I was officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of autism) in 2004, in my late 20s. Before then, I had been placed in and out of various public school special education programs, given a number of psychiatric diagnoses, and never understood why most others didn’t want to play with me, talk with me, or what made me different from anyone else. In addition, I was basically shrugged off by most teachers and school personnel because my grades were high and I was well-behaved. My situation was even more complicated when my father passed away suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack at the start of my junior year of high school. Although my mom was always very proactive and worked hard to advocate for me and take care of me, my communication problems (which I now know were/are largely autism related) and my mom’s own personal challenges made it hard for me to get along at home sometimes.
After my diagnosis with Asperger’s, I couldn’t find any support in my area (Chicago metro) for adults on the autism spectrum, only for children and parent’s with young children. I started a support group on meetup.com called CASPAN: Chicago Autism SPectrum Adult (and teen) Network. After the group rapidly grew, I learned that many people were driving more than an hour to get to the groups. Some members offered to start similar groups in their regions of the Chicago city and suburbs, and now we have several groups that meet monthly. We have also started a womens group that meets every other month, and we often schedule social activities and attend conferences that come to the area. The meetup site now has over 300 members. These groups have allowed many adults on the spectrum (including myself) to make friends, learn about resources, and understand that I am not the only one that has gone through feeling overwhelmed, isolated, unaccepted, and inadequate.
Our Facebook fan page (with link to meetup site) is: