What Do You Think of J-Mac?
Recently, I found The Game of My Life, an autobiography by that boy - Jason McElwain, also called J-Mac. I'm not sure what I think about J-Mac, so I was thinking of quoting some things he says and asking my readers (if anyone actually reads this) what they think.
At the start of the main body of the book, he says:
"I'm used to people looking at me like I'm different. It doesn't bother me. I don't even notice it. When they ask me what it's like to be autistic, I don't know how to answer. It's just how I am. It's like asking someone what it's like to be tall or short, fat or skinny. It's like asking a tomato what it's like to be a tomato. It's normal. It's me. I don't think I'm any different from anyone else. Really, I don't. I look at the world the same way as anyone else. I see myself in the mirror and how I look to other people. I think about things probably the same way you think about things. It's just that the world looks back at me a little funny, like I'm a little different."
He describes his functioning level and learning over time like this:
"I want to tell people that there are a lot of very successful people who have some type of autism. It's pretty common. Some people have a very severe form of it, and some people have a very mild form of it, and if you're on the mild side you can go to college and get a good job and live what a lot of people would call a normal life. I'm somewhere in between. With me, I started out having a very severe form of it; that's what the doctors told my parents when I was little. But then as I got older, I got more and more social, and I got involved in more and more activities with other kids, and that helped me a lot with my autism. It forced me to do some of the things I wasn't comfortable doing, and to do them over and over until I became comfortable doing them. But you can't grow out of autism. You can't cure it. There are no medicines you can take to make it go away, and now all my friends have graduated high school and gone off to college and I know I'm probably not ever going to college. I understand that. But the reason they're all going to college is to get a job, and I've already got a job. And it's a good job, too. I work at Wegmans, a local supermarket, and I hope to stay at that job, and to me that's a normal life. Maybe someday I'll get an apartment and live on my own, which is what all my friends will be doing, too."
He has a regular pattern of describing a problem he has and saying plenty of non-autistics also have the same problem, possibly milder, like this:
"It's true that sometimes it's hard to put into words what's bouncing around in my head, but I know a lot of people who don't have autism who have the same problem. They say things they don't mean or mean things they don't say. They say one thing and do something else. They forget something they should probably remember."
"I'm not so patient. When something's coming, when something's about to happen, I want it to just hurry up and happen. I'm like, Enough already! Let's go! I guess a lot of people are the same way, but on the other people you don't notice it. On me, you notice it. I think probably this is because of my autism. I think it makes me not so patient. ... I get all nervous and jumpy and I start pacing back and forth. I start talking a lot and asking a lot of questions. I don't know what to do with myself; that's the expression people say for how nervous I can be, how jumpy. When I was little, I used to wave my arms back and forth whenever I got excited, almost like I was flapping, but I didn't do that anymore. At first I had to keep my hands in my pockets to keep from doing it, but after that I just stopped doing it."
As the second of the above quotes indicates, he views some autistic behavior as bad things he should try to stop, such as 'stimming'. Here's a quote about 'autistic outbursts' and another about where he learnt this from:
"The running around and screaming in the middle of the night [night terrors] was called an autistic outburst. I had different kinds of these, not just in the middle of the night. Sometimes I would flap my arms up and down and all around, like a bird. Sometimes I would just kick and scream. Sometimes I would just run around, out of control."
"I don't know where I got this from, but if I fall into one of my bad habits, like humming or flapping my hands or a whole bunch of different things I do when I don't even know I'm doing them, then someone just points it out to me and I focus on it and I get it under control. Usually it's my mom pointing it out to me, what I'm doing wrong, but I guess this is how it is for a lot of people, right? I guess my mom is like a lot of moms. She wants what's best for me. She wants everyone to see me in the best possible way. ... She wants people to think I'm normal, but she's just looking out for me, the same way she looks out for my brother, Josh, and he's not autistic. He's away at college, and she still calls him every night to make sure he's eating properly, or cleaning his room, or doing his homework. She wants what's best for him, too."
However, some parts of being autistic he seems unconcerned about:
"She doesn't want me to say or do anything to embarrass myself, but I don't really get embarrassed. I don't really care about that stuff. I went to a doctor once and he told me that autistic kids usually don't think about how they look to everyone else, and I think that's probably true about me."
"All the best players, the best shooters, they take a thousand shots a day. A thousand shots from the free throw line. A thousand shots from the corner. A thousand shots from the top of the key. A thousand layups. I don't think I took that many shots, but I took a lot of shots. After a while, it's like your memory. It becomes natural. Your body knows what to do because it's done the same thing so many times. That's how it is when you're autistic. Anyway, that's how it is for me."
Here's how he talks about some labels people give him:
"A lot of people, when they hear I'm writing a book, they look at me like I'm making a joke. They don't believe me. They think because I'm autistic I must be slow, or simple, or retarded. Well, I am slow. That's just how my brain works. It takes me a while to get the words out. It takes me a while to get them in, too. And it takes me a while to think about things in a way that I can understand them. Like I said, there are a lot of pages and a lot pf stories to tell, and I have to do it in a special way and all of this takes a while. I'm simple, too. Not in a bad way, I don't think, but I like things a certain way. I like my routines, to break things down into patterns I can understand and control. Keep it simple - that's my thing. ... Like I said, I'm slow. And simple. But I'm not retarded. That's the one thing people always think when they hear the word 'autism,' they think it means you're retarded. Well, that's not true. Sometimes it makes me mad that people think that way, but mostly it makes me frustrated, the way people can treat you like you're not even there. They talk about you right in front of you, like you can't understand what they're saying. They don't take you seriously. It's frustrating - it really is."
"All the time, whenever we had a big game, I kept telling all the guys on the team to keep their focus. That was like my theme. Over and over, I'd say this. The guys on the team would tease me about it. Coach said I was like a broken record. I didn't know what a broken record was, and someone had to explain it to me, and then I understood. But he was right. I can be like a broken record. That's how I'm able to focus, to concentrate. I repeat things to myself, over and over, until it comes. I just repeat myself and repeat myself and eventually I get it right. That's how I break things down. That's how I learn."
So, what do you think of J-Mac?