On being a Jew with Autism

For those of you unaware, April is Autism awareness month. I was diagnosed with Autism then Asperger Syndrome at age 4 and then it was brought up again when I was 14. One point I cannot stress enough is no two people with Autism are the same. I also want to point out that people with Autism aren’t idiots. Sure it might take us longer to do something but that doesn’t mean we’re stupid. I can remember things better and can understand idioms and expressions and perhaps what i’m proudest of is being able to make and sustain eye contact.

Let’s start with Elementary School, I made a few friends but when I was in 5th grade there was a student who blurted out, “”Jewish People Suck!”. Now this is something that I remember to this day. I’m sure if I ran into this student today, he’d be surprised.that I remember but even though I had friends in grade school it felt hard to fit in and I only felt happy when I was watching Pokemon, Digimon or Power Rangers. As an adult I have a nostalgia for all 3 and that’s why I did my history of Power Rangers and don’t worry I’ll cover the Alola Anime eventually for history of Pokemon but I digress.

As I reached Middle School, my Bar Mitzvah was coming up and the junior rabbi has made quite the impact on my life. He took me to a water park for participating in his summer torah study. I remember that and during the climax of my Bar Mitzvah he handed me a book and said, “Sam, there’s no blessing in here for The Simpsons but as you get older you’ll figure out to do with your love for them.” We’ll get to those wise words later.

Before entering my Freshman year of High School I was interviewed on the radio for my action figure collection it currently has over 3000 pieces. When I turned 16, I decided to go public with my diagnosis of Autism. My high school health teacher  and the school counselor,  I still admire to this day. Ms. Ewing taught us the importance of time management and how a true teacher doesn’t choose favorites but learns from their students and doesn’t do it for the money.

After I graduated from high school, my parents filed for a divorce. I went through the usual range of emotions for a divorce; felt like it was my fault, I didn’t know what to do exactly. My dad has a steady girlfriend now and I like her a lot. I graduated high school with presidential honors.

I currently have an associate’s degree from college and while I was in college I attended 10 leadership conferences and made a few close friends. My friend Katie who has a traumatic brain injury took a shining to me right away, not because of having autism or being Jewish but because I was really honest and not a fake. She describes my sense of humor as being very bland and very British.

In the winter of 2010, I was 21. I went on what’s known as a birthright tour. During my fall quarter, I was cyber bullied and my dog passed away. On the plus side, I got accepted to go on my birthright tour, which was amazing because I wasn’t the only Jewish person with Autism in that group. I became fast friends with one of my tour mates who shared a mutual love of movies with me. On the third day, she turned to me and said, “I’m impressed. I’ve never met anyone who knew this much about Power Rangers. You should be proud.” Up until this point I was ashamed of my Power Rangers fandom. Even though I watch reruns with a friend I’ve long since put my fandom to bed.

After graduating with my associate’s in 2014, I met Alexandra Olson. A woman who went to my Synagogue. I answered her questions about Judaism and she heard what I had to say about Super Sentai and Power Rangers. Comment below if you’d like to hear more about Alexandra and my friendship. On July 26, 2015, I swam my first mile. I did 4 sets of 9. We can all agree that 2016 was a horrible year. My positives for that year were getting all the original Pokemon for my action figure collection,and I received a pin for donating 3 gallons of blood.

Let’s talk about last year. On July 3, 2017 I was able to swim a mile uninterrupted and on October 5 of the same year, I swam my first two mile swim with a two mile break. So what does all this have to do with autism? Well I wanted to share that I’ve done a lot of things that I’m proud of because Saturday is my birthday and feel free to leave a comment saying Happy Birthday.

As my birthday comes close I want to share with you the things I’m proudest of:

  • My figurine collection – I have over 3000 pieces yet they’re all organized and in Ziploc bags by Genre
  • My cooking – Not only is this a valuable life skill, but it really helps bring joy to others
  • Graduating College – during college I attended 10 leadership seminars and through student leadership I met my best friends. Although it’s an associate’s, now I just want to find a job and then consider going back to school
  • Not being ashamed of being Autistic – As a teenager, this made me a little head strong but as I got older, it got easier
  • Being able to make and sustain eye contact – A lot of people with Autism don’t understand the importance of things like this but I do.

Before I wrap up, I want to discuss the junior rabbi’s last words and how they effected me from my Bar Mitzvah. Once again the words were; “Sam, there’s no blessing in this book here for The Simpsons but if you look hard enough you’ll figure out what to do with your love for them.” It wasn’t until November that I knew what I had to do. That’s why I started the History of The Simpsons. I still want to do this and I’m not stopping my blog about it until The Simpsons ends

To sum up I’d like to thank the junior rabbi who although he hasn’t seen me in 16 years, is still a good source of wisdom for me and I hope to share some of my recipes with him and maybe a couple of laughs too. When he was with my synagogue his sermons were always right on the mark. I also want to thank my high school health teacher who has followed my life into adulthood and if she’s reading this, I want her to know that my next fitness goal is to swim 2 miles uninterrupted and at the time of this blog’s release, I can currently swim 51 laps uninterrupted.

I’d also like to thank Jon AKA Mr. Weenie for being a good friend and seeing me first and my autism second. I’ve met a bunch of power rangers fans over the course of my life. He’s definitely one of the nicest ones. If Jon should ever come up to Seattle, he should be prepared for some good food made by yours truly.

Another person I’d like to thank is my tour mate. Our tour was 8 years ago come december of this year and honestly without her, I’d probably still be ashamed of being a fan of super sentai and wouldn’t have opened up to my best friend in college about it.

The next to last person I’d like to thank is my friend Josh. We went to the same Jewish summer camp together. We were co-counselors for the younger kids and have been close ever since. My brother might have recruited him for B’nai Brith Youth Organization but because of a mutual acquaintance, Josh and I have become thick as thieves.

The last person I’d like to thank is you, the reader. I want you to remember that not all people with Autism are the same and if anyone tells you otherwise, just know that is a very slanderous thing to say. Have a wonderful day and thanks for reading.

 

On being a Jew with Autism

4 thoughts on “On being a Jew with Autism

  1. Sam Argana says:

    This is great Sam. You have great knowledge, talent and hobbies. I especially like how we talk about your recipes and our swimming we both do

    Like

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