I am writing to you from my heart, and I truly hope you will listen closely. I went the first fifty, yes, FIFTY years of my life NOT knowing I’m autistic! Oh, I knew my entire life that I was different and never fit in. I encountered one obstacle after another, struggled, yet overcame them. I never had ANY intervention like psychologists, occupational therapists, IEP’s, BCBA’s, medications, NOTHING! Yet, I accomplished many things that others only dream of. So how was I able to do it all without any kind of intervention? The answer to that is my mom. She was my support system, my best friend, and coached me along through it all.
One of my biggest accomplishments was earning my Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia from Columbia University in 1988 and then starting my full time career ever since as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. I also became an internationally published military aviation photojournalist and got to fly in an F-15 fighter jet! I used to ride horses in show jumping competitions with over six-foot-high fences! All this and I didn’t know I’m autistic!
I learned of being autistic only by chance, after a co-worker’s son was diagnosed.
Here is the dedication I wrote to my mom in my first book, my memoir, which I wrote right after getting diagnosed at age fifty:
I dedicate this book to my mother, Rita, who enabled me to become the person I am today, and for everything I’ve accomplished throughout my life. She has always believed in me and encouraged me to work hard and follow my dreams, no matter how far-fetched they seemed to be. I’ve always dreamed big, and she’s right there to cheer me on. Because we didn’t know I had Asperger’s syndrome when I was a child, indeed there were endless struggles with my ‘Asperger ways,” but somehow, she instinctively knew exactly what to do with me to keep me calm and focused. I can well remember endless times of getting upset or stressed out over something, but she always remained calm and worked to bring me back to my natural state of peace and calmness. She has devoted her whole life to me, and because of that I have accomplished things that others only dream of, because I focused on the gifts that I was given, when I was born with Asperger’s.
The statement “Knowledge is Power” comes to my mind when I see the upcoming Love & Autism Conference on October 8 & 9, 2016. Dr. Jenny Palmiotto has an incredible line-up of speakers, many of which I’ve personally met. All of them are set to deliver knock-out presentations which every parent can learn from. That information can be taken home and used to enable your autistic child become the best that they can be! I know parents are always searching for services and every avenue for help with their child. But please keep in mind that YOU have the greatest power of all, to help that child. The more you learn, the more powerful you will become!
At last year’s Love & Autism Conference, Abraham and I were married in the first-ever All-Autistic Wedding! Our epic romance turned into married bliss at the Love & Autism Conference! The event attracted international media attention! Parents in attendance saw first-hand the love we share for each other. That in itself was a learning experience for everyone, which was exactly what we hoped for when we opened our wedding to the public. Abraham and I are going stronger than ever, not only in our relationship, but working together towards helping others on the autism spectrum. Although a bit shy of one year, we recently celebrated our first anniversary by renewing our wedding vows in a very special ceremony, in which were included Dr. Jenny Palmiotto, Dr. Stephen Shore, Alex Plank, and Michael Tolleson.
I’m encouraging parents of autistic children to make every effort to attend Love & Autism on October 8 & 9, 2016. You will gain tremendous knowledge from the speakers by hearing each one talking from their heart. You will get to meet them and ask questions. You will leave the conference with a breath of fresh air, a feeling of empowerment. Ready to go home and know you can make a VERY positive impact on your autistic child. You will have gained insight you never thought possible.
When your autistic child grows up to become an adult, what they will remember the most is what their parent(s) did for them. Be their support system. Be their source of knowledge, and most of all, love them. They have gifts that you can nurture. They will make you proud. You must enable them to become independent, and fly from the nest on their own.
Begin your journey at Love & Autism 2016, October 8 & 9!
Anita Lesko, BSN, RN, MS, CRNA
If you haven’t seen Anita and Abraham’s wedding video, grab some tissue and (click here).