According to my mom, I was diagnosed with autism right before my third birthday. I didn’t talk and was focused on certain activities. I had many sensory challenges. I had no sense of danger or safety. Unfortunately, for my parents, there wasn’t a lot of information about ASD. It was more stereotypes of what behaviors to expect. They started me in speech therapy, OT, and physical therapy. Throughout my childhood and life so far, I have always been drawn to people. I love people and value my friendships.
I’ve made some awesome friends along the way, especially in college when I became a member of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. The guys accepted me and cared a lot about me. We had so much fun in college. I also became friends with many girls in my favorite sorority Kappa Delta. Some of these wonder women made a huge impact on my life because they accepted my ASD and cared a lot about me too. I think they’re all awesome and now that I’m out of college I miss them so much.
After college I’ve struggled to stay connected with many of my friends because they work all the time, got married, and some moved far away. I found it much harder to get together and that was frustrating for me because my friends and family mean everything to me.
I also had many challenges navigating this new life off campus. I had to rely on Facebook or text messages to communicate with everyone. In some cases, I pushed people away because they didn’t understand autism or my desire to stay friends, so I was texting too much or expecting too much from them, even though that was not my intent. I just wanted them to know that I love them, enjoy being with them, and want the best for them.
I was searching for ways to do better and to communicate better. I started seeing a new therapist at Avenues for Autism and she helped me a lot. My mom can’t believe how much I’ve grown. She’s so proud of me and thinks I’m awesome.
Before working with Alexis, I would text friends a lot or invite them to events often. No response and uncertainty caused me a lot of anxiety. Instead of patiently waiting for a response or answer, I would send even more texts hoping my friends would eventually reach back to me. Alexis has taught me to be more patient. To wait a little longer between texts or Facebook posts and to stay positive, even when I still feel excited or anxious for a response. Some of my friends that I hadn’t heard from in a while started to respond to me and I was so happy.
I also learned that the way I sometimes said things were perceived differently from the way that I felt. I would tell my friends that didn’t like their jobs to quit. I would tell them if they didn’t like where they lived to move. I would tell them if they didn’t have time for anything then why didn’t they make time. All I really wanted them to know is that I wanted them to live their best happiest lives and hated it when they didn’t sound happy. I always want the best for my friends because they’re awesome.
I’m hoping to stay connected to my friends from high school and college. I’m trying to make new friends too. I’m still learning to be patient, limit my time on social media, and communicate in a way that my friends understand me better. It’s a work in progress so I hope my friends will understand and be patient as well. It means so much to me when I can spend time with friends, get invited to hang out and especially when they come to my birthday party each year. My friends are awesome, and I hope they feel the same way about me.
Alexis has taught me so many different things about life and makes it fun. She is an awesome listener and an awesome helper. We click in a way that is extremely beneficial to me and I’m so glad I can learn from her. She is an AWESOME therapist!
Story by Danny Napoli 27 years old