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Analytical Aspie: Wife, mother and Me

My name is Dana Long Affrunti and I have Aspergers. I am a wife, mommy and BCBA. Growing up, my love was animals and behavior. I was the go to girl if you wanted to find the perfect breed of dog to match your life. I was the teen to call if you wanted a dedicated caretaker for your dogs. I could often be found in the swamp looking for frogs, tadpoles, snakes , followed by younger neighborhood kids. I grew up with near a zoo in my bedroom including several snakes a green iguana, lizards, mice, guinea pig, chinchilla, a dog, turtle, and a sugar glider. Although I am an observant social investigator/learner my success can be attributed to my dedicated tenacious mother, who never stopped setting me up for success then ‘kicking me through the door’ as she liked to say. I was also fortunate to have a great group of girls in my girl school troop who were always there for me. While I did most things different than my peers I graduated valedictorian of Brighton MI high school. With my Fletcher, service dog/co-pilot in life, I graduated from Hope college in Holland Michigan. It was my intention to go to vet school to become an applied veterinary behavior specialist but instead I found my true calling in behavior analysis and earned my masters degree from Southern Illinois University in Behavior Analysis and Therapy. My husband is understanding of my quirks and loves me all the more for them. My kiddos are my joy! Empowering individuals and families through applied behavior analysis is my passion.

Dana Affrunti
Springfield, IL

Two Brothers

We have two boys. Our first son, Caleb, is gorgeous with pale skin, dark hair, and blue eyes while our second son, Toby, is a handsome dusty blond guy with amber colored eyes. Caleb is what most people consider "high functioning" and is going into Jr. High in a general education classroom, and Toby is going to be attending kindergarten in a special autism classroom for those with moderate to severe autism. They will never go to school together, more due to their age gap than their autism, but they learn together at home every day.

Words flow from my oldest son's mouth like water from Niagara Falls, and for my youngest, they have to be coaxed and drawn out like collecting dew on a desert morning. As their mom, I can tell you that both experiences are awe inspiring.

They are the perfect pair. Despite their age differences, they enjoy watching animal documentaries and Blues Clues with each other. When my youngest speaks a phrase that perplexes us, my oldest knows exactly what he is referring to. Caleb is so proud of every new thing that his baby brother learns, and Toby worships the ground his big brother walks on. And while sometimes there will be crying when Caleb wrestles too roughly with his little brother, or when Toby sometimes ruins his older brother's things, they have a deep love and understanding towards one another.

They are both perfect contrasts and mirrors of each other and, as brothers tend to be, even though they are on different paths in life, they are still traveling together.

Sam G
Sanger, CA

Connor's Story

December 23, 2008 was the longest day that ended in a happy healthy baby boy being born. From the week we brought him home he was the best baby, always on schedule but then we started to notice a few things. He wouldn't look us in the eyes, as time went on he started crawling and then a few months later walking but we still didn't hear the words.

His doctor had made the decision to put him in Early Childhood Intervention. Still saw more complications with his tantrums and mainly his high sensory needs. As I started college and put him in daycare, it was an everyday event of him pinching cheeks or choking his friends and lots of energy. I know it wasn't his fault but in the end they told us that in order to give the best care for all of his friends, he could not stay at his daycare. We tried to put him in the local head start program but was denied.

So we put him in Pre-K. Still pretty much and everyday struggle with pinching and choking his friends and very hyper, so we decided to go to our first specialist, who concluded that Connor was just a boy, with sensory needs. We agreed but still had a hunch of something more. As more of the incidents happened more often, we knew something else was going on. We took him to another specialist and finally some of the puzzle pieces were coming together, ADHD was diagnosed and medicated. This year he started his second year at his school and his teacher again had problems with him acting out so we had our first parent conference to see what we needed to do to get Connor the best education. They just gave us a couple of tips for his schooling hours and just said give it time. It wasn't getting better and neither were his grades, he was still considered at the Pre-K level. So we had him tested for Autism and he was diagnosed with severity 2 Autism just recently.

