See Our Possibilities, Not Your Perception of Our Defects - by James Williams
My introduction to the Golden Hat Foundation was typical, but my meeting with Autism was a very different story. It started when I was 12 years old struggling to get through school and not understanding who I was or why making friends or understanding people was so hard. After a visit to a psychologist, I received the shocking news that I had a form of Autism called Asperger's Syndrome. Initially I was scared, but the more a learned about it, the less afraid I was and the more I just wanted help and to know what Autism meant to me. What I learned is that it didn't mean I was broken, sick, or needed to be cured. It also didn't mean that I couldn't live a normal happy life as an adult or get married. What it did mean was that some things would be challenging for me, especially things like making friends, understanding people and their emotions, and figuring out to take other people's perspectives. It also meant that my senses were different and that some things that bothered me, might not bother others. All of these things were tough to hear, but certainly not hopeless. What also became apparent is that I needed to seek out and find the right support for me that addressed my unique needs and strengths.
Without going into a great amount of detail, I am now 27 years old, married, and have an amazing job where I get to change peoples lives everyday. In addition, I finished both my master's degree and I am starting my doctorate in education in August of 2014. All of these milestones in my life were challenging, but certainly not impossible with or without Autism. Although I may be considered high-functioning, my story is very similar to most on the spectrum in that, with the right supports and the right people, I was and am capable of being successful and Autism doesn't have to be a barrier. In some ways, the challenges of Autism can be strengths, in fact, many people on the spectrum, myself included, use their strengths as a part of their work or the way they communicate with others. This is where the Golden Hat Foundation comes in.
I was getting my afternoon coffee medication, aka a latte, at the Coffee Bean in South Austin and I came across a display about the Foundation and the book of pictures of the Golden Hat on celebrities. After buying the book, researching the Foundation, and learning about it's mission, I realized that this wasn't another "Cure Autism" organization that was going to talk about how broken I am or how mad I should be at some vaccine or random thing that is to blame. In fact, the emphasis seemed to be on celebrating the gifts of Autism, helping us communicate better, and providing supportive people and services. What was even more wonderful was that an amazing celebrity, like Kate Winslet, not only recognized that our strengths and challenges are unique but, even more admirably, she was willing to put her own time, money, and fame on the line to help people like us that she has never met. If that's not selfless giving, I don't know what is.
In recognition of Kate's commitment to Autism, I have decided to volunteer my time, energy, and money to the Golden Hat Foundation to help them bring their refreshingly positive message and their beautiful campuses to our community. It is my hope, that with every fundraiser, community event, and newsletter, Golden Hat will shout a message that needs to be heard loud and clear...When you look at people with Autism, see our possibilities, not your perception of our defects.