Monday, May 13, 2013

Interview with Vera Didenko-Autism Acceptance

I am interviewing Vera Didenko, age 32.

Intro: My story really begins, albeit under my birth name, Vera Pletin, when I was age 3. My parents thought I was deaf because I was non-responsive to them calling for me and I wasn't speaking coherently.  We went to several doctors and I was diagnosed with "mild autism." I was later placed in special education and speech therapy in grade school until I was age 9 and 12, respectively. After grade school and high school, my college journey started at Cuyahoga Community College, took a detour and participated in City Year Cleveland, and finished (so far!) at the Ohio Center for Broadcasting. I worked for a few radio stations in continuity, or commercial production, for a number of years. Nowadays, I work under the U.S. Department of Defense, providing support on behalf of our military. Oh, and I did a legal name change in 2011 to Vera Didenko, honoring my dad's biological (albeit technically presumed) father. 

Vera, what is your life like as an Autistic person?
So far, I see my life as an Autistic person as one big adventure. Twists and turns and the like surround my life story. I always find myself to keep going, wanting to know what the next chapter is going to be.

What is the most difficult about being Autistic, for you?

Two words: eye contact. Ugh, I despise it. It feels like someone is ejecting lasers out of their eyeballs and they hit me through my eyeballs and penetrate all the way to the back of my head, leaving me looking back at that person with a glossy stare on my face. Epic embarrassment. What's even more embarrassing is when NT people don't understand why you're not looking at them in the eyes, or start demanding that you look at them, to "prove that you're not lying." 

What is the most joyful, fun, exciting thing about being Autistic?

Two things I credit are my ability to persevere and empathize. I mentioned earlier about how I see my life as an adventure. My perseverance has kept me going to uncover and discover where the adventure takes me next. Along the way, I absolutely love listening to stories being told by people. I find myself picturing in my mind what they're experiencing in their lives. If they have a problem, I try to picture what the best course of action for them to take with whatever knowledge I possess. That's how my empathy comes into play. I believe I wouldn't have those abilities if it wasn't for my Autism.

How has the Autism Acceptance Day/Month effort over the past three years affected you personally? If you were not aware of it until recently, what meaning does Autism Acceptance Day/Month have to you now? 

I wasn't aware of Autism Acceptance Day/Month until this year. I heard about "Autism Awareness," last year, but it didn't really do anything for me. This year, in reading other Autistics' testimonials about how Autism Acceptance has been for them, it has made my whole body, figuratively, jump for joy. It has me even more proud to be Autistic.

What is one thing about acceptance that would make a difference in the world?

Acceptance will make NT people more understanding and reasonable, and less ignorant. Point blank. We as Autistics may not be able to socialize equally to NTs, but we are just as socially equal.

Do you have children or other family members who are Autistic? If you would like to say something about them, please do.

I do have a family member who is also Autistic, albeit self-diagnosed (and for those who know me personally, know who I am talking about). He is my #1 hero of all heroes. His story is way better than mine, but I don't have enough words for this interview today. I do want to thank you for this interview, and the other interviews you have conducted so far! Keep up the great work!

Thank you, Vera. It's people like you who are making these interviews great! Perhaps I will get a chance to interview you further at some point.


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