I Am Aspiengirl® Book Release June 25, 2014

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Here at Aspiengirl®, we are proud to announce that the first book in the Aspiengirl® series is now at pre-press! The I Am Aspiengirl® book release is slotted for 25th of June, 2014 (bar no hiccups). Here’s a sneak peek look at the cover, back cover, Introduction, a testimonial, the Foreward by the brilliant Dr. Judith Gould and a sneak look at some totally awesome Aspiengirl® mentors. This book is also slotted to be translated into a number of other languages including: Spanish, Italian, French, German, Chinese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Hungarian and Dutch, in 2014! Stop by www.aspiengirl.com and sign up for our newsletter, become an affiliate (and earn money) and/or read our blog and the Aspiengirl/Aspienwoman Mentor Interviews.

 

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Aspienwoman Mentor Interview Series: Brandy Nightingale

Welcome to another Aspienwoman Mentor Interview Series, where I interview female role models and mentors diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and/or involved in the world of Autism or Asperger Syndrome.

In this interview I interviewing Brandy Nightingale from the United States about her life, Asperger Syndrome, her gifts and talents and more! Brandy Nightingale is a jack of all trades and received a late diagnosis in 2010.

 

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Tania:  Welcome to the Aspienwoman Mentor Interview Series Brandy! It’s fantastic to have you here where we interview females on the Spectrum about their lives, their diagnosis and their unique talents.

Brandy:  Thank-you so much. It’s an honor to be here and to be a part of this important interview series!

Tania:  When did you receive your formal diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome?

Brandy:  I was formally diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in November of 2010, at the age of 35.

Tania:  Please tell tell me about your work/career life.

Brandy:  Well, I was a teen model. I now work in the feature film industry as a Visual Effects Coordinator. I was a personal assistant to three celebrities before getting into VFX. I own my own local pet care business, The Peaceful Pup (thepeacefulpup.com). I am a retired stand-up comic (performed for 8 years). I’m married to an eccentric NT (2 years). I’m a survivor of childhood physical, mental, emotional & sexual abuse. I’m a survivor of school bullying. I have an active blog (http://brandynightingale.blogspot.com).

Tania:  Wow Brandy, that;s incredible. I’m always amazed at what females on the Spectrum can do. Tell me more about your writing please?

Brandy:  I just completed a personal memoir, Everything’s Hunky Dory: A Memoir. It’s a shocking yet humorous memoir titled, Everything’s Hunky Dory: A Memoir, which, from the perspective of an autistic child, explores personal stories of living with and attempting to rescue her alcoholic, drug addicted mother from self-destruction.

Tania:  Wow, that’s fantastic! You certainly have been and/or are involved in a number of careers and interests. You mentioned to me about also doing some advocacy work?

Brandy:  My newest goal is to work with girls/women on the spectrum, helping them to embrace ‘what is’, which is their autism, find their individual strengths and passions, and put those to use in order to become happy and successful.

Tania:   Awesome! What are your Superpowers?

Brandy:  Since I was a very little girl, I was able to recognize I had what I believed were superpowers. The first one I noticed was that I could hear what others couldn’t. The slightest sound of a leaf falling to the ground, a dog barking neighborhoods away, or even my mother whispering in the next room, I could hear it all. (I admit this superpower didn’t make surprises easy for others, which is fine, as I’ve never been one to like surprises.) This superpower has come in quite handy in life. In my adult years, I can hear instantly if my car isn’t functioning properly, if the toilet is broken, if there is a leak in a pipe, if a creature is lurking in the garden. My hearing superpower has turned into an incredible asset, enabling me to diagnose and repair pretty much anything. It’s also helped me to isolate particular sounds such as determining a territorial dog’s bark from a fearful dog’s bark, an honest voice from a dishonest voice. I’m able to use this ability when I work with animals and meet new people.

Tania:  What amazing Aspienpowers you have and I love the way you utilize them, in addition to the way you view them. What advice would you give to other Aspiens?

Brandy:  My take away from life and the wisdom I’d like to pass along to fellow female Aspiens is this: listen to yourself without the voices and opinions of others. Really sit with yourself and listen to what your body tells you about your needs, wants, and most of all, your passions and talents. What makes you feel giddy inside? What can you spend hours working on? What is it you do that seems to make time disappear? If your body wants to read, by all means let it read. If your body wants to write, by all means write! If your body wants to build, by all means let it build! Although we all have responsibilities such as school, work, or even families to care for, we MUST make time for our passions and develop our talents. We Aspiens are more specialists than generalists, meaning we can be really good or even genius at a topic or two, beyond what most can comprehend. Isn’t that incredible? That’s a superpower most of us share. It is people like us who create new gadgets, who have a special ability to connect with animals, who have a special ability to focus on small details of tasks for much longer than others. We are the ones who have the innate ability to solve problems for the world. More than ever, the world needs our superpowers, so let’s fine tune them and let them shine!

