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The Reactor Room

What You Are Really Communicating When You Say, "I Don't Care What You Think About Me."


No Man Is An Island Unto Himself

Dozens of times throughout our growing up years, we are constantly inundated with life lessons that hammer into our heads how we should think, how we should feel, and how we should act. One of the lessons continuously thrown around is that we shouldn’t care what other people think of us. This is a lesson meant to promote free thinking among children, that they shouldn’t define themselves and their actions by what their peers want and feel, and that they should live their own lives unworried about judgment and live in the way they want to live.

And while to some degree this is admirable and wise advice, there is a propensity for many people to take it too far. As I stated in a previous blog, human beings are social animals. No man is an island unto himself, and everybody needs other people.

The issue comes when people take this message to the extreme and stop observing any social mores. Far too often people decide that ‘they don’t care what people think about them’ to such an extreme that they stop engaging in basic customs and manners. These people often end up mocking and rejecting anybody trying to advise them that they should consider acting with politeness and decorum as just another person whose opinion they should ignore (often referred to in internet terms as a ‘hater’ or a ‘troll’)

This is incredibly foolish. There’s something to be said about the young boy who likes pressing flowers and hosting ‘tea parties’ not listening to people when they say they shouldn’t engage in such activities. The same holds for the young girl who likes contact sports and bugs and lizards. But there’s a difference between engaging in personal activities or pursuing career paths that viewed by others as atypical, and the complete rejection of social niceties.

Not An Excuse For Rude Behavior

All too often, you’ll see people make flippant, rude comments, scream and yell obscenities at people who disagree with them, insult, judge, and slander other people for various reasons, and physically act out in ways that are unbecoming of anyone over the age of ten. And when those who observe or are affected by these kinds of actions try to speak out against it, many of these people respond with some variation on “I don’t care what you think.”

The problem for these people is that when they end up needing something, naturally, nobody is particularly enthusiastic about lending them any aid or giving them any consideration. Where people would be more inclined to help people who have a history of politeness and manners, nobody is particularly inclined to help somebody who will just turn around and start acting like a brat again. This results in these people being forced to resort to what effectively amounts to ‘kicking and screaming’ to get what they want, and, while they might ultimately end up getting what they want, only reinforces this cycle.

Let's Stop and Reevaluate Ourselves

Unfortunately, people with autism are very susceptible to this kind of behavior. Though this behavior is by no means exclusive to people with autism, the difficulty that comes with having ASD causes many of those who deal with it to act out in ways seen as immature, impolite, or even aggressive. However, these actions may not be as firmly discouraged as they would be with a neurotypical child. Many parents might take a sort of “they can’t help it” attitude towards these actions. And if this is the mindset that they carry, then they might overemphasize the “I don’t care what you think” attitude and pass it on to their children. In the minds of these parents, and eventually the children too once they’ve grown up, anyone who speaks out against their behavior, even if that behavior is unjustifiably aggressive or explosive, is a foolish bigot and best ignored. When somebody who is put off by these behaviors tries to make some sort of suggestion for how they might better act in the future, these parents, and eventually these adults with autism, parrot the age-old “I don’t care what you think,” deepening the divide between the autism community and the neurotypical everymen that we sorely need help and acceptance from.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t bigots out there and that people aren’t occasionally overly rude in response to the behaviors of those with ASD, but the number is probably less than people who ascribe to these notions think. In my experience, people have generally been accommodating, and most people only wish to help, but can quickly get pushed too far. Especially if people react explosively to people who are actually offering help.

The point I’m trying to make is that to say “I don’t care what other people think” is a self-defeating attitude because we need other people. Especially those of us in the autism community need the help of other people to move forward and to take this overly aggressive “I don’t care what people think of me” attitude not only hamstrings yourself but potentially hurts other people who have similar issues or attitudes as you do. This kind of attitude is already harming the autism community, and it will continue to harm it if we don’t stop and reevaluate how we comport ourselves.




What is Spectrum Fusion?

Rice University students making a difference in the lives of adults with autism.

Rice University students making a difference in the lives of adults with autism.

Social Entrepreneurs

One of the big points of confusion many people have when they are introduced to Spectrum Fusion is exactly what it is we are. Are we a business? A charity? A gathering of activists? Several times people have seen what we have to say and simply determined that what we claim to be and what we promise is too good to be true. Unfortunately, that’s a reality we might not be able to escape for a while until our organization grows and enough feedback comes in to prove that we mean what we say.

However, it does raise the question; what exactly is Spectrum Fusion? Spectrum Fusion is clearly not a typical business venture, as it does not charge its participants. We do this because charging participants adds a barrier to entry that we don’t want to have, and only helps the people who can afford it, whereas our mission is to help as many people as we can. However, we are not simply activists, as rather than simply engendering change at some higher level we also work directly with those affected by autism.

So what are we? Well, in a recent sit down with Thomas Rollerson, who was the CEO of Dream Foundation for 20 years, he explained that the best way to describe us would be as “Social Entrepreneurs.” 

Unlike a normal entrepreneur, who seeks to create a business venture that generally follows the existing status quo, social entrepreneurs disrupt the status quo by creating an innovative solution to a social problem; in this case, helping adults with autism find more fulfilling work through pursuing their purpose. 

A social entrepreneur is effectively the blending of both an activist and a typical entrepreneur. We seek change, just as an activist does, but unlike a typical activist who demands change from the top down we make the change ourselves from the bottom up by providing a new innovative service, product, or approach to a situation that is effective enough to cause a widespread systemic change to the status quo. As an activist, we are first and foremost passionately devoted to change for those who are disadvantaged and marginalized, but our method is through innovation rather than through reform.

What Sets Spectrum Fusion Apart

It is this factor that I believe sets us apart from most other organizations, as well as what people likely misunderstand when they first hear about us. It might be easier for those we seek to reach out to trust us if we were typical activists. Activists tend to be more quickly believed than ‘businesses’ when they try and do good for a marginalized people because they tend to have more of a personal stake in whatever it is they’re fighting for, as well as asking for little in return from the marginalized group they champion save sharing in whatever benefits they bring about through reform. Meanwhile, a business or entrepreneurship tends to be looked at as wanting to make money first and catering to a market they can profit off of, even if that market could greatly benefit from the product.

A social entrepreneur, though, has the heart of an activist and the method of an entrepreneur. Our main goal at Spectrum Fusion is to bring about positive change for adults with autism, but rather than through reform by petitioning and rallying at higher-ups in government and education, we seek to lift up those with autism by helping them achieve their goals directly rather than through government intervention. In this way, we also don’t inadvertently step on any toes, accidentally disadvantage any other populations with sweeping reforms, and make fewer enemies. Furthermore, by providing a service that ultimately benefits everyone who needs help without inconveniencing anyone who doesn’t, we can bring the community closer together without any enmity between those with ASD and those without.

