Thursday, June 30, 2016

I've just earned my title as an Autistic Scholar

The other day I got a letter from my community college that I was chosen to be the recipient of a 2,000 dollar scholarship. This officially cements my title as an autistic scholar. This is one step closer to my goal of getting out of graduate school with my MSW and debt free. There's an autism research organization in Virginia Called the Organization for Autism Research and they give out 3000 dollar scholarships to autistic college students and I applied. I'll find out if I got that in August.

I've got 8 credits left to get my Associates of Arts and I'm sitting on a 3.95 GPA which would be a competitive GPA to get the attention of another scholarship organization in Virginia called the Jack Kent Cooke foundation which awards exceptional scholars who transfer from Community colleges a full ride scholarship up to 40k dollars a year all the way through graduate school. 

Here's a little background on the influences I had growing up. I grew up with a misdiagnosis of A.D.D. because I grew up in the 80's which was the ADD era and there wasn't anyone talking about Autism as a spectrum disorder. I grew up diagnosed and medicated as if I had ADD and when I was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome when I was 21 after I had dropped out of school in 11th grade. I got my GED in a program run by the Virginia national guard where we did 2 months of military training with real military personnel at Fort AP Hill VA and then came Back to Virginia Beach to State Military Reserve Camp Pendleton and did 3 months of GED prep mixed with military drills I finished the program and got my GED despite my best attempts to sabotage my efforts so I could go home because I didn't want to be there. Getting my GED set the stage for where I'm at now. I'm 8 credits away from graduating Summa cum Laude and I'm starting to be taken seriously as a scholar, and if the college is willing to invest in my education then I could probably get the attention of other scholarship sources because the end goal is to go to graduate school and get my MSW without any debt by finding people who are willing to help invest in me to learn about Autism and make my own contribution to the body of knowledge of Autism. If you want to know where my love of learning came from let me tell you about my dad.

 I grew up in a military family. My Father is an ex army ranger who got his Masters in Aeronautics from Embry Riddle and his Doctorate in Modeling and Simulations from Old Dominion University after he retired from the army. He worked his way all the way from the bottom of the ranks to become an officer and then he went to ranger school and was stationed with the Arctic Infantry at Fort  Wainwright Alaska. My Dad may have been a bad ass army ranger but he loved and cared about my sisters and I and our mother and was always kind, patient, and compassionate and accepting and  loving. His scholarly pursuits inspired me because he achieved the highest level of Academic excellence with his college money from the military and went from being on welfare early in his career in the army to being a Doctor of Modeling and simulations who published a contextual framework for jetfighter simulations to help train military fighter pilots.

I don't agree with my father working for the military industrial complex and he knows it because of my involvement the radical anti-war collective Food Not Bombs.Our chapter distributes food  to the citizens of the Park Place neighbourhood in Norfolk and to the homeless shelter in Virginia Beach. Food Not Bombs started in Cambridge, Mass.  when a group of anti nuke activists staged a protest against war and poverty by staging a bake sale to raise money for fighter jets. I cut my activist teeth on food not bombs and then occupy Virginia Beach and occupy Norfolk. I was exposed to quakers and catholic workers veterans for peace the IWW and other organizations that believe in challenging the social order through non-violent direct action. Now dont get me wrong I don't have anything against insurrectionary anti-capitalist because I can't square off with riot cops in DC any more like I did when I was younger because  I have a family to look after now and I cant afford bail and my family needs me. I believe that it takes a diversity of tactics to make any long lasting social justice movement.

In high school I was never confident because that was pre diagnosis but ever since I've embraced the neurodiversity paradigm it's really helped to boost my confidence. I went from being a high school dropout to a honor student whose neurodiversity awareness activism has caught the eye of the facaulty at my college. All though I didn't win the award, last semester I was nominated for the 1 in 58 award which is where 1 student from each 58 community colleges in NC get's recognized for academic achievement and good character. Coming from the back ground I come from it feels really good being recognized as an autistic scholar. I want to use what I learn to make life better for myself and my neurodivergent family.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Thanks to everyone who has supported my fundraiser.

I just wanted to thank everyone who has supported my t-shirt fundraiser. We've got a week left and we are 2 shirts away from our goal. I'm going to be graduating with my associates degree and I plan on transferring to Appalachian State University in Boone, NC and getting my drivers license is one of my goals before we move so I can start working on getting a car.

We are caretakers to 2 disabled children and having a car is going to be a necessity for us because we aren't going to have any friends or family to help us once we move. The kids never get to go out and do anything fun, and we have to beg for rides just to get them to and from their appointments.

We appreciate everyone who has offered to help us and we have 1 week left to sell 2 more shirts in order to reach our goal to have the shirts printed and the profits sent to me to go towards behind the wheel driving lessons. It's a win-win situation. You get a limited edition shirt to show your support for neurodiversity and I get help getting my license so that when it comes time for me to transfer to finish my Masters of Social Work I will be able to get my family there.

Please take a look at the fundraiser page and please consider purchasing a shirt to help me reach my goal of getting my drivers license.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Independent living for disabled people should be a policy priority.