Tania: Fantastic Brandy and I just love you positive strengths-based positive attitude, something this Interview Series and the Aspiengirl Project is all about! People have been emailing us and telling us how they love this approach. How can people follow or reach you?

Brandy:  I can be found at:

Tania:  Brandy, thank-you so much for being a part of this fabulous movement. That of providing awareness, hope, inspiration to other females on the Autism Spectrum.

Brandy:  Proud to be a part of it Tania and thank-you for asking me to be a part of this Project, along with some other pretty cool Aspiens!

Brandy Nightingale was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in 2010 at the age of thirty-five. An entrepreneur, visual effects coordinator on feature films, retired stand-up comedian, and writer, she resides in beautiful Ojai, California with her husband, three rescued dogs, and two happy hens.

 

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To learn more about female Autism/Asperger Syndrome, check out the Aspiengirl book series at http://www.aspiengirl.com where some of these mentors are included in the Mentor section!

 

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ImageTania Marshall©. 2013-2014. AspienWoman Interview Mentor Series. All rights reserved. Thank you.

 

The Aspienwoman Interview Series Project: Actress, singer, model, dancer and MarsOne Applicant, Sybelle Silverpheonix

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The Aspiengirl and Aspienwoman Project is devoted to showcasing females of all ages and from all walks of life, who live with a Spectrum condition.  In these interviews, I talk to mentor heroine Aspienwomen from a variety of countries about their lives, their gifts and talents and more. Actress and model Asperchic Sybelle Silverpheonix joins me from New York City, United States of America to discuss her life, talents and Asperger Syndrome. (Photos to be changed)

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Tania:  Hello Sybelle, Thank-you for agreeing to an interview and for joining alongside other cool Asperchics in the AspienWoman Mentor Project. It is fantastic having you here, not only because you are such a role model, but because you are the first MarsOne applicant I have interviewed. Thank-you for joining other cool Asperchics in the AspienWoman Mentor Project, a project designed to gather an inspirational group of females on the Spectrum who are successful role models and mentors.  Where about in the world do you live?

Sybelle:  I live in New York City, United States of America.

Tania:  You have so many talents. Please tell us about them.

Sybelle:  Oh, lol, where do I start. I work primarily in entertainment, if its art, I’ve probably done it at some point, lol.  My main career path is as an actress, singer, model, and dancer right now.  I’m a vocalist for the rock band Kings Valentine.  I also fix PCs.

Tania:  So, you really are a triple or quadruple  threat?!

Sybelle:  I suppose a “multi threat” is an appropriate term, haha.  I have a background in martial arts, gymnastics, and various styles of dance.  I also can do portrait sketches, self taught, have no idea how, I can just see all the details on a person’s face, all the shadows, the lines in the skin, right down to pores, it creeps people out, lol.  I can take a photograph, no matter how small, of a person, and duplicate it with all detail on a much larger piece of paper.  I can draw portraits in person, but people don’t usually stay still enough for me to do it.  My PC tech skills are for the most part self taught also.  I swore after the first time being on the phone with tech support and not understanding those crazy thick accents, that I would never call tech support again, lol.  This was my first impression of outsourcing, and I am absolutely opposed to the practice if it prohibits the smooth flow of information between people, lol.

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Tania:  How did you find out you were on the Spectrum?

Sybelle:  Oh wow, that is a story.  I was logging in to check my email and some email providers have articles that scroll across the screen when you first go to their sites.  One such article was titled “Whole Family Diagnosed with a Disorder”, and I was thinking, hmm, sounds interesting, so I click it, and the whole thing was practically my own biography! I was instantly obsessed with the topic of Asperger Syndrome!  I googled everything I could that instant, I called in family members to look, it was all quite dramatic, I felt almost like I had died!  Whole portions of memories of my life flashed before me as if I was having a near death experience, and those portions began to make sense in a matter of seconds!!! Then I was absolutely compelled to know from a professional if this was me, or if I was just jumping to conclusions….members of my family agreed it certainly sounded accurate.  More googling, only to be disappointed with what services were available for adults…it was as if the entire community on autism had this strange idea that autism just disappeared upon becoming age 18….very strange.  Heard all kinds of things from places I called. “Women don’t have that”, “You’re too high functioning”, “We only see children”, and a whole host of other stuff from the very obviously and numerously misinformed population working in the field…then I managed to find Dr. Lynda Geller.  I’d say she’s the top expert in the field in NYC.  I wish she could be cloned and placed in every facility that treats people with autism.  Our world would change so efficiently it would practically be instantaneous.  Glad that people like her, and you, are working to change the misinformation out there.  So Dr. Geller evaluated me, and it turned out I was 100% correct about myself.  This prompted me to observe similarities I had seen between myself and my daughter, and I then had her evaluated also, and she too was diagnosed.  Not with Asperger’s, but somewhere around HFA and PDD NOS.  Finding out all this was one of the best things to ever happen for us.  It opened up a whole new world I wished I could have been exposed to waaaaaaaay earlier.

