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Saturday, April 15, 2017
Interview with Lori Berkowitz- Autism Acceptance Day 2017
Interview with Lori Berkowitz, who is 50, and a web developer (who has helped me with setting things up for some of my sites!)
I am a web developer living in Baltimore, MD with my wife Karen and our 2 cats, Nikkyo and Buster. I own and run a freelance web design, hosting, and consulting business called BeeDragon Web Services (https://beedragon.com). I was misdiagnosed with many things from early childhood until adulthood before being properly diagnosed with autism 12 years ago. I write about being autistic and other random things on my website LoriB.me (https://lorib.me).
What is your life like as an Autistic person?
My life as an autistic person is probably similar to the life of someone who is not autistic in a lot of ways. It is a mixture of using my abilities to do my job and live my life, and working around my challenges to try and be a part of the world and have a social life. I am extremely lucky to have found a partner who values and accepts my differences, and over the years, we have learned to communicate and live our lives so that we both have our needs met, either by adapting and finding ways to take part in things that are difficult, or by accepting that there are certain things that we will need to do alone or with other people, even if we would have preferred to do them with each other.
There are many frustrations that I have to deal with due to sensory overload, other sensory processing differences, and concentration difficulties, but some parts of my work benefit greatly because I am autistic. Being able to hyper focus on certain problems and details is a good skill to have in my business and allows me to be good at what I do. Certain parts of my job, like the actual running of a business, are especially challenging. I am hoping to someday find a business partner to take care of that side of things.
What is the most joyful, fun, exciting thing about being Autistic?
My favorite part about being autistic is the ability to delve deeply into things that interest me and to learn them at a level where they really make sense to me so that I can apply what I have learned to other areas of interest, to my work, or to teach other people about them.
What is the most difficult about being Autistic, for you?
The most difficult parts of being autistic for me are the problems I have being social and the way that I get easily overwhelmed when too many things are going on at once.
I like people a lot but have a very hard time interacting with them. Part of that is not understanding a lot of social cues and the million unspoken rules of social interaction that other people seem to know. Another part is having trouble processing multiple things at once and having a delay between someone saying something, and me hearing it. The delay is short, but conversations move quickly, and it doesn’t take long to lose track of what is going on while others in the conversation are not having the same issue and have already moved on.
How has the Autism Acceptance Day/Month effort over the past seven years affected you personally?
Autism Acceptance Day affects me every year. I try to write something if I can. When it was first suggested to me that I was autistic over 20 years ago, I completely rejected the idea because I had a very wrong idea of what it meant to be autistic. It wasn’t until over 10 years later that I read something written by another autistic person and realized that I had been very wrong to reject the idea, and that it explained about a million previously unexplainable things all at once.
Since then, I have been on a mission to help autistic people find each other on the internet. I think that Autism Acceptance Day/Month is a great way to make that happen and I was very happy when I found out about it! Thanks Paula :)
What does “moving beyond awareness” mean to you?
Moving beyond awareness means that it is not enough to just acknowledge that autistic people exist. Our differences give us a unique way of viewing the world and organizing the same facts that are common to everyone into systems that are uncommon. It is important to look at things in different ways in order to understand them better. Autistic people have a contribution to make to the world just by that fact alone, not to mention all of the other things that result from having unique perspectives. The contributions of autistic people need to be viewed as part of what makes society move along and progress, and not as something that needs to be cured and fixed. There are alternative means of communication and other supports that will allow us to be a valuable part of the world if given the chance.
What is one thing about acceptance that would make a difference in the world?
Acceptance would give autistic people a chance to get the types of support they need in order to contribute to society in ways that they are uniquely qualified to do. The more types of people that contribute to society, the more likely it is that society will benefit more types of people.