Disabilities Column

DISABILITIES
www.danieljvance.com
By Daniel J. Vance MS, LPC, NCC
Not often do I interview people via email instead of over telephone or in person, but Joseph D. Smith of Glasgow, Kentucky, has a sound reason asking for email. He has a high-functioning form of autism.
Over email, he said, “I become very overwhelmed when I even have the thought of having to prepare for something (such as a telephone or in-person interview). I am very withdrawn from social interaction through any means other than typing on the Internet. I will talk in real life, but I fumble my words like crazy, even when I am in what is supposed to be a relaxed situation. I tend to cut conversations short because I don't know what the other person is thinking or capable of (doing), and am afraid I am keeping them longer than what they want to be.”
The National Institutes of Health reports that people with autism have challenges with social interaction, deciphering verbal and nonverbal communication, and exhibiting repetitive behaviors or narrow, obsessive interests. Autism varies considerably in severity, and again, Smith has a high-functioning type.
He continued, “Social interaction and social anxiety are the main difficulties I face. All these things cause me to become overstimulated and overwhelmed, where I just want to cave in (emotionally). I tend to withdraw. I have a lack of empathy that sometimes causes me to act inappropriately (towards others). People get the wrong impression when I sound rude without actually meaning it. I have a hard time even being able to live out on my own.”
One of his life interests has been systematically organizing just about anything, he said, including helping people more efficiently organize their schedules. He also likes learning everything he can about the Indy circuit of pro wrestling, unincorporated U.S. communities, paranormal phenomena, the afterlife, and the human mind.
However, his strongest interests in life have been for creative writing and poetry, and that has included Smith over the years extensively studying grammar, spelling, and punctuation rules. English was his best high school subject. He has written a book called, “The Legendary Graduate,” which chronicled his experience graduating from high school.
Of writing in general, he said, “I tend to only write pieces that inspire and entertain me. For some reason, (some) people hate I am entertained by my own writing, but that doesn't stop me. I love to share my work.”
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