Tania:  Well, that’s quite a story and great to hear of Dr. Geller’s work and expertise, for anyone in New York. I will also add her to my list of professionals around the world. You also mentioned your daughter. What talents does she have?

Sybelle:  She’s very creative.  She likes to take pictures, draw, paint, dance and sing.  What she’s really good at though, is physical fitness.  She’s very strong.  She’s fast.  She has no fear.  I would get criticized by parents in the neighborhood for allowing her to climb to the tops of trees, playground fixtures, stone walls, etc.  I would allow it, because I have full confidence in her abilities.  I recognized these skills early on.  At 4 months, she would stand while I held her hands, knees locked in place.  Around 2 months later, she was able to “koala” me, hanging onto me with her own hands and feet entirely unsupported by me.  Once she was able to walk on her own, a little before 1 year, she would climb anything and everything she could, and has never once fallen!  Sure, she’s fallen running after or away from someone, or tripping over an object during running, but she’s never fallen from climbing…she recently told me she’d like to rock climb a full wall.  I must test this interest next time I am at the Intrepid with her, at the rock climbing wall, lol. i believe she can get to the top with no problems at all.  People’s reactions will be interesting.  I too, am athletic, have reached the top of the same wall, and simply because I am female, had people gasping.  Imagine my almost 10 year old daughter, lol

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Tania:  I was already impressed by your accomplishments  but then I heard that you had applied for the “Mars One” Mission and I was like “wow”!  For those that do not know, Mars One is a not-for-profit foundation that will establish a permanent human settlement on Mars in 2023. So, once you go, there’s no turning back?

Sybelle:  I applied for this mission, yes, however, at the time of this writing, none of the applicants know if they have been accepted into the program or not.  There are 4 selection rounds.  Applying is only round 1.  We will know if we have passed onto round 2 by the beginning of 2014 most likely. One of my special interests is astronomy, has been since birth.  I knew things about astronomy as a toddler most kids didn’t learn till they were at least school age.

Tania:  Will your daughter go with you?

Sybelle:   She cannot go on the same exact mission I would be on if I am accepted for the 2023 launch.  If selected, I will be required to train for 8 years. All accepted applicants must do this.  All applicants must also be 18 years of age. She will be 18 by the time of launch.  After she has turned 18, she can apply for the next selection process.  There is not yet an option for people to apply as families.  All must apply individually.

Tania:  What it is about this Mission that inspires you to apply?

Sybelle:  I have always loved space.  Been fascinated by it.  I want to know it, experience it, live it, be one with it.  During the first half of my life, this desire became coupled with the fact that I felt completely unappreciated by people on this planet.  This fueled the interest even more.  I never thought in my lifetime there would be such an opportunity as to live on another planet, experience its different gravitational pull, terraform it, utilize its natural resources, live with solar power as a main source of power, create an entirely new society…I have wanted this since birth, I was engineered for this purpose.  And now I am being given an opportunity to try again…I wrote NASA in 5th grade.  They sent me gorgeous images of astrophotography and several astronauts of the time period who were on missions.  It excited me like nothing else could.  I attended US Space Camp during high school.  THAT was an experience.  The training, I loved it, I actually wish it had been more intense, more rigorous.  Mars One will do that…it will be the most rigorous training anyone has ever endured in the field of space travel and exploration.  And Space X, Elon Musk’s company, is also in communication with Mars One about transportation.  I am so phenomenally impressed by Mr. Musk’s work, and would be completely star struck should I ever get to meet him.  I don’t get star struck very easily, but that would be very overwhelming, lol.

Tania:  It really is like a movie. For those interested, how does one apply to be a part of the Mars One settlement?  I have a feeling you may not be the only Aspie that’s applying to move to Mars.

Sybelle:  Aaah, yes, I imagine so. Yes, a movie.  As an actress, I’ve worked on many genres, but still have yet to work on a sci fi project.  I would absolutely love to be a part of a sci fi project.  Especially if it puts me in space, lol.  It is my favorite genre, and yet, there seems to be a severe lack of sci fi productions in NYC, lol.  So yes, Mars One is the real deal, this is science fiction becoming reality, and if anyone else wants to walk through that door, they will need to apply.  Unfortunately, this year’s astronaut selection process is already closed. I believe the next will be in another 2 years or so.  The project will send 4 astronauts to Mars every 2 years starting in 2023, so based off that time frame, would be applicants should start looking for information on the Mars One website 2 years from now.  I do not know if the application criteria will be the same.  This year, it was necessary to fill out a resume form, write a motivational letter, answer a very personal questionnaire, create a video of yourself answering 3 questions about yourself and your interest in Mars One, and also pay an application fee equivalent to what it would cost to apply to a college.

Tania:  How do you think Aspergers has helped you in your career/life?