Time Will Tell

It is, of course, a great deal more difficult to innovate than it is to ask a higher power to cause sweeping reforms. Just like starting a business is difficult, starting a program like this is an astronomical undertaking and it will require a great deal of effort in the coming years to become widespread enough to reach everybody we need to. With hard work and dedication, however, we can make it happen, and in time hopefully, people will come to see that this isn’t too good to be true. 

Up and Coming YouTuber Josh Mitchell

Brick Building Fun

As we have with Sable in a previous blog, Spectrum Fusion continues to follow its Reactor Room participants even after they’ve finished the Reactor Room event itself. We saw that Sable had made great strides towards becoming independent after her event, and today we are going to look at another Reactor Room participant: Josh Mitchell.

Josh Mitchell is a thirty-something-year-old man living in the Houston area who has great talent in editing and video recording. Josh is an excellent editor with a keen eye for detail who has previously managed to edit several books, including the critically acclaimed Aspergers on the Inside. He was looking to expand his horizons even further into video editing, specifically so that he can continue to foster his own Youtube channel. Obviously, video editing is an entirely different field from book editing, but Josh has already made great strides into his efforts, with his skills improving even in the short time since his Reactor Room experience.

Josh is the manager and star of “Brick Building Fun;” a Youtube channel that focuses upon building Lego sets. It is a channel aimed mostly towards children but can be watched by anyone with a love of Legos and building. Josh also claims that his channel is also aimed to foster healthy aging in older persons interested in keeping their minds and muscle memory sharp and engaged, as well as those with physical disabilities who might be helped practicing the fine motor control needed to construct Lego sets. Josh also manages other Youtube channels as well, but wishes to devote most of his focus to Brick Building Fun.

Legos Are For Everyone

He has consistently managed to keep to a schedule of uploading videos twice a week, every Tuesday and Friday. He doesn’t limit himself to any one type of Lego set, having made videos about all sorts of topics at all sorts of skill levels. Nothing is excluded as the topics range from Batman to Pokemon to Disney Princesses and the set complexity ranges from incredibly difficult towers and cities to simple sets with less than seventy pieces.

What is perhaps most notable, though, is Josh’s production value for what few resources and budgeting he has. Every video shows a green-screened Josh in the corner of the screen, patiently reacting and instructing the viewer as they follow along, as well as edited in images of the instruction books to better help the audience understand what steps they need to take to complete their model, to a custom intro that plays at the beginning of every video. Every edit in these videos is made by Josh alone and helps to put his talent at video editing on display.

Legos Build Visuospatial Skills

“Legos get the wheels turning and keep the wheels turning across a lifespan,” Josh says. Research has shown this to be true. Children who use Legos show an increase in visual-spatial awareness and skills that are necessary in developing abilities in abstract thinking and mathematics. Josh hopes to be able to reach a wider audience and help bring the benefit of building Legos to a wider, more varied audience.




The Complex Relationship Between Self-Awareness and Self-Advocacy

What Will the Neighbors Think?

Over my time here working with Spectrum Fusion we have had several conversations about how to encourage our participants to advocate for themselves. It is a persistent problem that hounds those with autism in general. Often, people with ASD are reluctant to put themselves ‘out there’ and speak out on their own behalf because they are afraid of what people will think of them and how they will be treated after it comes out that they are on the spectrum. The threat of stigma and ridicule paralyzes people into silence when it would be nothing but advantageous for them to advocate on their own behalf.

On the one hand, having ASD myself, I can see their point. Despite things slowly getting better for people with ASD, there is still a great deal of stigma against people with autism, and it isn’t helped any by the DSM-V lumping Autism all together into one single diagnosis, removing any and all medical distinctions between individuals with wildly different presentations. That, however, is a topic for another day.

There is still a fair amount of stigma against people with autism, and that makes it incredibly difficult for people who are already sensitive and emotional to advocate for themselves. Some employers are known not to hire people with disabilities because they don’t understand them and worry about how the new employee may act. Some may have the best of intentions trying to accommodate for people with disabilities, but despite their good intentions they begin to act overly gentle and awkward, or even patronizingly around us, thinking they must walk on eggshells and treat us with kid gloves. Some people are simply bigoted and dismissive of those with disabilities because they think them lesser.

The Need to Self-Advocate Is Essential to Change Perceptions

Unfortunately, this only makes the need for self-advocacy all the more critical. We can have people advocate on our behalf all we want, but if we cannot step up ourselves and prove that we can join society on a greater, more equal level, it will all mean nothing. If we cannot prove to society that we are worth their time, effort, and attention, then nothing will ever change. Perhaps the more kind-hearted among people will give us a little bit of investment out of pity, but nothing will ever change on a broader scale. What’s more, self-advocacy is not only needed to prove to people that we can engage with society on an equal, more meaningful scale, but it is also necessary to prove it to ourselves.

However, on the note of engaging with society, there is a huge, glaring red flag that must be addressed before we can simply start advocating for ourselves. Self-advocacy, you see, is a complex topic that must be broached with extreme care and cautiousness to avoid falling into certain pitfalls and only making things worse for ourselves. This is not a statement meant to frighten or discourage anyone from advocating for themselves, merely a plea that we should step lightly and consider the facts of our needs and position carefully before making any rash decisions. Indeed, while there are a lot of reasons that we should self-advocate, if we go about it in the wrong way the results can be less than favorable.

The point I am trying to make is that people must be thoughtful and careful as they make their arguments when they advocate for themselves, and they must be sure to advocate from places of strength and worth, rather than simply making demands out of some sense that they deserve ‘restitution.’ And though it may be surprising to those who are depressed about their disabilities, there are absolutely places of strength for you to take comfort in and advocate for.

Different, But Not Less

There was a time right after I was diagnosed with autism when I particularly hated a saying  commonly thrown about in the autism community, and that was that people with autism are “Different, but not less.” This was a statement that profoundly puzzled, and even to some extent infuriated me. Shortly after my diagnosis, as I was busy trying to parse through what my disability meant for me, I would become angry whenever anybody tried to comfort me with these words. To me, my diagnosis was a death sentence. It meant that I would never be able to socialize on the same level as other people. I would never be able to feel or think in the same way as others did, and would forever be separated from them because of it. My thinking and feeling were fated to be different in such a profound way that the layman, who would severely inhibit my job prospects and ability to form friendships, would forever see me as strange and off-putting. In essence, I felt I was doomed to be an overemotional, oversensitive ‘manchild’ for the rest of my years, never able to engage with the rest of society on a meaningful and equal level. How in the world, I asked myself, could that be considered anything other than “less?” And indeed, I lashed out at people who tried to use those words in my presence. I saw them as meaningless platitudes, with no value behind them other than to make me feel better despite my irrefutable knowledge of the truth.

