When Jeannie Davide-Rivera wrote to us about her book, Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed; Growing Up With Undiagnosed Autism it reminded my a lot of another book I reviewed, Under the Banana Moon: A True Story of Living, Loving, Loss and Asperger’s by Kimberley Gerry-Tucker. We also have a marvelous interview with Kimberly Gerry-Tucker that reminds so much of exactly what Jeannie Davide-Rivera writes about growing up with undiagnosed autism. I suggest you visit Jeannie’s web site, Aspie Writer; Understanding Autism from the Inside. Here anyone whose lives are touched by autism spectrum disorders (ASD) will find a wealth of information.
Jennie wrote, “The more I learned about autism, the more I needed to know. I researched, and read—a lot. Then I began to write. Writing—being able to communicate what I could never say with my spoken words has been a freeing and exhilarating experience.”
We thank Jeannie for doing such a fine job introducing our readers to her book about growing up with undiagnosed autism.
In this except from Twirling Naked in the Streets and No-One Noticed you can understand a little what it must be like to finally receive a late diagnosis:
It is no wonder that I had tears of relief to find out, finally, the truth—to discover an explanation, a diagnosis that explained not one or two of my symptoms or behaviours but ALL of them. Finally, someone saw me.
Despite my feelings of relief at receiving a proper diagnosis, depression began to set in. The thoughts of all the needless pain, all the missed opportunities, all the things if only I’d known I could have done differently were hard to banish.
The difference this time was that the depression did not stay very long. I rapidly found a way to communicate with other people like me—with other autistic adults.
I had never been a big fan of online communications, did not have a Facebook page or Twitter account, and had very little use for technology like smart phones—but now I am ruined. The communities and friendships that I have found online with other autistic adults helped me move quickly from depression to learning to accept my “condition.”
Guest Post by Jeannie Davide-Rivera: Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed; Growing Up With Undiagnosed Autism
Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed is a non-fiction memoir about my life growing up with undiagnosed Autism. I grew up in a world before Autism awareness, and advocacy–and was born twenty years before Asperger’s syndrome (AS), a form of high-functioning autism, was recognized as a formal diagnosis in the United States. In fact, by the time AS was recognized, I had already dropped out of college, and felt like there was something very wrong with me.
It took 38 years to be properly diagnosed with autism. Before that time, I had been misunderstood, mistreated, and misdiagnosed. It was not until after my diagnosis that a light bulb went on, and my world became illuminated. I searched for any and all information I could find on Asperger’s syndrome, or adults with autism and found very little. Especially lacking were accounts written for, and by, autistic woman. The few things I read resounded so loudly with me and were so important that I knew I had to share my story with others. It is important for others to see reflections of themselves in this world–important to know that they are not alone.
Twirling Naked…takes you on a journey through childhood–my childhood, and gives you an inside look at what goes on in the mind of a child on the autism spectrum. Beyond childhood I explain what it is like to be spinning in a world that makes no sense. You will get a look at what it is like to be an adult struggling with things like executive dysfunction, face-blindness, and hyper-reactivity to sensory stimuli.
Twirling was written to tell my own story, but has reached so far beyond what I had ever dreamed or imagined. It is recommended for anyone who has a child with autism, wants to understand or communicate with autistic people, or has any peripheral connection with someone on the spectrum.
Back Cover Description:
Jeannie grew up with autism, but no one around her knew it. Twirling Naked in the Streets will take you on a journey into the mind of a child on the autism spectrum; a child who grows into an adolescent, an adult, and becomes a wife, mother, student, and writer with autism.
This is a gripping memoir of a quirky, weird, but gifted child who grows up never quite finding her niche only to discover at the age of 38 that all the issues, problems, and weirdness she experienced were because she had Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), a form of high-functioning autism.
The tale begins at age three and takes us all the way through her diagnosis. Along the way she explains autism in a way that will have fellow “Aspies” crying tears of joy at being understood, and “neuro-typical” people really starting to grasp the challenges that autistic people face every moment of every day.
Twirling was dubbed an “excellent and informative read even if you think you “know” autism (Amazon Reviewer)”
This book was written to give an inside look at the life of children on the autism spectrum–a child who grows into an adolescent, then an adult, and becomes a wife, mother, student, and writer with autism. Twirling is meant to help you understand autism in a more intimate way–from the inside.
This book is targeted towards parents of children on the autism spectrum, educators, late diagnosed adults, and anyone who has a desire to know more about, or has someone in their lives with autism.
An excerpt from Twirling Naked in the Streets and No-One Noticed…
THE PRINCESS, HER SOCKS, AND HER LATE PASS
“You tried on ten pairs of socks every morning before deciding which pair you would wear” ~ Mom
I hate socks. I hate the way they feel on my feet, the way they bunch up in my shoes, and how the seams rub against my toes when I walk. Socks make me hot.
When I’m overheated the first thing I need to do is rip them off—now.
To make matter worse my mother liked to buy thin nylon socks trimmed with lace. Not many materials irritate me more than scratchy lace. The thin nylon socks made my feet sweaty. My feet slid around inside my hard patent leather school shoes. They were not good shoes for a clumsy kindergartener.