Sybelle:  Aspergers is the reason I was able to learn and acquire information at the rate I have.  The reason I was able to successfully teach myself skills outside of an educational environment.  The reason I can solve technical problems quickly, have an effective sense of logic. Having a brain that functions similar to Spock or Data is most definitely advantageous, I just wish more people understood these advantages and that they have benefited from these advantages with each advancement in technology and various other fields.  In terms of career, on the film production side of things, I was able to put together all the systems we would need.  I have 4 computer systems, and have maintained all the computers here on my own for over a decade.  As an actress, echolalia is a good thing, for acting is the skill of imitation.  Learning to mimic the way others interact is paramount.  I have also done all my own marketing.  I built my own website, at least at the time of this writing.  I have been effectively using social media, which to me feels more natural than all the schmoozing that usually goes on, lol.  It was actually surprising to me when I saw that there were classes that taught people how to effectively market themselves through social media.  To me it was obvious.

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Tania:   Where can people follow you or find out more information about you and/or your work?

Sybelle:  www.sybellesilverphoenix.com

I am also on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Model Mayhem, and IMDB.  Here are the links, respectively:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sybelle-Silverphoenix/143040925715
https://twitter.com/SybelleSilver
http://www.youtube.com/user/SybelleSilverphoenix
http://www.modelmayhem.com/1381118
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2655690/

Tania:  Where can people view your somewhat humorous yet serious MarsOne application?

Sybelle: On YouTube at http://applicants.mars-one.com/profile/8d485a78-46c4-4152-93cc-3a015d4df694

Tania:  What kind of advocacy are you involved in?

Sybelle:   I have become very interested in giving exposure to autism awareness and acceptance.  I’ve recently had an article published by AHA’s newsletter On The Spectrum about where Aspies can go to meet compatible people. The same organization has asked me to participate on a panel of adults who have had interesting career evolution’s. This will be for the 2014 Autism conference at Adelphi University in April. I have also participated on a panel for GRASP about Spectrumites in their communities of faith. I am also working on assisting GRASP with starting a support group in the boro of NYC that I live in.

Tania:   Sybelle, I want to thank you for your time and for being a mentor Asperchic role model and part of the AspienWoman Mentor Project. You are inspirational and I wish you all the best with your application to take up residence on the Planet Mars. Very exciting!  Please keep us up-to-date on your achievements.

Sybelle:   Thanks for selecting me as a person of interest 🙂 I hope that through those such as yourself, we are appreciated for the things we contribute to society, instead of being looked upon as being a mistake that must be corrected.


Tania Marshall. 2013.  All rights reserved. Duplication in whole or part is explicitly forbidden. Thank you.

Sneak-A-Peek of I am AspienWoman: The unique characteristics of adult females on the Autism Spectrum

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Have you ever wondered about a quirky family member? Maybe she is your partner, your mother, your grand-mother, aunt, sister, niece or even your teacher? You may have wondered why she seems “different”, ”odd'” or even “cool”?  Have you ever wondered why life seems, at times, so challenging for her?  She is very bright, has a superior memory and great sense of humour.  She finds other people, stress, emotions and organization a challenge and she often suffers from a “social hangover”. Her peers or friends gracefully met their milestones, yet she remains perplexingly both ahead and behind her peers.  

You may have wondered where she disappears to at family get togethers, only to be found playing with the children or animals. She may be the “black sheep” of the family, have unusual habits and be highly intuitive. She is an Aspien, a woman with Asperger Syndrome or High-Functioning Autism. She may be a high achiever, goal-oriented, perfectionistic, and quirky. And yes, she may be your local teacher, nurse, artist, musician, actress, model, or even your doctor.

An Aspienwoman may have unfinished courses or degrees or may have achieved her education later than her peers. She is very bright, however you can’t figure out why she is so disorganized or has difficulty managing her emotions or stress. She is a high achiever with a collection of asperpowers that help her reach any goal she has her mind set on.

An Aspienwoman has a unique constellation of aspienpowers, super-abilities, strengths and challenges. She often feels as though she is from another Planet. If you are looking for a book on the often perplexing and unique adult female Autism Spectrum traits and characteristics, then this is the book for you. Watch for ‘I am AspienWoman™, coming soon.

Q: What does “Aspien” mean?

A: The terms ”Aspien”, Äspiengirl”, “Aspienwoman”, “Planet Aspien”, and it’s derivatives were recently created and trademarked. This terminology came about from years of working with females, of all ages, on the Spectrum, who most often talked about feeling different, feeling like they don’t belong and/or are from another planet, universe, time zone or era. A book series is a natural progression from my clinical work.  This book series is an answer to the current gender bias and educates the reader about females on the Spectrum who are also known as “research orphans” (Klin).

Q: What are Aspienpowers?

A: Aspienpowers are a unique set of strengths often seen collectively in females with high functioning autism or asperger syndrome

This book will be available on Amazon, in E-book and on http://www.aspiengirl.com (under construction). Each book includes a list of characteristics, traits, strengths and challenges, a table, and more!

