Sunday, April 29, 2012

Jaden and Autism Acceptance Month

We're featuring "Slice of Life" conversations with Autistics of all ages -- kids through adults -- throughout April's Autism Acceptance Month.

Our goal is to help TPGA readers understand that autistic people are people who have interesting, complicated lives and who are as diverse and varied as any other population united by a label.

We are the people in each other's neighborhoods, and the more we know about each other -- the more visible autistic people and children are -- the more common autism acceptance will be. That is our hope.


Today we're talking with entomology academic & enthusiast Jaden, who is also a tattoo collector and musician.

What is your name and age?

Jaden. I'm 31.

Do you have a website?

Several:

What would you like a one-sentence description of yourself to say?

Entomologist, musician, and tattoo collector.

Do you have any autistic superpowers? What are they?

I can play any instrument I pick up at an above average level within thirty minutes of trying it for the first time. I can learn any song on any instrument in under an hour. I can take a song from idea in my head to finished recording in under two hours. I can learn anything about bugs. I can work with any arthropod without scaring it. I can study any minute detail of a bug for months or years without getting tired (which will make my PhD project very easy!).

What are some situations that make you happy, or satisfied?

Working with animals or music in a 1-on-1 setting. I really look forward to the day, each week, where I feed my bugs (4 roach colonies, 3 centipedes, 1 spider, 60 tarantulas, 1 scorpion, 80 millipedes).

What are some situations that make you sad, or anxious?

Anything social, especially having to talk on a phone. Also, not being able to take care of something when I'm ready to do it (which usually means it won't ever be done).

Are there specific topics you find particularly compelling?

Arthropod taxonomy. Trying to figure out the evolutionary relationships between species, then naming and categorizing them is absolutely heaven to me. I could spend my whole life on this subject and really enjoy myself.

What are your preferred ways to be social?

Via Twitter or over a game of Magic the Gathering. Twitter limits me running off at the mouth, and Magic gives me something else to focus on.

What traits do you prize in a friend, or companion?

Honesty, loyalty, intelligence, and a good sense of humor (especially for REALLY bad jokes).

Are there parts of your life you wish were easier?

Yes, several. Everyday things that others find to be so easy are a nightmare for me. Dealing with government agencies, making phone calls, scheduling, grocery shopping, making important purchases, dealing with companies who take advantage of me (this is a huge problem for me), etc. My parents helped with these before they died, then a friend took over but he doesn't talk to me anymore. I've been on my own for about two years.

What's the next big goal you have for yourself?

Finishing my undergraduate degree, then moving to New York to start my PhD.

What does bliss feel like to you?

Being able to just relax and do things at my own tempo for a while. Nothing is better than a summer break from school where I have nowhere to be and nothing to do. I spend my time reading, writing music, playing with my dog, and working with my bugs. Everything is calm and quiet. It really doesn't get better than that.