Right now, only one out of five people with autism are female. …
Updated: Thursday, 15 Oct 2009, 10:16 AM EDT
Published : Thursday, 15 Oct 2009, 10:16 AM EDT
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - By the time we're adults, we've come to grips with our personalities. But what if you're entire life you've always felt different and could never figure out why?
This story is about Indiana State University professor Maureen Johnson and the lecture that took her 38 years to create.
Maureen was nervous as she got ready to give one of the most important lectures to her health education students.
"This is something that is not something I advertise honestly to students or anybody," said Maureen to her students.
She's ready to tell them a secret she's kept hidden for two years.
"I honestly have mild autism," said Maureen.
Many people may not believe Maureen is on the spectrum because she's a professor, has her doctorate and often interacts with her students. That's because they've never met a high functioning autistic person before, but they do exist.
Actually, Maureen didn't even find out she had a form of autism until she was 36-years old.
"I'm there [the doctor's office] to be followed up for pneumonia and she said 'Don't freak out, but does anyone in your family have autism?' And of course, I freaked out," said Maureen.
She even tried fighting the diagnosis, blaming her symptoms on her ADHD. The doctor told Maureen she had a mild form of autism and the symptoms had been there all her life.
"You might have noticed that I'm very sensitive to light. That's actually a symptom, the extreme sensitivity," said Maureen.
That's why several rows of lights are always turned off in her classroom. As Maureen talks, it's often hard for her to look at her students, but it's not because she's embarrassed.
"You might notice I look everywhere and it's because I have to look at something neutral, so I can remember what I'm going to say," said Maureen.
That's why she uses outlines to keep her lectures on track.
But as Maureen told her students of her condition, she didn't need notes because she knows exactly what she wants to say about the challenges of autism.
"I don't know if you've ever noticed how distracted I get by side conversations in the room. Not that I don't want you to interact. I do. But I hear those much louder than most," said Maureen.
So sounds like thunder are physically painful for her.
"Thank God, it doesn't storm much during class. I mean it would be class dismissed. See ya. So they're going to be praying for rain here," said Maureen.
She can now joke about her disorder and said being diagnosed later in life was actually a blessing.
"What if I had been diagnosed as a kid? Then maybe I would have been limited by the diagnosis," said Maureen.
Life hasn't always been easy, but Maureen refused to limit herself especially, when it comes to teaching.
"They, bless their hearts, they have gotten used to some of my quirks. My style which might not be the same as other faculty members, but we work well together," said Maureen.
It took only 90 minutes for Maureen to talk about something that took her 38 years to understand.
And because of her courage, 15 more people now know autism doesn't wear a one-size-fits-all label.
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