I have known Brian King for a long time and I am always amazed by his outlook in life. Brian is on the spectrum and he, along with his wife Cathy, are successfully raising three boys. As if raising three boys wasn’t a big enough job, add into the mix that all three are on the spectrum. Each with his own unique ability, need and contribution to the world. I think this amazing experience has helped Brian with his outreach to others around the world. He is a genius and I know, first hand, many the life lessons he has learned are true labors of love.
1. When and how did you first become aware of autism?
My first recollection of having any extensive exposure to what autism meant was the movie Rain Man. I encountered it again briefly in a psychopathology class while studying for my master’s degree in social work.
2. How would you describe autism?
The way I describe autism in my book Strategies for Building Successful Relationships with People on the Autism Spectrum: Let’s Relate! http://amzn.to/TlsiD3 is “the ongoing struggle to stay calm and focused with a globally disorganized nervous system.” I chose this description because this is what it feels like (to me).
3. Would you wish to be ‘cured’ if that was possible?
NO. Here’s the problem with that notion. One often presumes that autism is like some kind of a tumor that can be carved out of a person’s body while leaving everything else intact. The way my brain is wired is invariably interconnected with every part of me so which is the autism part and which isn’t. Its all me.
With that said, I want to make it very clear that I don’t consider myself “Autistic.” What does that mean anyway?
Calling someone “autistic” is like calling someone “blind,” “catholic,” Italian,” or whatever.
The only thing that word tells you about a person is any stereotypes you’ve learned about what that word means. You don’t know anything until you get to know the person.
Many labels have been used to describe my various challenges over the years including, Asperger’s, ADD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Sensory Integration disorder. What I’ve learned is that these are only ingredients in the great big cake called Brian. They aren’t the only ingredients, there’s so much more.
What ultimately defines me is my humanity, how I live my life regardless of my challenges. Every person I’ve met, that I admire, has a story about something they’ve overcome to get where they are. I have a story like that too; it’s the story of humankind. We fall down, we get back up. Some of us more often than others, but so what? Does that make us disabled, victims? NO, it just means we’re blessed with more opportunities than most to experience our own strength, resourcefulness and resilience.
Don’t get me wrong, living life with so many falls positively sucks most of the time. I’m not trying to paint that living with these challenges is all wine and roses. What I’m saying is that take your strengths and challenges, whatever they are and run with them.
Find the beauty within the neurological chaos and work your ass off to put it out there.
That’s when you begin to live. That’s when experience the moments that make all the difficulty worth it.
When you discover the character you wield by virtue of the tenacity you’ve developed over time, you find yourself engaging the world with a humility and compassion those who struggle very little can’t even conceive of. Our humble humanity is a gift to a world of increasing arrogance. That’s my take on it.
4. In what ways has autism helped you to realize gifts (yours and / or another’s)?
Through recent testing I discovered that I’m in the 99.6th percentile in verbal ability while the other abilities are in the 30th percentile are lower.
My brain has wired itself over time to compensate for significantly compromised visual processing which impacts my ability to pick up body language or other cues from my environment.
This compensation has resulted in my being a phenomenal listener and gifted communicator. I love to present and write because these are areas in which I feel most at home in myself, these are the two areas of myself that seem to work with the least amount of struggle.
I imagine that’s why so many spectrumites will spend countless hours engaged in their special interest, because that’s when the winds of adversity die down and they feel like they can settle in to the experience of something working for a change.
5. What has been the most challenging to you with regards to autism?
I work so hard every day to stay organized both mentally and physically that my ability to be productive from day to day is inconsistent. Consider it like weather, some days are windier than others. Unfortunately I can’t forecast it.
6. How have you overcome this? *If you are still working on it, what are you doing?
I haven’t overcome anything; I’ve simply learned strategies to work around my challenges. I learned some social short cuts to make communication easier to accomplish in spite of my nonverbal challenges. I describe these short cuts in the book I mentioned earlier.
I also get a lot of help from those around me because there are some things my brain simply doesn’t do because of my executive functioning challenges.
7. What are you the most proud of accomplishing?
Becoming a parent, hands down. I was told I might never be able to father children because of the testicular cancer I had when I was 18 years old. Here I am all these years later with three sons. It is through them that I learned about Autism because the older two are on the spectrum. That’s how I learned about how autism described some of my own challenges as well.
Having to become the kind of person and role model my sons need me to be has turned me into a person far stronger than I ever thought I could be. I am their student and they teach me so much every day.
8. What is the #1 tool you would like to give to people who have autism?
Self-Awareness. Get to know yourself, your strengths and challenges, honestly and intimately. There’s little hope of being able to partner with other people to achieve what you’re capable of in life if other’s need to figure out who you are and what you need.
9. What is the greatest lesson in life that you ever learned? *How did this change your outlook?
Humility; that I don’t need to be perfect, normal, the first or the best. I simply need to be human. When I’m human I’m just like everyone else, different and yet the same.
10. What do you need help with in order to achieve your goals / dreams?
Organization and execution. I think of a lot of things I’d like to accomplish for my business but my ADD and Executive Functioning challenges are so great I have no idea how to create and execute a plan. Without others I’m unable to put things in motion and see them through. I have the determination; I just need help with the plan and staying on track.
Learn more about Brian here: http://BrianRaymondKing.com Read the review I wrote about his amazing book here: Let’s Relate By Brian R. King LCSW
This interview with Brian was interesting and eye-opening to me. I love his thoughts on not wanting to be cured. If you have thoughts and / or questions, please present them here. All submissions are moderated.
Your comments, questions and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated. Ill-willed comments of any kind are not allowed here. Please be kind. The law of attraction is always at work: that which you sow, so shall you grow. Thank you and have an incredibly blessed day!
Proud to be the mom of two incredibly awesome boys! One just happens to have Asperger’s Syndrome. Both teach me how to be grateful for life every day.
By Rhonda Spellman, Founder of The Creative Cranium Concept®
Creator of The HINT Game®, The Write Story® and more for children!
Reaching, Teaching and Inspiring Those with Special Abilities