And, to some small degree, I cannot say that I was 100% wrong about my feelings at the time. It is unlikely that I will ever be able to think or feel in the same patterns as most other people. It will probably be more difficult for me to make friends, and I’ll probably always be viewed as somewhat “eccentric.” However, the thing I eventually learned was that while what the thoughts I was having were not necessarily false, I did not see the whole picture. And once I was capable of seeing things from a wider standpoint, the statement “different not less” struck me in an entirely different light.

If An Average Person Is a Swiss Army Knife, A Person With Autism is A Specialized Tool

There is an analogy that I like: If your average person is a swiss army knife, then a person with autism is a specialized tool. Most people in the world are capable of multitasking to a high degree, including navigating complex social situations, which might be seen as the basic catch-all ‘knife’ found in a swiss army knife. It is only natural that human beings should be, on the whole, able to socialize with ease. Human beings, after all, are social animals. 

People with ASD, however, aren’t swiss army knives. They do not possess the ability to socialize or regulate emotions or break from certain ways of thinking that most people experience. However, unlike the rest of the world, people with ASD are the professional-level electronic screwdrivers, restaurant-quality corkscrews, master-tier woodworking tools, and high-end fabric shears of the world.

These tools are certainly different, but by no means less valuable. In fact, while they aren’t as versatile as a swiss army knife, if you want a job done right then they are far more valuable than such a jack-of-all-trades tool. Though this analogy may be apt, I am not trying to say that we should become narcissistic about this and think of ourselves as somehow “better” than people who aren’t on the spectrum. We are all individuals, and we have different and diverse stories, talents, and backgrounds, and none of us are worthy of scorn based on disability or lack of disability alone.

What I am trying to say, though, is that people with autism tend to hyperfocus and hyperspecialize. We tend to become incredibly interested in and proficient at a particular skill or field, at the expense of most others. One could perhaps see it as something of a trade-off: By becoming incredibly talented and proficient at one field, we sacrifice social skills, some thought, and emotional regulation, and certain levels of flexibility, among other things that commonly afflict people with ASD.

What this means is, with the right amount of self-discovery and introspection to help us discover what it is we are great and proficient at, as well some specialized training and education to help us become even better at our already natural talents, those of us with ASD could become true masters of our fields. We have the capacity, focus, and talent to become great at whatever it is we choose to do, and that’s worth something. Skill and talent is something that’s not only worthy of praise and highly regarded, but it’s something that society actively seeks out.

Speaking realistically, it is unlikely that every one of us will become some sort of great and famous mind lauded throughout history. We are not all cut out for that. What we are, though, are great and valuable specialists that are of use to society and industry at large, and it is not right that we should not be able to find a place in it. It is of disadvantage to us, and it is of disadvantage to the rest of society as well. Unfortunately, because of our lack of social skills, emotional regulation, and our eccentric behaviors, many people are put off by us, denying us a place at the table, and denying themselves of our specialized skills and talents.

And this is where I must start to rain on the parade that I have set up for everybody in this blog where I laud and praise the talents that I have written so far. For you see, one cannot necessarily blame the rest of society for feeling put off and nervous around us.

Time for Introspection

If you’re on the spectrum and are currently reading this blog, I’d ask you to take a moment to introspect and think for a moment about yourself and your personal history. Have you ever completely missed a joke or a chance to bond or a social cue during a crucial meeting? Have you ever accidentally gotten too passionate or angry or sad about something that came up in casual conversation? Have you ever had anything that could be described as a meltdown or a panic attack in a public place? Have you ever taken something too personally or too seriously and strained a conversation?

Earlier in this blog, there are several keywords that I’ve brought up that are very important. Firstly is that we need to engage with society on an equal and meaningful scale. I also made the point that we cannot become narcissistic about our abilities or that we should somehow see people who are neurotypical as less than us. Lastly, I pointed out that human beings are naturally social animals, and by and large, the average, neurotypical human being is wired to recognize and understand social situations naturally, and that it is not-unreasonably off-putting when another human acts in ways they define as strange. 

These and other concepts are ideas that we must take to heart as we recognize that, while ASD does have its benefits, it is still a disability; one that tends to affect our ability to socialize, regulate emotions, and has many other effects that can be naturally seen as off-putting to the average, neurotypical person. And there is no reason that we should think neurotypical people ill for that because human beings are social animals, and a human who cannot socialize on the same capacity as the vast majority of the world is curious, and sometimes off-putting anomaly. 
This is why I strongly feel that before we can begin to advocate for ourselves, we must strive to be aware of ourselves.

Perhaps you think that that is not fair, and just because you act in a way they perceive as “strange” does not mean that they should think you somehow off-putting or creepy. However, I would ask you to consider this: All of us, no matter how far we’ve come, is still tethered to our genetics and the baser instincts we developed as wild men when we had to hunt and fight to survive hundreds of thousands of years ago. In those days, ‘different’ was dangerous. Another human being acting strangely could mean any number of things. Perhaps they were sick with rabies, making them act irrationally. Perhaps they were of a rival tribe and would attack at the next opportunity. A neurotypical person being put off by a human acting in a way that is not “normal” is a perfectly natural and understandable response when you take into account the instincts that were genetically programmed into the human population over millions of years of evolution. It is an inescapable part of the human condition.

Is it fair? No, but life rarely is. And sometimes you draw the short straw. And trying to “make life fair” tends to backfire spectacularly. What those of us who drew the short straw can do, though, is better learn to cope with it, self-actualize, and even turn it into an advantage.

Before we can do anything, though, we must be self-aware. Self-awareness is something that must absolutely come before self-advocacy, and before you can advocate for yourself in a way that is meaningful and productive, and properly endears you to the rest of society, you must be aware of your shortcomings. You must also be aware of the way to properly advocate for yourself without putting yourself, as well as other people with ASD, in a disadvantageous, harmful, and even dangerous situation.

