TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - By the time we're adults, we've come to grips with ourpersonalities. But what if you're entire life you've always feltdifferent and could never figure out why?
This story is about Indiana State University professor MaureenJohnson and the lecture that took her 38 years to create.
Maureen was nervous as she got ready to give one of the mostimportant lectures to her health education students.
"This is something that is not something I advertise honestly tostudents or anybody," said Maureen to her students.
She's ready to tell them a secret she's kept hidden for twoyears.
"I honestly have mild autism," said Maureen.
Many people may not believe Maureen is on the spectrum becauseshe's a professor, has her doctorate and often interacts with herstudents. That's because they've never met a high functioningautistic person before, but they do exist.
Actually, Maureen didn't even find out she had a form of autismuntil she was 36-years old.
"I'm there [the doctor's office] to be followed up for pneumoniaand she said 'Don't freak out, but does anyone in your family haveautism?' And of course, I freaked out," said Maureen.
She even tried fighting the diagnosis, blaming her symptoms onher ADHD. The doctor told Maureen she had a mild form of autism andthe symptoms had been there all her life.
"You might have noticed that I'm very sensitive to light. That'sactually a symptom, the extreme sensitivity," said Maureen.
That's why several rows of lights are always turned off in herclassroom. As Maureen talks, it's often hard for her to look at herstudents, but it's not because she's embarrassed.
"You might notice I look everywhere and it's because I have tolook at something neutral, so I can remember what I'm going tosay," 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'tneed notes because she knows exactly what she wants to say aboutthe challenges of autism.
"I don't know if you've ever noticed how distracted I get byside conversations in the room. Not that I don't want you tointeract. I do. But I hear those much louder than most," saidMaureen.
So sounds like thunder are physically painful for her.
"Thank God, it doesn't storm much during class. I mean it wouldbe class dismissed. See ya. So they're going to be praying for rainhere," said Maureen.
She can now joke about her disorder and said being diagnosedlater in life was actually a blessing.
"What if I had been diagnosed as a kid? Then maybe I would havebeen limited by the diagnosis," said Maureen.
Life hasn't always been easy, but Maureen refused to limitherself especially, when it comes to teaching.
"They, bless their hearts, they have gotten used to some of myquirks. My style which might not be the same as other facultymembers, but we work well together," said Maureen.
It took only 90 minutes for Maureen to talk about something thattook her 38 years to understand.
And because of her courage, 15 more people now know autismdoesn't wear a one-size-fits-all label.
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