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People Top 5
LAST UPDATE: Tuesday February 10, 2015 01:10PM EST
PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- May 08, 2006
- Vol. 65
- No. 18
'Would I Trade in My Autism? No'
What's It Like to Have a Condition That Society Calls Mysterious? Teenager Taylor Cross Asks Other Autistics to Speak Up in His Surprising New Movie
Swimming pools calm her down
DELANEY RODGERS, 16: Water makes me feel safe. When I'm swimming, it's one of the only times that my head is quiet. Creating art also feels very calming. When I draw, I go into a place in my head where there are no distractions. Otherwise there's just so much sensory disruption.
I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome when I was 8. Before then I had a feeling I was different. I had trouble understanding teachers if they didn't say things concretely. Like if one of my teachers said, "Do that problem over," but didn't actually point to it, I would be trying to figure out what problem they meant. I would get all upset. But I can also do some things really quickly, like reading, and learn very, very fast if somebody gives me very clear, visual instructions. Right now I'm in ninth grade, but I also take 12 hours of college courses.
About three or four years ago I first started realizing that I needed to make small talk. All my friends knew how and I felt left out. At first it seemed like magic. But I taught myself how to do it. Sometimes my mind feels noisy, but I'd never wish for my autism to go away. It helps me focus.
In his mind, a world of his own
PETER FOY, 18: When I feel stressed, I like to twirl a piece of string between my fingers. When I was younger I did it in public, but now I just do it at home. It helps me think more clearly. My mom calls it my "drug," so I can block out reality. In my mind, I've created an alternative reality with hundreds of TV episodes or movies. Some are sequels to favorite movies like Pulp Fiction. I don't really tell many people about them. I just replay them in my head. I like my autism because it makes me unique. However, it used to get in the way with people because I was so opinionated. I'd tell other kids who were smoking that it was bad for their health. Or not to swear. But I've gotten a lot better since then. I'm a lot better at eye contact and making small talk. I didn't mean any harm, but I guess they felt lectured to. Their name calling was pretty brutal. I never really learned to tie my shoes or hold a pen properly. My grip is too loose. But I can take notes with a word processor, and I'm excited to be going to college next fall. I want to see what I'm capable of. I don't worry about the academics. I'm a B-plus student right now. And I don't want to be seen as ignorant. I'm as intelligent as the next person, if not more so.
- Johnny Dodd/Thousand Oaks.
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