Cynthia Parkhill is a newspaper editor and columnist working in Northern California who has recently returned to school to pursue a library degree. She and her husband share their home with one loved cat.
My name is Cynthia Parkhill and I learned at age 39 that I am on the autism spectrum.
When I was going to school, there was no “autism spectrum” as it is understood today, so I had absolutely no explanation for why I was so different from everyone around me — ridiculed and shunned in school and often at-odds with members of my family for so-called “picky eating.”
For most of my life, I felt alone and out-of-place, like an alien from another planet. My only friends were my cats, for whom I felt a rare kinship.
I was drawn to science fiction and fantasy, as well as to authors’ work and fiction set in the Renaissance, the Regency and the Victorian age. Among the characters in the Star Trek franchises, I could most relate to Mr. Spock, Data and Seven-of-Nine.
I was fortunate in young-adulthood to discover a medieval reenactment group, the Society for Creative Anachronism, where I could pursue my interests in historical costumes and build relationships around those interests.
I met my husband through the SCA and acquired my first experience meeting deadlines as a publisher of newsletters for local and regional groups. Even though I am not currently active in the SCA, I think this early newsletter publishing served me well later in my professional capacity as a newspaper paginator/editor.
It was while I was working in my present occupation that I learned I have Asperger’s syndrome and from time to time, I write newspaper columns about these experiences.
Learning that I have Asperger’s syndrome was such a relief for me: reading Dr. Tony Attwood’s book, “The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome,” was like reading my own biography. Finally, I made sense and, moreover, there were people in the world like me! Reading other people’s narrative accounts also strengthened my understanding of our similar experiences, our gifts and challenges.
Today, two particular concerns for me are to raise the profile of adults on the spectrum and to advocate zero tolerance for bullying.
If you’re past a certain age, you simply can’t provide proof of diagnosis in childhood, because the diagnostic criteria were not even recognized then. This excludes an entire generation of adults from any help that they might need.
My dream is to curate a definitive library collection that is tailored for adults on the spectrum. Perhaps some of the books in that collection will even be authored by me.