The first book in my series is entitled “I am AspienGirl: The unique characteristics of young females, with Asperger Syndrome”, coming soon!

Tania Marshall 2013.  All rights reserved. Duplication, in whole or in part, is explicitly forbidden. AspienGirl™ and Planet Aspien™ are registered and trademarked names. Thank you.

The Aspienwoman Interview Series Project: Violinist Lydia Tay

The Aspiengirl and Aspienwoman Project is devoted to showcasing females of all ages and from all walks of life, who live with a Spectrum condition.  In these interviews, I talk to mentor heroine Aspienwomen from a variety of countries about their lives, their gifts and talents and more. Violinist Asperchic Lydia Tay joins me from Singapore to discuss her life, talents and Asperger Syndrome.

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Tania: Hello Lydia, thank-you for agreeing to an interview and for joining alongside other cool Asperchics in the AspienWoman Mentor Project, a project designed to gather an inspirational group of females from around the world who on the Spectrum and are successful role models, mentors and heroines. I found out about you in my research on female Asperger Syndrome.

Tania:  Where abouts in the world do you live?

Lydia:  I live in Singapore

Tania:  How old are you?

Lydia:  I’m now 19 years old

Tania:  You are a musician.  When did you start playing the violin?

Lydia:  I started playing the violin late last February.

Tania:  Do you play any other instruments?  

Lydia:  I play the piano and I will be starting conducting lessons on the 3rd of November.

Tania:  When and how did you find out you have Asperger Syndrome?

Lydia:  I found out I have Aspergers Syndrome when I was 15.

Tania:  How is Autism viewed in Singapore?

Lydia:  Not a lot of people know what Autism is in Singapore. For those who know, many assume that we are loners who can’t do anything without help and support. There isn’t much awareness.

Tania: How do you think some of the traits of Asperger Syndrome help you in your career to date?

Lydia:  I would say that having really deep obsessions have helped me a lot because without obsessions, I wouldn’t have had such musicality and knowledge of classical music within a year and a half. Also, the ability to see patterns helps me to learn and memorize music.

Tania:  Yes, obsessions can be  wonderful in terms of becoming an expert in a talent or a hobby. Healthy obsessions are what I term Asperpowers and give people an edge over others. What are your musical  aspirations and goals?

Lydia:  I want to start an Autism Orchestra. This orchestra will have musicians on the Autism spectrum. I also have dreams to become a composer.

Tania:  Lydia, what fantastic goals you have of an orchestra and a composer. I have no doubt that you will achieve both of those goalsHow can people listen to your music and follow you?

Lydia:  I have videos up on YouTube, but only people with the links can view them. I have put some videos on a blog post in my blog though, so people who visit my blog can view them or they can ask for the links via my twitter account. They can follow me via twitter (@Lydia_Violinist) and they can view my blog (aspergerjourney.blogspot.com)

Tania:  What advice would you give to other young females on the Spectrum?

Lydia:  Do not be afraid to spread Autism awareness, given the opportunity to. If the person or people you’re trying to educate insists on being ignorant about Autism, let them be because they are missing out on the colour we bring into the world.

 Tania:  Lydia, how true and what beautiful words. Yes, Aspiens do bring colour to the world, which is what this Project is about showing the world what Aspiens can achieve. I want to thank you for your time and for being a mentor Asperchic role model and part of the AspienWoman Mentor Project. You are inspirational with amazing goals and thank-you for having this conversation with me. Please keep us up-to-date on your achievements.

Lydia:  Thank-you Tania for inviting me to be a part of this amazing Project and I will keep you up-to-date.

Tania Marshall. 2013.  All rights reserved. Duplication in whole or part is explicitly forbidden. Thank you.

Aspienwoman Mentor Project Interview: Singer and Songwriter Maja Nilsson

The Aspiengirl and Aspienwoman Project is devoted to showcasing females of all ages and from all walks of life, who live with a Spectrum condition.  In these interviews, I talk to mentor heroine Aspienwomen from a variety of countries about their lives, their gifts and talents and more. Singer/Songwriter and Asperchic Maja Nilsson joins me from Sweden to discuss her life, talents and more.

Tania: Welcome to the Aspienwoman Mentor Project. We are proud to have you join us? Where abouts in the world do you live?
Maja:  I live in Sweden
 
Tania:  How old are you?
Maja: 17
Tania:  You are a singer/songwriter/musician/music producer. When did you start singing and writing songs?
Maja:  I started writing songs at the age between 12-13 years old.
 
Tania:  When and how did you find out you have Asperger Syndrome?

Maja:  There was a classmate in primary school who had Asperger’s and I started to compare the symptoms to my own behaviour to see if I had anything similar.

Tania: What are Autism services like for you in Sweden?

Maja: A good example is that I’m in a special class for students with some kind of Autism diagnosis, we don’t have any homework as we do everything in school and go to lunch half an hour before rest of the school does. There is also a bad side that newspapers have blamed us for crimes and then “ordinary” people might get scared of us because we are seen as violent from the newspapers’ perspective.