Kirsten Smith
Lubbock, TX

This is my Artistic Amazing Aspie teenager Haylie

I wanted to take a moment to spotlight my amazingly artistic Aspie teen, Haylie. She was an angelic baby who would sit for hours playing with toys as she classically lined everything in rows and being my first child along with my mother passing away suddenly when she was 2 1/2 months I truly felt she was my angel baby. She has always been mature for her age and scary smart! It wasn't until she started kindergarten that things started surfacing that made teachers take notice as well as myself. She even sat frog style in her seat till she was in 6th grade. Every year I would have to explain her meltdowns in the mornings difficulty concentrating etc. And every time I was told to be tougher on her, she's being stubborn or lazy etc. She also being a quiet unassuming kid that loved nature and bug life(especially caterpillars) was an easy target for a bus stop bully. And not communicating to me the situation I was truly clueless until a friend's child mentioned it to her and it was brought to my attention. I dealt with it swiftly but, people always thought Haylie was the odd ball in evety situation along with comments from teachers "Don't be so bad all the time and maybe they wn't be so mean!" Honestly she wasn't bad so much as off in another world and she didn't fit their mold of how an average child learned! Finally when middle school came into play and after they ignored my demand for her to be teated in 3rd grade because they qouted her IQ at 126 at only 7 yrs old. I took her to a neurologist and he immediately diagnosed her high functioning Asperger's syndrome. I wanted to kiss the doctor. He finally validated myself to teachers who had labeled her difficult etc. She now has her struggles but is thriving and has grown into her artistic abilities seamlessly! Even did a public service announcement on herself to stop people from bullying others. Maybe they have autism! Always a proud mom of her!

Manahawkin, NJ

My Life With Asperger's Syndrome

Hi there,

I’m Nick and I have a mild diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, which I knew about since I was about 4-5 years old, but did not get diagnosed with it until I was 12 years old. But just because I have Asperger's doesn't mean that there's stuff I cannot do. I took upon myself to try and be the best at everything that garnered my intrest and to show people that ‘Aspies’ have the ability to do great things in life.

You see, I've done a fair bit with my life, keep up with what I've done if you can: I'm a black belt in karate and have done the form of karate I practise for over 12 years, I’m University Graduate (B.A in Drama and Media combined), I'm an amateur stand up comedian (the biggest gig I did was in May for Teenage Cancer Trust and the late Stephen Sutton, whom I met and shook hands with), I work for an Indie Video Game in my home of Birmingham, England, as both a voice actor for their games and as their marketing researcher, and I am an advocate for Autism Spectrum Conditions and support for them across 3 different charities in 3 different forms each (being put down as a media talker for the National Autistic Society in the United Kingdom, being a public speaker for another, and a blogger for the last one). Phew! Thanks for keeping up with all that!

The point I’m trying to get across is this: having Asperger’s is not a bad thing, I view my Asperger’s as more of a gift than I do a negative thing, because there are MANY positives to have the condition itself, you just have to see that and use those same positives to do a lot of, again, great things with your life.

So it just goes to show, if an ‘Aspie’ like me can do these great things, what can other people with Asperger’s and other forms of Autism do? My fellow ‘Aspies’, let’s show the world what we can do.

Rock and Roll Baby!

Nick Hall
Birmingham, United Kingdom

My Little Brother, Kayden

Kayden was born June, 30th, 2004. He was still in the Hospital , just born no too long ago when all of the sudden his stats dropped. My mom stayed a extra day in the Hospital, the doctors did not know why his stats dropped he went home a fine healthy baby. As he got older, he was not catching up on words like he should have, and certain sounds and noises bothered him. Sometimes when my mom would call his name he would not even respond. After a little while he would respond and everything would be okay. When he was 3 things still were not as well as they should of been, so my mom taught Kayden a little bit of Sign Language. One time, our carbon monoxide alarm went off. He did not move or flinch at all, just kept playing with his toys, my parents then knew something was wrong. They took him to get a diagnosis, they said he needed tubes in his ears and that the hearing played into why he was not talking as good or well as a normal 3 year-old should have been. So he got his tubes and he started speech therapy and went to preschool and school struggling, but getting through. As he matured my parents both noticed that his little baby fits and he was 8, and we also had a new little brother named Daxton, and as Daxton started maturing they became fast friends. As his hearing improved he still was very socially awkward, everything was black and white to him, he never could understand sarcasm and he always had to be on time and always needed a date and time. My mother then decided that her being a special ed teacher, recognized this as some things kids with Autism do, she did the testing and guess what? He has high-functioning Autism. It was not a surpriser to anyone but we still loved him all the same. He got bullied, gave the kid who did it a black eye, and has helped other boys with Autism.

Kamryn Alley
Wellington, UT

Jayce and Adi

Our journey began, ironically enough, in April (National Autism Awareness Month), when our 2 year old son, Jayce, was diagnosed with severe Autism, SPD, and remains today, at age 3, as non-verbal. We knew there was something a little different about our boy, but we saw the easy-going lovable Jayce and that was all that mattered. He qualified for therapy at 1 year old and little did I know he probably would have been diagnosed at that time too. I was not ready to accept it and denied the services requesting an evaluation 6 months later…I knew he would grow out of “it” whatever that “it” may be. I changed Pediatricians and immediately I could see the concern in her eyes, I was then terrified. I started my research at that time and have been advocating for my little guy ever since. He is the most precious, sweet, tender, angel and if anything he has given me a second life. I feel like his diagnosis has shown me how to be a more compassionate, open-minded, humble person and for this I will always be indebted to him. He is my hero in so many ways. His diagnosis has also opened our eyes to a few of his older sisters traits and characteristics. We now understand and see stimming in her and know that she is on the high end of the Spectrum herself. Her name is Adilynn and she is in the pic as well. She is in mainstream Kindergarten and is excelling beautifully.