The Wrong Kind Of Advocates Can Give The Right Kind Of Advocates A Bad Name

We live in a time of great social unrest where the concept of advocacy has become something of a dirty word, and it is easy to see why. Every day you can turn on the news and see self-styled “advocates” screaming and ranting at people merely trying to go about their daily lives. People block streets, causing commuters who have nothing to do with the problem at hand to be late for work. They throw bottles and cans and sometimes even homemade firebombs at buildings. They riot in the streets, burning cars and breaking windows.

These kinds of “advocates,” who shriek slogans and demand restitution for perceived oppression and who commit violence have caused the very word itself to become one that makes people cringe. What’s more, these sorts of people tend to hurt their causes more than they help them. While it is true that some of the population will be frightened, bullied, and coerced into compliance by these despicable tactics, the vast majority of the public will even side against them on the very issues that they are trying to support .Effectively, these kinds of “advocates” poison the well against their own cause, and make it harder for legitimate, civil discourse to take place, which makes it harder for genuine activists to champion their cause.

Because let’s get one thing straight: These kinds of people are not advocates. They are knee-jerk protestors. They are perceived as whiny, demanding, entitled rabble-rousers. Unfortunately, people who act in this way are usually so entitled, coddled, and lacking in self-awareness that the only thing they can think of to do when they are faced with even the slightest amount of discomfort is to protest violently.

This is what we must not become.

More Introspection 

We have to remember that the world does not owe us anything. We are not an oppressed class being forcibly shunted off to work camps or prisons by an oppressive government. And while yes, stigma, bigotry, and misinformation among the public most assuredly exists and must be challenged, many of the problems we face as individuals, as difficult as it is to admit, are of our own making.

Consider your own personal history again. Remember that time you missed a joke or got too passionate or had a meltdown? Your disability was perhaps the underlying reason that it happened, but it was still your own doing that it happened. And while we can request understanding from the people that we affect during these moments, we cannot demand that they ignore it and that we be excused from consequences when we act in such ways.

Are you jobless and spend all of your time in your home away from other people? Do you have difficulty getting a job because of this social anxiety? Unfortunately, even if the underlying reason for this is social anxiety or ASD, we cannot simply demand that we suddenly be given our perfect dream job, citing our disability as a reason for why we should get it. 

We cannot demand that people kowtow to our every whim. We cannot order people to start walking on eggshells around us so as not to trigger us or set us off, and then demand people excuse our infractions when something sets us off, and we have a panic attack or meltdown anyway. We cannot demand restitution for oppressions that nobody has levied upon us but ourselves. 

Because although it is true that stigma, bigotry, and misinformation are things that exist, many if not most of the problems we face in our lives are of our own doing. We can blame a disability all we want. We can try and say that it is not our fault that we are disabled, and that may be true. But whether we have a disability or not, it is still our fault when we let our emotions get out of hand, when we make poor and irrational decisions, when we let our passions get to our heads, and when we melt down in public.

These tendencies that our disabilities have saddled us with -- overemotional tendencies, rigid thinking, propensity towards anxiety, social unawareness, and everything else -- these are character flaws. And unfortunately, their source is irrelevant beyond the fact that our disability makes them more chronic and makes it harder for us to deal with them than it may be for a neurotypical person to deal with theirs. This is why we can ask for patience when our flaws come to the surface, just as a neurotypical person might, but we cannot demand that our flaws simply be overlooked because ‘we cannot help it.’

Because the fact is that we can help it. We can be better than this. I’m not going to say that it’s easy, but through self-awareness and introspection, we can devise strategies and methods for us to help us get around the hangups and flaws that we have. It is difficult work. It is uncomfortable and stressful to think about, and it requires a lot of thought, time, and effort. And no, it isn’t fair that it should be so much harder for us than it is for neurotypical people. But that is how the cookie crumbled and nobody can turn back time and magically change it. It is our cross to bear and nobody else’s. And with enough time and effort spent introspecting and coming to understand your own shortcomings and flaws, we can build character and self-actualize to the point where we are less likely to fly off the handle around people, or sequester ourselves away in our safe spaces, or have panic attacks or melt down.

More than anything else, we must be self-aware. We must be aware of our flaws, recognize that they are our burden to take care of, that nobody else can be expected to deal with them for us, and work to fix them, or at least find new ways of coping with them, in the best way that we can. We must be self-aware and self-actualize.

Only then can we be trusted to self-advocate.

Are You Ready To Be An Effective Self-Advocate?

Unfortunately, this is already not the case. Many “self-advocates” with autism have not taken the time to introspect about themselves and become aware of their own flaws and how they are theirs to deal with. These people, just like the other faux-advocates of other causes, tend to make wild and entitled demands, have an immature “with-us-or-against-us” mentality, and demand that everybody else bear the burden of keeping them happy and content. They scream. They whine. They make outrageous claims like how NT’s (neurotypicals) are always somehow ‘against’ people with autism and how everybody who lacks the disability is actively oppressing them. They level insane accusations against well-intentioned academics who are actively working to try and help them understand their disability, claiming that their research is somehow harming them because it forces them to come face to face with their own flaws as people… which is of course uncomfortable and hurts their feelings. And they absolutely ruin the perception of people with autism among the general public.

These people are, sadly, rampant. It’s gotten to the point that when people think about autism advocates, these are the kinds of people that the general public tends to immediately think of. And you can bet your boots that this kind of supposed “advocacy” is having a terrible effect on people who are calmly and legitimately trying to champion the cause of aiding people with ASD, as well as greatly contributing to the stigma against us and harming the autism community as a whole.

Autism has become a joke on the internet. People with autism are portrayed as witless, bumbling, awkward losers with a complete inability to socialize, holed up in dingy, one-room apartment hovels and likely stroking a body pillow with a perverted-looking anime girl printed on it and whispering romantic nothings to it in place of real social interaction. And unfortunately, the immature actions of un-self-aware “advocates” only exacerbate the issue (as well as the DSM-V lumping everybody with ASD into a single diagnosis, but again, that is a topic for another day).

So how can we fight this perception? The first way is, of course, through self-awareness and self-actualization. If that stereotypical example I mentioned in the previous paragraph above hits a little too close to home, for example, how about instead of writing a nasty comment down below you instead take some time to introspect and think about why that is. Consider your life as it is and consider how you got to where you are. What choices or mistakes have you made in life? How could you be better in the future? What can you do now to change the course of your life? Can you come up with any coping mechanisms to help deal with your individual character flaws that sprang from your root issue of ASD? How can you work to be a better you?

And secondly, we can fight this perception through self-advocacy. Real self-advocacy.

Rather than reinforcing the perceptions of the public by demanding things we have not earned, calling everybody different from us an oppressor, placing the burden of our mental well-being on others, and demanding we be excused from our faults, we must show a different side of ourselves. We must highlight the benefits of having ASD.

