because we protest against their rhetoric. Their rhetoric states that we are lost. Well we are not missing. We are loud, and we are speaking, and we matter. As part of Autism Acceptance Month, I’m sharing blogs that Autism $peaks would rather you not read. This is by no means an all-inclusive list. If I were to list every blog by an autistic, I’d take way too long. But these 10 will get you started.
1. Autism Women’s Network (autismwomensnetwork.org): As the name implies, this site is an all autistic women’s site. Three of the five major writers–Kerima Çevik, Jane Winegardner, and Cynthia Kim–all have blogs of their own. My favorite blogger on the site is Amy Sequenzia, a non-verbal autistic also diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. She has a separate blog that provides links to her articles both on Autism Women’s Network and Ollibean (http://ollibean.com/), a community for disabled people of all types. The blog can be reached at nonspeakingautisticspeaking.BlogSpot.com.
2. Autistic Hoya(http://autistichoya.com): This blog is maintained by Lydia Brown, a senior editor at Autism Women’s Network. She is a student at Georgetown University (hence the blog’s name.) In addition to her writings, she has also protested against the Judge Rotenberg Center.
3. Stimey Land (http://www.stimeyland.com): This is Jane Winegardner’s blog. She is a mother of three boys, one of whom is named Jack, and happens to be autistic as well.
4. The Autism Wars (http://theautismwars.BlogSpot.com): This is Kerima Çevik’s blog. She is an African-American and has a nonverbal son named Mustafa. She is also an active participant in the Autism Education Project.
5. Neurowonderful(http://neurowonderful.tumblr.com): This is the home of Amethyst Schaber, who also has a YouTube series called “Ask An Autistic”, where she answers questions sent to her Tumbler, FaceBook site, or her YouTube Channel. Her YouTube Channel can be reached here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9Bk0GbW8xgvTgQlheNG5uw.
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