When I finally found a pair of socks that I could wear, they usually did not match. Mom insisted that I just didn’t like any of the socks, but if that was the case then why did I need to try each pair on? Why did I need to see how they felt on my feet? Wouldn’t I have just flat out refused to put them on because I didn’t like them?
By the time I was dressed, and my three year old brother was in the carriage, we were rushing to make it to school on time.
“You could not make Jeannie move fast.” ~ Mom
Every morning the three of us set out to walk the five blocks to school. We headed up the avenue in the opposite direction of Grandma’s fabric store. We walked past the pork store, my favorite candy store, which was still closed and covered with a steel shutter, past the bagel store, the Becker’s carpet shop, and across 61st street with the crossing guard waving us onward.
“Jeannie you’re going to be late,” mom said. I had stopped short in front of the side entrance to the school. My mother turned to the right heading toward the schoolyard where the kindergarteners entered, and I turned left.
“You can still go in through the schoolyard,” mom said.
I said nothing, stayed the path, and marched around the corner heading for the front entrance; Mom followed.
I stepped inside the door just when the bell rang.
“Good Morning, Jeannie.” The woman’s voice said from the small desk that sat just to the left side of the entrance. I kept walking.
Mother was still wrestling my brother out of his carriage when I started climbing the towering steps. When I reached the first landing I stopped and stooped down.
“Hurry up, Jeannie. Your late,” the woman’s voice came from below.
“I have to fix my shoes.”
When I was satisfied with my adjustments, I continued my assent to the first floor, and marched to the main office. I walked straight past the ladies behind the desk, around the counter, past the school secretary, and into the principal’s office.
Mr. Hiler was a huge man; he towered over me, his head reaching almost to the ceiling when he stood up. “Hello Jeannie,” he said walking out from behind his desk. He handed me a small piece of paper all ready and waiting for me. I hopped up into the seat in front of his desk.
“She still won’t come in through the school yard,” mother said. She was slightly out of breath from toting my brother up the stairs on her hip. Mr. Hiler smiled; mother did not. “Why won’t you come in through the schoolyard?” he asked. “She just wants to be late, “mother said.
“I have to see Mr. Hiler for my late pass.”
“You wouldn’t need a late pass if you went in the other way,” mom argued.
“I need to see Mr. Hiler for my late pass!” I said in a slightly louder voice than before to make my point clearer. Mom’s face turned red. Why does her face turn that color?
“It’s alright, Jeannie can come to see me whenever she likes,” Mr. Hiler said. “Now off to class, Mrs. Divine is waiting for you.”
I smiled, and walked out of his office scowling at my mother as I went by. Why didn’t she understand? She knows I have to get my late pass.
To my mother, I was just being difficult; I wanted to do things my own way. I had a mind of my own and no-one was going to change it—ever.
This scene played itself over and over again. The leaves dried up, snow fell, flowers bloomed, and days changed. My patent leather shoes changed into snow boots, and my boots to sandals, but the routine never changed. I marched to the front entrance, up the stairs to the landing, fixed my shoes, walked into the office, ignored the ladies, and drifted into Mr. Hiler’s office to retrieve my late pass. Then, and only then, did I go to see Mrs. Divine, my kindergarten teacher.
Mr. Hiler’s words, Jeannie can come to see me whenever she likes, proved troublesome for years to come.
Looking back I now know my morning sock routine was due to tactile sensitivities. I needed to find a pair I could tolerate. I know this because I am the same today about my socks. But what about the rest of my routine? Was my pause to fix my shoes on the landing born from the socks and shoes being irritating? Why did I only fix them on that landing—every single day without deviation for the entire school year?
I could not stray from that routine. I suspect that it was the routine I adopted on the first day of school, and that was how every day of school thereafter had to go. Yes—I was late on my first day of kindergarten because of the rocks in my socks that no-one could find.
As an adult I find myself adhering to very similar patterns of behavior. If I unpack boxes from a move and put something away it is very difficult for me to move it. That becomes its place, and it always lives there even if it is not where I want it. It is important for me to unpack and arrange my things thoughtfully the first time because wherever I place the toaster is where it is going to stay. That initial placing, the initial routine becomes set in stone.
Jeannie Davide-Rivera is an author and professional blogger with Asperger’s syndrome living in South Carolina with her husband and her three autistic sons.
Growing up with undiagnosed autism, and now raising three ASD children gives her a unique inside look into the world of those living with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
For more information and articles written about autism, readers can visit Jeannie Davide-Rivera’s website: Aspie Writer: Understanding Autism from the Inside at www.aspiewriter.com, where she writes about life in their Aspie home. Jeannie has also recently been recruited to write for Answers.com as their Autism Category Expert Writer. Her new articles will be appearing on Answers.com shortly here.
Read our interview with Jeannie Davide-Rivera.
Buy the Book!
Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed: Growing Up With Undiagnosed Autism was released in e-book and paperback format on April 10, 2013. Paperback: 204 pages.