Through our eyes: What it’s like

The “Through our eyes” series invites you to hear and learn from the perspectives of young adults in our community living with autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, learning disabilities or other social challenges.

Before we begin, I would like to clarify that I only speak on behalf of myself and no one else on the autism spectrum. My experiences with Asperger’s syndrome are entirely my own, so your child or someone you know who is also on th spectrum may have some differences, whether it be with social interaction or sensory-motor skills. In fact, people will not always have the same experiences with any mental or developmental disorders — it’s entirely dependent on the individual.

As someone on the autism spectrum, I have to admit that it’s a little difficult to imagine the life of a non-autistic person. I can’t picture myself not being very sensitive to heat and cold or not being socially awkward. Asperger’s syndrome has been a part of my life since I was born.

I guess if I had to say something, though, it’s sort of like being a foreigner from a different country and having to learn the language and customs. Things feel similar to your own country, but learning to adjust to the differences is difficult. But once you’ve mastered that, it doesn’t erase the fact that you’re a foreigner. No matter what, you’ll always stand out in some way.

Now, that isn’t to say being on the spectrum is horrible. On the contrary, I find it annoying when people pity me for being different or because I “don’t understand”. It’s insulting, not just to me, but to others on the spectrum as well, regardless of what the intent was. Just because we might not pick up on social cues or have a vastly different outlook on life than most people, it doesn’t mean that we’re unable to learn.

But I digress.

Asperger’s has had its perks growing up. For instance, as I have a passion for writing (especially creative writing), I always did really well in English class, especially when it came to essays and vocabulary tests. I also have very sensitive hearing, so if someone needs help but no one can hear them, I can hear them and help them to the best of my ability.

I think the point I’m trying get at is: autism isn’t that bad. I mean, yes, there are times where we struggle with socializing and sensory-motor skills. With a bit of support and understanding, we get by pretty well on our own. I believe that there are people out there who need to be reminded of that sometimes.

There are pros and cons to everything. Autism is no exception.


Sara Breidenbach is an intern helping with Aspiring Youth summer camps. She is also a student at Bellevue College where she will graduate with an Associates Degree in Digital Media Arts in the fall of 2016.

Through our eyes: School

The “Through our eyes” series invites you to hear and learn from the perspectives of young adults in our community living with autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, learning disabilities or other social challenges.

Asperger’s (along with other autism spectrum disorders) sometimes come in a nice little package along with ADD/HD, depression and social anxiety. And, naturally, these did impact my school life. I always struggled with focusing and developing my social skills the most.

I went to a Montessori school until I was twelve, so kids had to do hands-on education where we would sometimes scatter across the classroom to work on one math assignment, one reading assignment, one writing assignment and one “other” or elective. We wrote all of our progress on a little worksheet of what we did. Because I was so easily distracted, whether it was because someone making noise or because I was spacing out too much, I didn’t always finish my work, so sometimes I would have to stay inside during recess to finish it.

I did have friends (or at least, acquaintances) that I got along with, but because I got nervous and didn’t know how to behave around my peers, I would try to spend time with people outside my age group. I guess it was because that they were more patient around me and understood some of what I was going through in life, so I could rely on them for advice.

I hopped around from service to service trying to “alleviate” the problem, but nothing ever really worked until my college years. I was in something called the Autism Spectrum Navigation Program (ASN for short) at Bellevue College. I’m not really sure how, but having a navigation assistant and taking classes on things like self-advocacy and job hunting for people on the spectrum really helped me be more responsible about school.

School life wasn’t horrible though. Since I have a fixation on creative writing, English class was always my best subject. I was always excited when my teachers in middle and high school announced an assignment involving creative writing or using a favorite movie or game as the subject of a compare and contrast essay. I also managed to avoid hanging out with kids my age that would have obviously been a bad influence on me.