Remember back towards the beginning of this blog when I highlighted the things about having autism that made us special. We are focused. We are talented. We are the specialized tools in a world of Swiss army knives. These are the things we need to highlight and the position from which we must self-advocate. Rather than attempting to pull our neurotypical peers down by demanding what we have not earned to compensate for our weaknesses, we must instead build ourselves up as people and then find ways to showcase our strengths.

This is the best way to get people onto our side and to change the greater perception of autism from “socially unaware, overemotional, panicky losers” into “hard-working, talented, focused, and skilled colleagues… who may or may not have a few eccentricities, but they’re aware of that and working on it.”

Part of being self-aware is not only recognizing your flaws, but also recognizing your strengths; the same kinds of strengths we talked about earlier in this blog. When you are self-aware, you can recognize your talents and skills. These are the things we have to offer society. These are the things that people will be incredibly interested in from us. These are our passions and purposes in life. And they are physically, tangibly worth something. If we can become aware of the strengths we have and then self-actualize by engendering their growth through specialized training, study, and practice we can become masters of our chosen fields. This is how we earn respect, friendship, and our place in society.

This is how we will change the greater public perception of people with autism. By individually working to build up our strengths and promote them to the public, rather than forcing the public to compensate for our shortcomings.

We Have Talents and Skills That The World Needs

Self-advocacy then, in this context, takes an incredibly different form than what the general public perception of “advocacy” has become. In this new form, the best way we can self-advocate is essentially by humbly, respectfully, and politely asking the world for a “moment of its time.” It is acknowledging the difficulty of living with autism and the character flaws the disability engenders, but assuring the world that we are working on coping mechanisms to curb those flaws and that we will do our best to minimize how often they appear in daily life, and then backing these promises up. And then, when the world does give us a moment of its time, it is proving to the world that our special skills are real. Our skills are unique, exceptional, and profitable, and they are worth investing their time and effort.

It will take time, and it will not be easy. The stigma and bigotry exists and it shall have to be challenged, but we must be sure to challenge it in a calm and respectful way that does not reinforce the current public perception of ASD through tantrums and demands. Give it enough time and patience and we will chip it down and wear it away. The process will be sped up as people continue to discover the hidden talents and skills of people with autism, working skillfully and professionally and contributing just as much as the swiss-army-knives of the world do. Slowly but surely the greater perception of autism will change.

It will take time. It will take patience. It will take blood and sweat and tears. It will take boatloads of effort, and it will be an uncomfortable, emotional, tiring process. But we can do it.
...But only if we have the guts to look inside of ourselves, grow as people, and resolve to do it right.


Along The Journey

What Happens After The Reactor Room?

At Spectrum Fusion we continue the work with our Reactor Room nominees long after their initial Reactor Room experience. We assess how they are progressing along with their options, opportunities, and connections that they have been offered, and we update them on new opportunities as we support them on their journeys to self-reliance. I myself have maintained consistent contact with many of the people I’ve met through Spectrum Fusion, Dr. Ham most prominently. In doing so, we have the privilege to watch many of the fascinating and exciting developments happening in the lives of the Reactor Room nominees, and celebrate with them in their successes

One of the members of the Reactor Room who has had an exciting journey so far is a young lady by the name of Sable. Sable is a twenty-eight-year-old young woman with multiple talents. She is intelligent and articulate, and graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in Psychology. She also earned her certification in phlebotomy. Currently Sable works part at an insurance company. Unfortunately, despite her degrees, certifications, talent, and intelligence, she has often been overlooked for various advancement opportunities, and she reported that she does not feel fulfilled.

Jewels 'N'Art by Sable

Sable is creative and artistic.  In fact, she started her own jewelry line and named her “store” Jewels ‘N’ Art by Sable. Sable creates home decorations and designs her own one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces. Over the years, she became very skilled at this craft.

Sable participated in the second Reactor Room event held on September 28th. There, it was determined that the best course of action for her would be to pursue her interests, both in the medical field and in jewelry making simultaneously. It would also be good for her to get out and socialize more amongst people that she felt comfortable with.

Since the Reactor Room, Sable has attended multiple events, including an art gallery showing/auction where a piece of art made by another Reactor Room participant was being put up for auction. Sable has slowly been growing more confident about ‘putting herself out there’, including making videos showcasing her jewelry. This continued exposure to other people will build her confidence over time.

Shadowing Opportunities

Another exciting development for Sable, however, is the establishment of shadowing opportunities. The Shadowing Program was devised to help adults with autism enter into workplaces without actually being employed by them, expressly so that they can observe and absorb information about the profession that they wish to enter into. By “shadowing” professionals who are currently working in their desired fields, they can observe without necessarily having to be employed by the organization, giving them a much greater chance at being hired in the future.

With the establishment of a shadowing program, Sable is now capable of observing at a blood center. There, she will learn more about phlebotomy and be able to see in more detail what will be expected of her when she eventually gets hired and what specific position most interests her. It will also strengthen her resume by allowing her to tell prospective employers that she has enough experience to be considered for a position. What’s more, this will also expose her to a greater number of people and allow her to work more on her socialization skills and anxiety in a safe environment so that she will be better prepared when the day comes she is eventually hired.

It was this concern that I myself held, and have heard expressed to me since, about joining Spectrum Fusion.


Sable interview .jpeg

The Reactor Room and Opportunity vs. Outcome

Earning our way in life

One of the more common concerns that I’ve heard from fellow high-functioning autistic people is whether or not they’ve truly earned what they have. To clarify, many people with ASD wonder if whether the things they achieve in life are actually the result of their own hard work, talent, and skill, or if they were simply handed “success” out of pity or obligation because of their disability. “Did I actually get the job because I was the best candidate out of the applicant pool,” for example, “or did I only get the job because I was some disability quota or because the people hiring felt bad for poor, little, ol’ me? If I were neurotypical, would I have stacked up to the other applicants?”

Some may read this and ask, “why does that matter? If you got the job just be thankful that you got the job and move on with your life.” There’s a pleasant simplicity in that notion that some may be perfectly happy to adopt, and there is no inherent problem with adopting it, but to a lot of people with ASD it reeks of naïveté.

In my previous blog, I wrote about the tendencies of high-functioning people with ASD to constantly question themselves. Indeed, this was the blog I was trying to write when the depth of that topic on its own rather got away from me.

It is a common anxiety for people with high-functioning ASD to worry about whether or not they’ve actually earned the things they’ve achieved. How much of what they’ve achieved is because they actually put in the time and effort and skill needed to achieve their goals, and how much of it was being handed things on a silver platter because of some quota or out of pity? This was a concern posed both by myself before I joined Spectrum Fusion, as well as another of our candidates whom I have had contact with.