I'm getting really tired of politicians calling disabled people burdens. This 
really pisses me off because these people have no idea what it's 
like to have to chose between paying rent, buying groceries or getting 
medications like so many disabled people do every month. According to 
the Bureau of Labour Statistics the employment rate for disabled people 
in 2014 was 17.1%. In contrast, the employment-population ratio for 
those without a disability was 64.6 percent. And out of those
 17% of disabled people who are employed many of them are underemployed 
and underpaid. Through a loophole in the fair standards labor act it is 
possible for employers that hire disabled folks to get an exemption from
 the minimum wage, paying some employees less than a dollar an hour. So 
what this means is that for every 100 disabled people only 17 of them 
are employed and out of those 17 some of them may be earning less than a
 dollar an hour which is nowhere near enough to live off of. People 
don't seem to realize just how grim the outlook is for disabled workers 
in the US. Those who are fortunate enough to be employed still have to 
rely on government programs just to be able to feed and house 
themselves. So the problem isn't that disabled people are a burden, the 
problem is that society wont give disabled people the accommodations 
they need to make a living on their own. We need to continue to #CripTheVote
and force these politicians to address the issues that face our community. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Why I finally decided to officially come out as bisexual.

This summer is going to be hard for me. Having a blended family is hard because even though they aren't my biological children I have formed an unbreakable bond with my partners children. When they have to go to their fathers house for the summer I get depressed because I know they are being neglected and I can't do anything about it.

To give you a little background about my step children’s father he comes from an extremely dysfunctional family in rural North East North Carolina and he tried to come out to them because he was bisexual and as you can imagine it went over like a fart in a Quaker meeting. So he tries to be hyper-masculine and have sex with as many women as possible to cover up his shame of being rejected by his friends and family for trying to honest with them about who he is. 

Part of me feels sorry for him because he didn't feel like he could be true to himself when his family rejected him, but where my sympathy ends is when he let the rejection eat away at him so much that he became emotionally and physically abusive to his children’s mother. This got me thinking about how although I could be considered queer I never chose to identify as such and how I could've just as easily ended up bitter and angry about my sexuality like my partners ex husband and the Orlando nightclub shooter.

I have had sexual relations with both men and women so I am bisexual. I believe that like autism, sexuality is hard-wired in our brains and is an intrinsic part of who we are. I don't think it's anything to be ashamed of I just never felt the need to make an official announcement to my friends and family about who I was having sex with. I always felt that gay men looked at bisexual men as if we didn't really exist. As if we were just confused and waiting for the right person to come along to convince us that we were really gay. Although I hung out in the LGBTQ community as far they were concerned I was just a straight guy with gay friends.

Certain media outlets are suggesting that the shooter in Orlando was a repressed homosexual who was driven to violence by self-hatred and an overbearing father who made his son to feel that he would be better off dead than to be gay. I'm choosing to give up my straight passing privilege and come out now so that my kids know that no matter who they chose to love I will always love and support them. As a neurodivergent family we already have enough going against us, and I refuse to let my children grow up feeling ashamed to be who they are.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

On Being A Target Of Bullies, And Bodily Autonomy.

The kids are getting ready to go to their Biodads for the summer and I am feeling a profound sense of melancholy. Even though these aren't my biological children we have a very strong bond because I was there to show them love and acceptance after their mother got out of an abusive situation. We function in a very specific manner and when we are separated my anxiety goes through the roof because their father is emotionally and physically abusive and there's nothing we can do about because of the law and it tears me apart.

Our family has to put up with a lot because the folks in our neck of the woods are judgemental and value conformity, and being a neurodivergent family we stick out like a sore thumb. It gets exhausting because when we go out in public I am always hyper-vigilant because of my social anxiety. I almost snapped on someone at my kids field day last week, because I was standing in line with my family to get snow cones and I was trying to catch up with them when they moved up in line and some guy thought it was ok to grab me by the back of my book bag and pull me back and said you need to let the kids go boss. When I finally caught up with them I was ready to find this dude and tell him he had no right to put his hands on me.

I try to teach my kids about bodily autonomy, because being neurodivergent kids are more vulnerable than neurotypical kids, and I do everything I can to instil in these children that it's never ok for someone to put their hands on them without their permission, and that if they do put their hands on them that they have a right to say no and defend themselves. I'm trying to raise my kids to be able to stand up for themselves, because I don't want them to be victimized by bullies like I was. I'm going to be a wreck when they are gone.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Buy a Neurodiversity shirt and help support the family of an autistic college student

My name is Joshua White and I am the founder and VP of the Autistic Students and Allies Network of Nash County NC. I started this group because I saw an opportunity to advocate for the other autistic students I met on campus who might not be comfortable dealing with the administration and bureaucracy.

Other than my counsellor and her student helper I've pretty much run this organization by myself, and there are some goals I am working to reach to help me so I can continue to be able to volunteer my time as a campus advocate.
One of these goals is to get my drivers license because I live in a rural area and getting to and from appointments and meetings is very difficult and costly because I don't have Medicaid to help me pay for it, and I have to pay out of pocket for every trip. So I started a t-shirt fund raiser to help me raise money to help me pay for driving lessons so I can get my license and start working on saving up for a car.

By purchasing one of these limited edition Neuro diversity shirts you will help me raise the funds I need to become mobile which will allow me to be able to continue to volunteer my time as a campus advocate, and it will help my family by allowing us to get our children involved in extra curricular activities.
If I can get 10 people to pledge to by a shirt in the next 2 weeks the shirts will be printed up and I will receive the profits which will go towards helping my partner and I to become mobile so that I can continue my advocacy work on campus and so that we can get our kids involved in the activities that they want to participate in. Please share and repost to anyone who may be interested. Thank you and have a good day.

Artwork courtesy of Chelsea Yarger of: Forest Grove Photography

Illustration of a brain on a white background with the words no matter how it works celebrate you