January 6, 2020
I have autism. Specifically, I have Asperger's Syndrome. Having Asperger's Syndrome is a lot like being an alien landing on a foreign planet. You don't understand what facial expressions mean, nor can you recognize human emotion. You are an outcast that cannot communicate with everyone else, and you wonder if something is truly wrong with you. Connection with a person seems so dreadfully unattainable.
Facial expressions, body language, and vocal fluctuations in human communication usually develop naturally and innately in a neurotypical kid. A neurotypical child will process that a smile is equivalent to happiness, that tears are to sadness, and enlarged eyes are to surprise. I, a person with Asperger's, was not able to learn these ques organically, but rather through scholarly means. I vividly remember spending free time in middle school huddled over a massive psychology textbook, studying human movement, culture, and emotion in a quantifiable way.
There is a clear difference in the location of facial muscle tension between those in states of frustration and those in states of happiness. Happiness involves tension closer to the outer corner of the eyes, while frustration involves tension on the forehead, jaw, and brow.
Though not useful in my quest to comprehend human interaction, my analytical and visual mind, and very basic grasp on emotions allowed me to thrive and succeed as an above-average student on my report card. I have been able to train myself to control my facial expressions, mimicking the patterns of others. Most importantly, I am able to connect with nature and animals in a way that very few can. The efficient cycles and processes of nature that pass like clockwork fascinate me, and have introduced me to my first true emotion: wonder. While analytical and complex, there was a perfect quality to the processes that kept life going, incorporating a sense of magic into the way I saw the world.
While I hope to more closely work with animals in their natural environment as a vocation, I have been able to further my study of people, and animal behavior in relation to people in my internship as a dog groomer. Pet owners' investment in their animal's appearance fascinates me because I am so much more thinking about the animal's experience being groomed.
In studying nature, life, and what makes it all work, I found a niche in this foreign planet, and I began to feel like I could belong somewhere.
I want to go to college to connect with not just animals and my inner world, but also the world of others. I want to spend my days studying ecosystems with likeminded people, and change the way that people view their planet. I look forward to all of those things in my experience at the University of Delaware.