Jayce is now in Preschool with an amazing set of teachers and therapists who just happen to gush over him every day. He is purposeful, makes great eye contact, stays on task, and listens (just when you think he isn’t).

I love my babes to the moon and I would never dream of changing them. Every day is a new day and we will use each and every one of those days to grow and learn together. This journey is ours as a family and we couldn't be more proud of our Super Jayce and Adibear!

Jessica Dowell
Terre Haute, IN

Nathan - Melts our hearts

Nathan is three and a half years old. He was diagnosed with mild autism about 4 months ago. We noticed that things were different with Nathan compared to our other children when they were that age, but we just thought he was really stubborn from the time he was two years old. Since he started on solids when he was a year old, he only eats crackers, plain waffles, dry cereal, fries and chicken nuggets (they have to be a certain texture), he used to panic when we would try to put him on the ground outside with no shoes on. He is very particular about the way things are done, likes to turn all of the lights on in the house, lines up his cars, smells Scentsy candles for hours, growls at people when they try to talk to him, has a hard time controlling his emotions when he is upset, answers "yes" when we ask him open-ended questions, has texture issues and much more. Nathan is very funny and his laugh is contagious. Blonde hair and blue eyes...he is going to be a heart breaker when he is older. When we had him evaluated, I had done a lot of research about autism and I had a feeling that was what was going on, but I wasn't sure. I felt so torn about how I would react to the results because if he had autism, that would explain so much, but if he didn't, I would feel like I just didn't know how to parent him correctly. I wasn't expecting to feel shocked at the results, but I was shocked. After about a month, the shock wore off and now we just take things one day at a time with a lot of therapies for Nathan. Aba, occupational therapy and feeding therapy. I read a quote that I absolutely love! Raising a child with autism does not TAKE a special family. It MAKES a family SPECIAL.

Jamie Bunch
Travis AFB, CA

a person of very great strength, intellect, or importance

Titan Jax was born in July two days after our one year wedding anniversary and we were over the moon. His name means a person of very great strength, intellect, or importance, we just knew that had to be the name for our first born child. Titan is silly; sweet; determined; active; strong; clumsy and smart. All the things a mother could hope for in a little boy. When he isn't being stingy with loves or way to involved with youtube he gives so much love and the most gentle kisses over and over. Just like his mother Titan LOVES Disney and has a serious smile when a certain redheaded mermaid sings to him from the tv. When Titan isn't running around the house shouting loud enough for 4 kids he can be found in his cuddle swing or on his bed playing with his action figures, cars and dinos. A few of his other favorite things are puzzles, and coloring and more recently PLAYDOH!!!! He will do anything you want if he can play with playdoh, lol. Next school year he will go to kindergarten because I can't believe I am even saying this but he will be 5 years old.

Oh and Titan was diagnosed as severely autistic in April 2014. . . a person of very great strength, intellect, or importance. He is here people, are you ready?

paulene conti
Roseville, CA

Being the sibling

My name is Kat. i am 16 and i am the oldest of four. Two of which, are Autistic. One of them is 4 the other is 3.

As they grew up the whole family noticed how they didnt learn to talk when they should have. We moved a few towns over from our house at the time to get them the services they needed and a year after their diagnosis, the 4 year old is in preschool and can actually communicate with us now and the 3 year old is learning signs to help communicate and is starting on her speech.

Both are very tech savvy, They can unlock an iphone and go straight to the app wanted no problem. You could move the apps around and they still we be able to find them. And they are smart with shapes and colors and recognizing characters.

Alot of people seem to think that having Autistic Siblings is horrible. But to be honest, they arent horrible at all. They listen, they do as asked and besides their speaking set back, they are normal toddlers. They are beyond adorable and I am so proud to be their older sister, their Kat Kat, their cuddle monster, their play toy and everything else.

I am proud to be related to two autistic kids. I will always stick by them. Even though i live across the country from them now, I will always be there for them. I love them to death. and I miss them so much. But the phone calls and skype calls i get with them puts a huge smile on my face and theirs. I hate looking around at my old school, because people would make fun of the autistic kids and the special needs kids and food allergy kids and i hated that. Because my three siblings(One has life threatening allergies) will be at that table. and I swear, if anyone makes fun of them, they will have to deal with me.

Anywho, I just wanted to share my little story ^^

Thank you for your time

Goodyear, AZ
Glass Bird Bath Collection
Floral Vines Sleeveless Tunic
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