The Quest for Independence

It’s a terrible feeling, not knowing whether you’ve actually earned your successes or not. After all, one of the main goals that most people with ASD expresses to have is that they wish to live “independently.” They wish to be able to make decisions for themselves, live ordinary, self-governing adult lives, and they want to achieve success through their own merit. How can we say we are living ‘independently’ then, if our successes are only gained not through our own merit, but instead through the initiative and influence of other people who simply take pity on us, or make allowances for us, for whatever reason?

I am reminded of a moment from another movie (as I often am, since movies are one of my “things”) as I write this: The 2011 superhero film, “Green Lantern.” A significantly worse film than Kung Fu Panda 3, but one with a singular moment that no less stuck out in my mind. There is a scene in the film where one of the villains of the movie, Hector Hammond, is given a job by his wealthy and influential father. Hector had previously assumed that he had received this job because of his own merit and talent, and is crushed to find out that the only reason he got the job was because his father pulled strings to get it for him. When he expresses disappointment about the situation, his father is dismissive and bluntly tells him that it’s simply “the way of the world.” This is one of Hector’s defining character moments and is one of the events that ultimately leads him down the path to villainy.

“Green Lantern” may not be the world’s greatest film (and in fact, it is an absolute dumpster fire of a movie), but since my diagnosis in early 2016, that moment has stuck out as particularly relatable in my mind. Nobody wants to be Hector Hammond (for more reasons than the obvious penchant for evil and the shockingly ugly giant head). Nobody wants to feel like their successes were arbitrarily granted to them for any reason other than their own merit. Those of us with ASD don’t want to be handed things out of pity, and we don’t want the whole reason that we achieve ‘success’ to be because of an aspect of our personalities that we have little control over and that many of us actively hate about ourselves (though you can perhaps see my previous blog to begin working on that).

It was this concern that I myself held, and have heard expressed to me since, about joining Spectrum Fusion.

Opportunity vs. Outcome

Before joining Spectrum Fusion, I worried that this was simply going to be another program that gave me hand-outs because I was disabled. I worried it would be some sort of ‘pity program’ that would basically hand me a low-paying, unenjoyable job of some kind, not because I earned it, but because a well-intentioned-but-naïve person thought they could help those “poor, unfortunate autists who need somebody to hold their hand.”

Having experienced being handed things based on my disability, I can say with great excitement that Spectrum Fusion is NOT that. Having been a part of the organization for about six months now, it is very clear that Spectrum Fusion is an entirely different animal, and the Reactor Room does not just hand out jobs on silver platters.

What the Reactor Room gives to its members is not outcomes, but opportunities. 

Heidi Ham and Spectrum Fusion have rightly identified that one of the bigger problems plaguing those with High-Functioning ASD is a lack of connections and know-how when it comes to entering the fields of our choice. This follows, as one of the most common issues that people with ASD have is that they are socially awkward and do not feel comfortable in social situations. This naturally leads to us not making many friends or contacts, thus we have fewer connections, and thus we have fewer opportunities brought to our attention.

What the Reactor Room does is give us a platform. It gives us a stage to stand up on in front of many potential contacts and connections who have the know-how to get into whatever our chosen field is and help us reach our goals; the keyword being help and not just granting us things willy-nilly.

Because our work is all our own. 

Promoting our Talents

One of the more positive aspects of having autism is that those of us with the disability tend to be specialists rather than generalists. To use a metaphor, if your average person is a “cheap swiss-army knife,” then we who have high-functioning ASD tend to be the high-end electronic screwdrivers, chefs’ knives, garden shears, and chainsaws. We are tools with a specific purpose that we do well, while everybody else is forced to multitask with lesser versions of those tools. The downside is that because we can’t multitask as well, we aren’t as able to go out and socialize and make these connections for ourselves.

Since joining Spectrum Fusion, I have been introduced to artists, craftsmen, photographers, videographers, and more, who were all plainly excellent at their trades. But all of these people, for one reason or another, found it difficult or downright impossible for them to make the connections and contacts needed to find a better outlet to utilize their talents.

This is the brilliance of the Reactor Room’s model. By spending so much time with every individual who joins the program and identifying their individual needs and talents, they are able to construct a panel of contacts unique to every member’s situation. From there, the member is the one who has to demonstrate just how talented and skilled they are. It is akin to a big talent show, where we can show off just how good we are at our specific talents and fields and prove to a group of influential people that we can do the job and do it well, and that we deserve to be rewarded for it; that we DO deserve success based on our merits.

Starting on the Path to Success

Since my experience in the reactor room, I have managed to use my newfound connections to get an article published in a magazine. This is a large step forward for me, as before this point I had previously been unpublished. The editor of the magazine in question, however, was not informed by my connection that I had ASD or any sort of disability. He agreed to publish my article not out of pity, but because he felt that my article was good enough to be published.

This is what the reactor room offers, and what sets it apart from other initiatives. It doesn’t offer immediate “success.” It offers the opportunity for success for people who previously had trouble finding opportunity in the first place; opportunity rather than outcome.

To make the actual, final leap to that outcome, well… that’s all on us. And we’re more than capable of making that leap.

Op Ed: On Questioning Ourselves and Finding Optimism in Embracing Our Disability

William Purdy speaking with Dr. Heidi Stieglitz Ham preparing for the first Reactor Room in Houston, Texas

William Purdy speaking with Dr. Heidi Stieglitz Ham preparing for the first Reactor Room in Houston, Texas


Sometimes I find myself questioning whether I will ever achieve any of the goals in life that I wish to achieve, or if I even deserve to do so; whether or not the problems that my ASD creates in my life rightfully preclude me from ever reaching success and happiness. I question whether or not I am a good person, if the antisocial, overreactive qualities that I have because of my ASD make me a close-minded, cantankerous grouch. I question whether the things I say are pushing away the few people I call friends, whether my opinions and passions are ‘acceptable,’ and whether or not life even continues to be worth living in the face of these vast, anxiety-inducing questions that (at least on the surface) don’t seem to have answers in my favor.

People with high functioning autistic spectrum disorder, you see, are often very quick to question themselves and every little thing that happens in their lives. Being as intelligent as many who are diagnosed with ASD are is akin to being told that an unknown-but-significant fraction of the things they experience in their daily lives are simulations or holograms or hallucinations. People with High Functioning ASD often experience themselves having something of a crisis of reality. “Is that person being rude, or am I just being overly sensitive” they may ask. “Was that statement I just made offensive even though it seemed so innocuous to me? Why do people look down on me for loving what I love when it seems so obvious why it’s worth loving? Are they just ignorant to the reasons the thing I love is so great, or am I just ‘being autistic’ again?”