Tania: I think it’s fair to say that the media has much power and unfairly pairs Autism and violence together. How do you think some of the traits of Asperger Syndrome have helped you in your career to date?

 
Maja:  Aspergers has helped me a lot to focus because of my sound sensitivity, I hear sounds all the time.
I also self diagnosed myself with Synesthesia, which means in my case I see sounds as dots and lines right in front of me which helps me even better to work.
 
Tania:  Synesthesia is a fascinating condition. Please tell us how seeing see sounds as dots and lines right in front of you which helps you work better?
Maja:  I literally see music in front of me which helps me know where to sing, for example.
Tania: That is fantastic and what a unique gift you have, Maja. It probably gives you an edge over other musicians. Now your first album is due out soon?
Maja:  There some songs left but I don’t have a deadline set (can’t handle stress that well).
Tania:  I believe Imogen Heap inspires you? For those that aren’t familar with Imogen, she is a UK born Grammy winning multi-instrumentalist and performer
Maja: Yes she has inspired me a lot by her way of sampling realistic sounds and also in her music genre. Another artist that also inspires me is the Icelandic singer Björk.
 
Tania: How do you think Aspergers has helped you in your career/life?
Maja:  It has helped me to become stronger as a person, from being teased some years ago to having supporting fans and friends who are curious about my music.
 
Tania: What advice would you give to other young females on the Spectrum?
Maja: I believe there is always a good solution to everything.
Don’t keep bad feelings inside you, then it would only hurt more.
Try to stay positive with who you are, because there is no one else like you in the world.
Tania: How can people listen to your music or buy your album?
Maja: My music is available to listen to and download for free on my SoundCloud account ( www.SoundCloud.com/MajaNOfficial )
Tania: Where can people follow you or find out more about you?
Maja: They can follow me on my website ( www.MajaNOfficial.Wordpress.Com ) or for smaller updates, on Twitter: Www.Twitter.Com/MajaNOfficial
 
Tania:  Maja, I want to thank you for your time and for being a seriously cool Asperchic role model and part of the AspienWoman Mentor Project. Thank-you for sharing your thoughts with us.
 
 
Maja: Thank-you for asking me to be a part of your mentor project.
Tania Marshall. 2013.  All rights reserved. Duplication in whole or part is explicitly forbidden. Thank you.

 

Aspienwomen Mentor Project: Professional Performer Chou Chou Scantlin

The Aspiengirl and Aspienwoman Project is devoted to showcasing females of all ages and from all walks of life, who live with a Spectrum condition.  In these interviews, I talk to mentor heroine Aspienwomen from a variety of countries about their lives, their gifts and talents and more. Professional performer Chou Chou (pronounced Shoo Shoo) is a professional performer and producer from the United States and an Aspienwoman mentor, who advocates for females on the Spectrum.

 photo danny fowler                                                                                                               Credit: Danny Fowler

Tania: Welcome to the Aspienwoman Project and thank-you for agreeing to be interviewed for the “Aspienwoman Mentor Interview Series”.

Chou Chou: Thank you for inviting me! It is a pleasure to be part of this conversation.

Tania: I came across you in my research on females on the Spectrum. You are a professional singer, performer and you have Autism. How long have you known you were Autistic?

Chou Chou: Officially, about ten years, but, in truth, always, but without that specific label. I was born in the fifties, when little was known about autism and cold, bad mothering was considered the cause. My mother was the business administrator and close friend of a young doctor who ran an exclusive rehabilitative rest home outside New York City. He was very cutting edge, and up on the latest research, and took a special interest in my atypical development and behavior. He made the diagnosis. I adored him and the special attention he gave me. I was sure I would grow up and marry him. At the time, it was common for autistic children to be institutionalized, in part to protect the child from the “bad” parent. This “Refrigerator Mother Theory” of bad mothering causing autism has been long proven as wrong, but, because of this belief, it was considered a priority by the doctor and my mother to keep this label hidden. This was done in an incredibly successful manner, both for my protection, and for my mother’s reputation. My mother, unfortunately, believed she caused me to be autistic, and took this belief to her grave, living with much shame.

I was called “slow”, “simple”, and sometimes, but never by my mother, “retarded”. My brilliant mother took a different, very supportive approach. She called me a “late bloomer”, and told me I could do anything. She openly considered me uniquely wonderful just as I was, and constantly said that one day I would surprise everyone with the woman I would become. She was a wonderful, successful person. I saw no reason not to believe her!

Tania: Unfortunately and sadly, in my clinical work, I still see and hear mothers being accused of the “Refrigerator Mother Theory”. Your mother was a fantastic woman. Tell me how you became a professional performer? How long have you been performing for?

