Hi, I’m Max. I designed the first BabyMama website but do not have Maxwell’s silver hammer. My mother, Claire, is a well-established author and writes articles for BabyMama. I recently graduated from Champlain College in Vermont in December 2014. I majored with a BFA in Graphic Design with background in Web Development and Design. I currently freelance as a Web Designer, doing what I love and juggling multiple projects at once. As I turn 24 in October, I reflect on the daily challenges of my life. I also happen to be an individual with Asperger’s Syndrome, a division of the Autistic Spectrum. As a result, I’ve had more personal and social struggles than most other men my age. I therefore frequently worry about my personal friendships, romantic relationships, and working relationships.
When I was originally diagnosed as being “Autistic,” I didn’t talk, make eye contact, or interact with other kids. When I was little, I attended therapy and learned most of the social skills I have today. Fortunately, I had one very close friend when I was in elementary school. As a teenager, I found myself frequently socializing and making more friends. At that point, I was enjoying the new “outgoing” version of me. By the time I was twelve I had overcome most of the social “quirks” I had as a small child. However, I still struggle with some basic social skills.
I particularly struggle with group conversation and dating. Both dating and conversation give me the highest anxiety of all social situations. Unlike most other boys, I had to learn through behavioral interventions to make basic eye contact, stay “on topic,” and wait my turn to hear someone else finish talking.
Why exactly do I fear my minor social quirks? As I feel anxious making conversation, I sometimes fear talking to clients or employers about work situations. In some situations, I fear that I come across as “unclear” or “incoherent.” Sometimes, the conversations can go off-topic and I won’t necessarily make my point. What could be a conversation about a financial issue or a technical issue on a website could turn into a completely different topic.
These conversation quirks also affect my basic social life. When I’m out at a social event or family get-together, I feel insecure in the middle of a group conversation. It’s always hard for me to tell simply when it’s my turn to talk. Whenever I want to say something in the middle of a group conversation, I can never do so without accidentally interrupting another person or another person. As a result, I fear how others see me in a social conversation or setting.
Since I was a teenager, I’ve struggled with dating. I’ve had a couple of girlfriends, summer romances, and first dates in my life. Every first date is honestly a struggle for me. I don’t always know what to ask, say, or do, on the date. I’ve had successful dates, but I’ve had several dates in which the conversation didn’t flow so well, leaving an unintentional bad first impression. A simple first-date question can come out the wrong way and sound “awkward.” Then, the conversation will go downhill and ruin the date. Even though rejection is the “last thing to fear” in a date, I’ve always feared any kind of rejection. Since I was little, I’ve had to deal with being rejected in social activities such as not getting the football passed to me in a game of football or being asked to sit on the bench throughout my middle school basketball tournaments. Ever since I was in high school, friends have told me I would “never have a girlfriend.” Ever since, I’ve feared I won’t find the right woman to marry in the future.
However, I like to use my social “quirks” as a positive learning experience. Every social situation I’m in, I learn what went well and how I can improve. As a result of each social mistake, I’ve learned how I could improve in these social situations. I have tons of supportive friends and have had very loving girlfriends. I owe it all to the baby steps I’ve made to be where I am today. When people first meet me, they don’t always notice me as “Autistic.” Being on the Spectrum has had a positive effect on my motivation. I probably couldn’t code seven to eight websites within this year without my rather unusual “passion” in Web Design I’ve had since I was a teenager. And to be fair, we can all do better. No one is perfect and everyone has at least some form of “anxiety.”