Questions I’ve asked myself recently, for example, focus on who and what I would hypothetically be without ASD. Would I still like the things I like? Would I still be comfortable around the friends I’m currently comfortable around? Would I still write as well as I currently feel I do?

The answer is, of course, irrelevant and ultimately unanswerable. Autism is a part of us and it’s not an easily distinguishable part. Human beings are not a Jenga tower with clearly defined bits that are definitively ‘autistic’ that can be removed while the tower remains standing and can still be called a ‘Jenga tower.’ Rather, we are more like a chemical formula. Take the chemical formula to baking soda, for example, NaHCO3. All of the components of baking soda are ingrained with one another to make it baking soda. If you remove one of the oxygen atoms you get sodium hydrogen carbonite. Remove the Sodium and you get bicarbonate. Remove anything from the chemical formula of baking soda and you get something entirely different. Autism is a part of us and that is not only impossible to change, but if it were to change it’s more than likely that the resulting person would be so different from the original that they would be unidentifiable. It is impossible to know. 

So what does this mean for us? Well, if we cannot reject this part of us that leaves us with two options; ignore it, or embrace it.

Ignoring it may work for some people, but it would likely only work for the rare, lucky few who are so high-functioning that it can slip by unnoticed. Perhaps it might also work for those who are SO incredibly talented that, while it doesn’t slip by unnoticed, it becomes ‘forgivable’ in the face of their brilliant and incomparable talents, so that they end up described as not so much autistic, but merely ‘eccentric.’ Unfortunately, this is not the greater majority of us. While I like to feel that most people with high-functioning autism are ‘specialists’ where neurotypical folks are ‘generalists,’ the fact remains that very few of us are so talented that we can get by without addressing our disabilities in some way.

This leaves us with the last option; embracing our disability.


So then what do I mean about embracing our disability? What I mean by it is that we take this disability, this weakness, and turn it into an advantage somehow. This means something different for every individual on the spectrum, as we all experience autism differently and have it in different ways, levels, and intensities.

I recently found myself musing, somewhat randomly, about the children’s film “Kung Fu Panda 3.” While the movie was not my favorite of the Dreamworks trilogy in question, nor did I think it was ultimately the best written of them, I found one particular moment standing out. There is a moment, in front of a statue in a garden, that Master Shifu speaks with the main protagonist, Po, about how he wishes for Po to take over the dojo as Master. Po protests that he is not capable of it because he is not Shifu. Shifu replies by saying he is not trying to turn Po into Shifu, he is trying to turn Po into Po.

Po, of course, reacts with comical confusion at such a statement. “How can you turn me into me?” he asks. “I already am me.”

The meaning was quickly clear to me, however. I had heard similar statements made by other wise old mentors in other movies and stories in the past. I knew that what Shifu really meant by that statement was that he was nurturing Po to become “the best version of Po that he could be.” The movie later confirmed that I was correct on this front.

It was a moment that escaped me for some time afterwards until months later I found myself musing over the aforementioned hypothetical question of “who would I be if I didn’t have autism?” After realizing that I could not escape my disability, and even if I were somehow able to, I would be an entirely different person, I considered what it would mean to embrace my disability instead. That was when the moment returned to me. If autism is a part of me, and if I aspire to be the best version of me that I can possibly be, then I must find a way to make autism WORK... And not just work, but work FOR me rather than continuing to hamstring me.

Avoiding Narcissism

Now this does not mean becoming narcissistic about our disabilities. We are not ‘better than everybody else’ because our disability somehow makes us special. Our disability is just that; a DISability. Nor does it mean we use our disability as a crutch. It is something I see far too often (especially among younger autistic people) that they use their ASD as an excuse to get away with anything. “Oh, I offended you?” they say, “well you can’t blame me because I have autism.” Or, alternatively, “that thing you did offends me and I have autism so stop it before I melt down!” They use it as an excuse to control behavior and to shift any blame off of themselves.

Not only do I find this personally repugnant but I feel that it is intolerable behavior because it poisons the well of the beliefs of the common, neurotypical people who make up 98% of the world. The more people who act this way (and there are far, far too many people who act this way), the more people will see people with autism as nothing more than whiny, infantilized people who refuse to grow up and overreact to everything.

The Long Road Ahead

It is a slow and difficult process, figuring out how to make this seemingly lofty goal viable. Many of my autistic tendencies are things that seem to preclude my success. Antisocial behavior, oversensitivity to certain sights, sounds, and smells, and difficulty with understanding what may or may not offend my peers are all difficult things to make into rewardable behaviors. What can be done, however, is that checks and techniques can be used to limit these behaviors and keep them from becoming rampant. Meanwhile, other behaviors, such as intense focus, passion for certain topics and activities, and attention to detail can be fostered and propped up. One can train themselves to pay attention to the RIGHT details, focus at the RIGHT times, and turn their passions to their advantage.

I feel this is something that all high functioning people with ASD should do, as it can only benefit them in the long run, both in terms of their success and happiness and sense of self-worth. Take some time to sit down and reflect upon yourself; your behaviors, thoughts, attitudes, and everything that makes you YOU. What parts of you make you your own enemy? What behaviors do you have that are hamstringing you and keeping you from success and happiness? Many of these behaviors will likely be those things that define you as autistic. However, you should next think about what parts of you make you strong and what parts you want to encourage and continue to foster and grow, and you may find that many of those qualities can be described as ‘autistic’ as well.

It will be a long process, and it will not be easy, but there are enough success stories out there of people with ASD who hit it big that I am more than certain it is doable. We may not be able to get rid of our ASD, and upon reflection we may not want to. Who’s to say that if we were to somehow “get rid” of our ASD that we’d even be the same people we know ourselves to be; that we wouldn’t be changed in some unconscionable, irreversible manner. But though we can’t get rid of our ASD, we can damn sure whip it into line and make it work for us.


My Experience in The Reactor Room

William Purdy speaking with venture capitalist, Mr. Kemal Farid

William Purdy speaking with venture capitalist, Mr. Kemal Farid


As I sit here mulling over the past several months, I find myself reflecting on just how radically much of my life has changed. Having been asked to write about my experience with the organization known as Spectrum Fusion and their Reactor Room program, it dawns on me that in a very short period of time my life has grown to look very different from how it did just months ago, with the potential of further and even more substantial changes down the line. 