© Brian Coltrane All rights reserved                                                                                                              Credit: Brian Coltrane

Chou Chou: I am a fourth generation performer, and both my mother and father were in show business in their early adult years, leaving for more stable careers. I was speech delayed, but had an incredible memory. Once I started talking, I could parrot what I heard, and memorize long scripts taught to me. It was difficult to speak without a script, and the usual child’s play and conversation was nearly impossible. I was very withdrawn, but, if I was dressed up and given a script, I would light up! This was my vehicle for communication and connection, and I adored that. I put on small plays, said grace at our holiday dinners, and, recited poetry, and even went door to door in our neighbourhood, with my little ukulele, asking neighbours if they wanted me to sing them a song. I performed in school plays, getting lead roles, winning awards of various kinds, and was offered scholarships, but never wanted to be a professional performer. I wanted a more private life, with a home and family. There was always a struggle, because performing was the one way I could connect well, but it took so much out of me. I stopped performing many times, always saying I would never perform again, but something would happen, and there it would be, as my best choice for income and survival. Now, I have found the perfect balance, for me, of a private life and performing for a living, both, with my adored husband, Doc Scantlin. We have performed together for the last twenty years. I am the producer, vocalist, costumer, and co-creator of our show, and Doc is the band leader, vocalist, and music director, and inspiration. Over the years, we have performed internationally at some of the most prestigious balls and gala and have a loyal fan base in our home base of Washington, DC. We do not record or tour, and are not part of the standard popular music industry. We are not big stars, nor have we ever desired for what that would entail. We are blessed with a wonderful reputation, and keep a roof over our heads. You have probably never heard of us, although it always surprises me who has. We lead a modest little retro life, in a 1920’s cottage on the Chesapeake Bay, with the quiet, peace, and loving support that makes me thrive, and able to survive the excitement and fun of the shows. I am who I wanted to turn out to be, am very, very, happy, and never, ever, take it for granted!

                              Chou Chou and husband Doc Scantlin       

Doc and Chou Chou                                                                                                              Credit: Brian Coltrane

Chou Chou: I married at a young age, and had my beautiful son, but my first husband was in a car accident, had severe brain damage for five years, and then died. I raise my son backstage a lot, and found it easy to get steady work as a free-lance talent. I have a unique, high pitched, hyper-feminine voice that people find appealing. I sometimes think I use the singing part of my brain to speak, instead of the language part, because it is the stronger of the two. I am not a particularly great singer, but I sing to an audience as if it were a gift, and so it goes over well. Everyone likes a gift, and wants to be loved!  I can do that when I perform, and that alone, I feel, makes me a worthwhile professional entertainer to this day. I am a rather normal looking person, but I enjoy dressing up and creating a kind of vintage movie star illusion of beauty, which is a great skill to have in my line of work. I am rather fearless and comfortable with this, and can get rather blissfully over-the-top.  It is the more status quo, appropriate, day to day dressing where I hopelessly fail. No matter how hard I may try to “blend in”, I never have, and accept that I never will. At some point, I gave up the effort, and said, “Oh well, ‘To thine own self be true'”, and never looked back. I wear what makes me feel like me, with usually comically dramatic results for a particular occasion. I find it makes for much less stress, and makes me less awkward. Since it is genuinely me, and not just wanting to make a spectacle of myself, people accept it, but I often get more attention than I am wanting when not onstage. Oh well. Small price to pay for peace of mind. As was said of Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, “She’s a fake, but she’s a real one!”.

© Brian Coltrane All rights reserved                                                                                                               Credit: Brian Coltrane

Tania: Was there a mentor and/or role model that helped you be the person you are today?

Chou Chou: I am unendingly grateful to so many people in my life who that advised and inspired me, but, without a doubt, it was my mother who gave me the ability to believe in myself and know that I may do things differently, but that I was very, very able, in my own way. My wonderful husband and son, too, inspire me endlessly.

© Brian Coltrane All rights reserved                                                                                                              Credit: Brian Coltrane

Tania: How does Autism affect you today versus when you were younger, say in your teens?

Chou Chou: Like most people, I have gained much wisdom and understanding over the year, both of myself and life. This is the reward of long living. I had many health issues and uncomfortable traits, that I was determined to understand, so I could accept, control, or eliminate them. I will often focus on an issue, and research it in depth, in order to find a workable solution. Sometimes there is no known solution, so I come up with my own. One by one, over many, many, years, and many failures, I have found a lifestyle and self-management that works for me. I am still an autistic woman, but I am a healthy, happy, and rather successful autistic woman, in my choice of life.

Tania: What kinds of “factors” would you say helped you become “successful”, as a female with Autism?