Currently, I am on course to graduate in the fall of this year with an Associates Degree in Digital Media Arts (which is basically an umbrella term for video production, video games, animation, graphic design etc.). I am really glad that despite my challenges, I have been able to make it this far. I’m really looking forward to the future outside of school.

If your student is having trouble focusing in school or building lasting friendships, consider Aspiring Youth’s programs for children and teens such as our social skills groups or individual tutoring.


Sara Breidenbach is an intern helping with Aspiring Youth summer camps. She is also a student at Bellevue College where she will graduate with an Associates Degree in Digital Media Arts in the fall of 2016.

Through our eyes: Discussing autism

The “Through our eyes” series invites you to hear and learn from the perspectives of young adults in our community living with autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, learning disabilities or other social challenges.

I usually never tell people that I’m on the autism spectrum (specifically that I have Asperger’s Syndrome) unless it’s relevant to the situation.

For instance, when someone makes a passing comment about the spectrum and the conversation goes from there. Or when I’m at school or work and need to advocate for myself for certain reasons. And yet, it seems that almost every time that I tell people I’m on the spectrum, they seem surprised.

“You don’t act like you have Asperger’s,” they say.

“You seem pretty social for a person on the spectrum,” they say.

I’m not entirely sure if they’re just saying that to be nice or if they really mean it, but it’s a pet peeve of mine. But I also need to remind myself that some people don’t understand the autism spectrum and that getting annoyed isn’t going to help.

But the fact remains: yes, I was diagnosed with it. Since I was eleven years old.

I am a firm believer that autism (and any other mental disorder, for that matter) doesn’t affect each person the same way. Some people struggle more in the social aspects than the sensory-motor aspects, and vice versa. There seems to be a stereotype where autistic people are very blunt, do not socialize with others period, and that they come off as non-empathetic to the point of being borderline (if not, completely) sociopathic, which is not always the case.

The way that autism may “appear” depends on the individual and his or her life. In fact, there are tons of people who have been confirmed to be on the spectrum who you would not expect to have the disorder. One of the most prominent is Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of the Pokémon franchise. Another example would be the actor Dan Aykroyd.

In summary, just because you’ve seen a little bit of this person, it doesn’t mean you know everything that goes on with them. Take what people say to you into consideration and privately generate your own conclusions from there.


Sara Breidenbach is an intern helping with Aspiring Youth summer camps. She is also a student at Bellevue College where she will graduate with an Associates Degree in Digital Media Arts in the fall of 2016.

Through our eyes: Becoming an adult

The “Through our eyes” series invites you to hear and learn from the perspectives of young adults in our community living with autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, learning disabilities or other social challenges.

I am twenty three years old as of this post. I am currently an intern at Ryther working alongside the Video Production and Building & Inventing camps, the team running the blog and many other staff members. In the short time that I have been an adult, I have noticed some things about myself that are different than from when I was younger, aside from the obvious things (old enough to drink, vote etc.).

In middle and most of high school, I was sort of shy and was embarrassed about myself and the things I liked. I was afraid that people would pick on me because of my rather narrowed interests. When I was younger, video game and anime enthusiasts seemed to get picked on a lot. I was also a lot less sociable when it came to other kids, and when I did socialize, it was clear that I was very awkward.

Now that I’m older, I find it easier to socialize with people and be more open with myself. However, there are times where I feel my “inner aspie” slip out, and I seem extremely awkward to other people. There are also times when I’m not really sure what to do in a social situation, so I always find myself winging it. So far, I haven’t been yelled at, so it must be working. The motor-sensory side of my Asperger’s has been pretty much the same throughout the years (ex. wool makes my skin feel itchy, dance clubs are too noisy, etc.).

The bottom line is: because I’ve gotten older and have gained a bit more experience in life, I feel a lot more confident about myself.


Sara Breidenbach is an intern helping with Aspiring Youth summer camps. She is also a student at Bellevue College where she will graduate with an Associates Degree in Digital Media Arts in the fall of 2016.