For those who are not aware, Spectrum Fusion is an organization created by Dr. Heidi Ham, with the goal of better finding a place in the world for adults on the autistic spectrum, and the Reactor Room program is a program through which Dr. Ham reaches out to the community to find solutions and prospects for adults with autism that match their specific personalities and talents. What is special about Spectrum Fusion and the Reactor Room over other programs for adults with autism is that it does not try to “train the adults with autism to not be autistic,” by teaching them “how to act” in situations they might encounter. It does not basically instruct them to “suck it up” and bottle up all their extreme emotions and reactions. Understanding the triggers for such emotions, and learning how to create environments that are best for individuals with autism are essential to the program. Spectrum Fusion recognizes that a mismatch between the job and the adult with autism only tends to succeed in creating an employed but profoundly unhappy adult with autism; one who is gainfully employed and making money, but is coming home exhausted each day with no energy to pursue any further social life, personal goals, or hobbies. These adults often end up depressed and even suicidal because they feel trapped. They feel caught because they cannot pursue any sense of personal fulfillment because it is too important to keep the jobs that they actively hate.

Dr. Heidi Ham recognized this and formed Spectrum Fusion to offer an alternative entirely based around that sense of personal fulfillment. What is truly special about adults with autism is that many if not most of them are profoundly talented at specific activities. These activities are often very valued in our daily life and society, though often seen unachievable due to the way that the autistic are shoved into roles that they hate and can’t escape from.

Spectrum Fusion seeks to rectify this by reaching out to the community through its reactor room program, identifying positions and leads that could lead to gainful employment in positions where the adults with autism feel comfortable and fulfilled. By reaching out to community leaders, entrepreneurs, and those in positions similar to those the autistic adult is interested in, they can identify paths and means to better help the autistic adult achieve those positions, or ones enough like it that they are satisfied. Effectively, the point of the program is to bring the community to the autistic adult in question and work out ways to help both, forming a symbiotic relationship between the needs and talents of the individual and the needs of the community, as opposed to simply shoving the adult into a job they may end up hating that makes no use of their talents and calling it a success.

What’s truly remarkable about the whole process in my opinion though, is just how in depth and caring it is towards the adults in question.

Spectrum Fusion

I first met Dr. Ham through a common acquaintance by the name of Dr. Kate Loveland, who is on the board of Spectrum Fusion. Dr. Loveland was my mentor during the LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) program. When I was first introduced to the concept of Spectrum Fusion and Dr. Ham’s vision, I was immediately skeptical. To say that the program sounded too good to be true was a vast understatement. I was of the mind that it was probably a scam of some kind and, if I’m to be honest, I actually thought that it might be some kind of cult. Despite only having been diagnosed properly with autism about a year and a half ago, I had already been subjected to a “training course” that was entirely ineffectual and did nothing to help me as an individual. With that said, I trusted Dr. Loveland’s judgment and the fact that she was on the board of the organization convinced me to get in contact with Dr. Ham for a meeting.

To say the meeting was immediately rewarding is an understatement. Dr. Ham is an incredibly charismatic and kind person who clearly cares about everyone she meets and has a vested interest in adults with autism and bettering their standard of living. But what struck me, in particular, was the mere fact that Dr. Ham truly took the time to get to know me as a person.

In the previously mentioned training course, I never felt like the people who were trying to help me actually cared about me as a person. I was just another “adult with autism” that they needed to “help” by providing exactly the same advice and directions that they were giving everybody else in the course. Advice and directions, mind you, that did not apply to me or any problem that I really had. And the moment that the course started introducing things that might have been relevant to me specifically, the course ended. We were told that the program had concluded and shoved out the door.

What courses like this fail to realize is something that is repeated in the psychological community many times; that if you meet one adult with autism, you’ve only met one adult with autism. Every person with autism experiences their disorder differently. It is a disorder with such a loose set of requirements that having ‘autism’ can mean nearly anything for the individual experiencing it. Unfortunately, this hasn’t seemed to sink in for many therapists and instructors who are used to treating more concrete problems that have greater commonalities between the individuals experiencing them. It felt like the program I’d been a part of was trying to cast as wide a net as possible to try and help as many of us as possible, without realizing that autism is not a schooling fish. They might have helped a few of the people in that program with their advice, which seemed to center around helping those with the most stereotypical version of autism like you see in movies and television, but the rest of us, whose problems are more unique to us as individuals were left out in the cold. When talking with other participants in that program, none of the ones I talked to seemed particularly pleased to be there or felt like they were getting anything out of it.

This is what makes Spectrum Fusion so unique. It doesn’t try to save time by assuming everybody with autism has the same issues. It doesn’t gather large groups of people and give them blanket advice without any regard for the needs and trials of the individual. Instead, Dr. Ham met with me one-on-one and got to know me as a person. We talked and had conversations like normal people simply being friendly, like people simply getting to know each other. And through these conversations, my problems, dreams, goals, and needs came up naturally and organically.

Simply talking to me one-on-one and identifying my own personal needs and problems as an individual and not just another “adult with autism” already put Spectrum Fusion head-and-shoulders above my previous experiences but my expectations continued to be defied. We continued to meet, usually once a week (with phone calls in between) and continued to discuss options and potential leads. Most of these meetings were one-on-one, but sometimes more experienced people from the community were brought in to help further clarify what would be needed to try and achieve my various goals.

The Reactor Room Event

Then came the night of the actual Reactor Room event itself, where people were brought in from all over the community to help further identify paths and plans for me.To call this event humbling would be an understatement. I was an individual being focused upon by multiple people, all of whom sought to help me. It was a far cry from being part of a massive group being talked at in blanket statements by a single individual who was trying to “help” as many people as possible as quickly as possible and then get them out of there. Seeing all of these people there for me (as well as the one other person who was being aided that night), was intimidating, but in a very humbling and uplifting way. It was only a single night of the experience and only lasted for a few hours, but it made a vast impression.

Since then, multiple opportunities have opened up for me, and with the continued help of Dr. Ham, we are looking into and pursuing them. For the first time in a long time, I am hopeful and I feel like my life might actually have a direction again. 


If it is not clear, I would absolutely recommend that adults with autism and their families look into Spectrum Fusion and see what it can do for them. When I asked Dr. Ham if the process she’d gone through with me was the same process she intended to go through with everybody who joined the program, and she said that it absolutely was, that clinched it for me. I would not recommend the program if I felt I was special simply because I got onto the train early. It’s a daunting task ahead of Dr. Ham, but I feel if anyone can pull it off it’s her and the support network she’s built.