Chou Chou: I am often told that I work very hard at being “lucky”, and that may be true. I think everyone, autistic or not, needs to look at what their strengths are, no matter what their challenges, and accept that life can be very hard and uncomfortable, but that each of us has something to give, and can learn to give it, and in that, lies happiness. The factors that have made me find a happy life of my own making are:

  1. Being a visual thinker. If I can see it in my mind, I can create it in real life.
  2. Stubborn focus. I easily become immersed in a project, down to the smallest details.
  3. Finding everyone charming. This is a biggie. I am awful at reading expressions, or understanding social signals, and it was a cause of much stress. At some point, I decided that, since I was so awful at this, I would just assume everyone was charming and wonderful, and treat them accordingly. This was very hard to do, especially since I was so scared of people, but now I do it automatically. I learned that most people want to be considered charming and wonderful, and will try to prove me right! Granted, I do not advise unguarded, unsafe behavior, but, if someone is acting rude, I can remain unflustered, and offer them help, or, at least my internalized sympathy, while protecting myself. I have many friends now, and build good professional relationships. I do not socialize in the typical ways, and no longer feel I must do so. I don’t go around expecting everyone to understand, but, if the situation calls for an explanation, or a person deserves more information, I will explain and self-advocate. Then, people will prove, once again, they are, indeed, charming.

Photo1 Ben Powell                                                                                                           Credit: Ben Powell

  1. My ability to see patterns. It can appear that I have premonitions, but what is really happening is that I can see patterns develop, and so can predict outcomes, based on those patterns. That said, life is full of illogical twists and turns, and it has taken me much work to learn to stay strong and keep going when the pattern gets broken. I crave order, but chaos test my strength!
  2. Accepting myself as different, but not more or less, than everyone else. This is makes for good relationship building. That, and the ability to laugh at myself, and never at others.
  3. Having a clear understanding of what is truly harmful to me, and what to do to take care of myself. I am in the extreme hyper sensory range, even for an autistic person, and must make sure I am not put in a situation that is more than I am able to handle. I do not view this as any different from a person knowing their limits in other areas. We all have unique challenges, and there is no such thing as normal.
  4. NOT seeing myself as a damaged or sick person, or using autism as an excuse for getting out of things I find uncomfortable. I have things I can do very well, and some not so well…just like everyone else. I try to be brutally honest with myself about what I just don’t want to do, but should, and what can genuinely push me past my capacity, and cause harm. If someone wants me to do something that will put me in a harmful situation, I will refuse. They might as well try to get me to drink poison. I will not do it. If someone wants me to push myself a little further to achieve a goal, however, I hope I will always find the ’it’ in myself to try, and know the difference!

Tania: That’s fantastic Chou Chou. We are on the cusp of a knowledge explosion via way of research that focuses on females and includes females. What kind of advice would you offer other females on the Spectrum?

Photo Ben Powell                                                                                      Credit: Ben Powell

Chou Chou: Believe that your way of experiencing the world is as valid as anyone else’s. Life can be very hard when you experience it in a way most don’t understand, and you must find the courage to be yourself, and give the world the best of who you are. We each have an obligation and capacity to make the world a bit better daily, no matter how severely disabling we may find our state of being. Make this your goal, and you will always be happy. You do not need to sound, look, act, or live like anyone else, but, if you are true to yourself and give what is uniquely yours to give, and assume everyone else just wants to do the same, you will find a place where you are accepted and will thrive. You don’t have to be socially savvy, you don’t have to be good at conversation, and you don’t have to be pretty. You just have to see people as charming, and give them the gift of you, and that is the best gift of all!

 

Chou Chou Bunny

 

 

Tania: Where can people find out more about you or see you?

Chou Chou: Here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ariane-zurcher/autism-adults_b_1912430.html

www.docscantlin.com

Twitter: @docscantlin

Facebook: Chou Chou Scantlin

Also, we are honored that acclaimed photojournalist, Lucian Perkins, is soon to be completing a documentary about us, our band and our happy little autistic enhanced retro life. Lucian has made a trailer for the documentary. He is close to completing about Doc and me, our band, our little retro life, and how it all works so well with autistic me:)

I keep saying I will start a blog. I think I will, but, oh, life is so busy, and there are songs to be sung!

I also take breaks from social media. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do! I hope the day will come when I can contribute more, and positively, to the understanding of being an autistic woman, and perhaps make it a bit easier for younger ones, finding their way.

Photo Anthony Neenan                                                                                                          Credit: Anthony Neenan

 Tania: What a fantastic photo by Anthony Neenan.

 Chou Chou : I love the photo (above). The spotlight blocks the extreme sensory challenge of a room, and puts me in a place where I can connect and love the charming, charming people, in a way I cannot do otherwise. It is the one thing I do well that involves people. All my other best skills are best done in solitude:)

Photo1 Mark A. Simonson                                                                                                       Credit: Mark. A. Simonson

Tania: Thank you Chou Chou. It has been an absolute honour interviewing you and thank-you for your time, words and being a part of the Aspienwoman Project.

Chou Chou: Thank you, Tania! Best of luck with all you do, and may YOUR dreams come true! As I say onstage, when I introduce myself, “Now, we are friends!”.

Chou Chou

Tania Marshall. 2013.  All rights reserved. Duplication in whole or part is explicitly forbidden. Thank you.