Welcome John Goldfarb, Our New Intern and Blog Editor

Summer Intern and Blog Editor, John Goldfarb

Summer Intern and Blog Editor, John Goldfarb

The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation is excited to introduce you to our new intern, John Goldfarb who will be taking over as the Editor of our Blog for the summer. We asked John to introduce himself and to share his focus for the Blog in the coming weeks…

Hi everyone: I am John Goldfarb, a huge Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Lakers, New York Yankees, Rutgers Football, and Wisconsin Badgers basketball sports fan. I am also a recent graduate from County College of Morris in New Jersey. I will be attending Ramapo College,,, also located in New Jersey, this fall. I am a communications major. My interest in communications is sports journalism.

I’m very excited to be The Daniel Jordan Fiddle (DJF) Foundation blog editor this summer because this is an excellent opportunity to get to know more about the DJF Foundation as well as the people who help this organization out in numerous great ways.

Before I got into writing and editing articles, I played four years of football at Livingston High School. My team won a state championship my sophomore year and I had the opportunity to be on the Giants stadium field for the game. From my experience in football; I understand what it is like to be a part of something special. I get that same special feeling being a part of an organization like DJF.

Before joining the DJF Foundation, I spent my county college days working for the Youngtown Edition Newspaper. This paper is the on campus newspaper of the County College of Morris. I served as the college’s sports editor. While working for the Youngtown, I interviewed athletes, coaches and students from various teams or who were just around for sports related articles.

When interviewing the dedicated people affiliated with the all volunteer DJF Foundation, I will ask questions such as, “what convinced you to join the DJF Foundation?” or “how have you been impacted by Autism?”. If you have any ideas for questions for our Board members, self-advocates or collaborative partners of the DJF Foundation, feel free to email me at jdgold93@verizon.net.

I hope you will find my blog interesting as together we get to know the great people at the DJF Foundation a little better.

NEW YEAR, NEW GOALS…NEW COLLABORATIONS!

 DJF Ignition Grant Program Photo

Today as we all settle into the New Year 2013, we are busy, motivated, perhaps even overwhelmed at all that we need to do and want to accomplish in the days and months ahead! As you rev-up to achieve your personal goals this year, I suggest that you consider how collaboration can help you in all areas of your life to attain the fulfillment and progress you are hoping for in 2013. In my role as Executive Director of The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation, that I have now had for over a decade, collaboration has been the key to our organization’s effectiveness and progress.

In that spirit, I from time to time to feature in this BLOG the writings and thoughts of individuals on the spectrum and others who are making a difference and whom I feel will inspire you in your own journey. Recently, I received the following blog post from an adult individual named Daniel who lives with Autism…

The Gift of Asperger’s  by Daniel Wendler

For many people, a diagnosis of Asperger’s feels crippling.

And I’m not going to lie – having Asperger’s does bring many challenges. It’s not easy to manually learn all of the nuances of social interaction, especially when the rest of the world expects you to know all those things automatically. But having Asperger’s also brings many strengths. And I believe those strengths hold the key to overcome the challenges of Asperger’s. When I was diagnosed with Asperger’s 10 years ago, I was lonely, shy, and awkward.Today, I am confident, comfortable in social situations, and blessed with many deep friendships. I even run a website – www.ImproveYourSocialSkills.com – to help others achieve social success.

How was I able to achieve this? It was because of my Asperger’s, not despite it! When I received my diagnosis, I was presented with a list of social skills that people with Asperger’s often lack. This list sparked an epiphany in me. I realized that my social struggles were not because of something fundamentally wrong with me. I was struggling socially because I lacked social skills (makes sense, right?) Although some people are more naturally gifted socially than others, everyone can improve, and everyone can achieve social success. Improvement looks different for different people, and “social success” will mean something different for you than it will for me. But it’s possible to learn, and to improve. I wasn’t doomed to a life of awkwardness (and neither is anyone else).

When I realized this, I set to work. I devoured books on relationships, etiquette, conversation, body language — anything I could get my hands on. I started to debrief social interactions with my parents and figure out what I could have done better. I made a deliberate effort to go out of my comfort zone to meet new people and make new friends.My hard work paid off. I learned to survive socially, and then to thrive. I learned to make friends, and then how to be a good friendSocial interaction will always be a second language to me. But I am now fluent in that language. My Asperger’s has not been “cured,” but I have learned to thrive. The funny thing is, I never could have overcome the challenges of Asperger’s without the strengths of Asperger’s!  I used my Aspie analytical mind to puzzle through the nuances of social interaction. I used my Aspie determination (some might say stubbornness) to keep studying and practicing even when I was discouraged. I used my Aspie quirkiness and humor to defuse conflict and to find my own voice in social situations.

In every situation, I found that I was using my Aspie strength to overcome the challenges of Asperger’s. Looking back, I realize that for every challenge Asperger’s has given me, it has given me a greater strength with which to overcome that challenge. And for every strength Asperger’s has given me, I have found an opportunity to use that strength to help others.I treasure the moments when my calm rationality allows me to be a solid rock to a friend in crisis, or when my Aspie humor draws a deep belly laugh from a loved one. I take deep joy in my ability to guide others on the path to social success, and great pride when my Aspie insight allows me to see a solution others might have missed. Looking back, I realize that for every challenge Asperger’s has given me, it has given me a greater strength with which to overcome that challenge. And for every strength Asperger’s has given me, I have found an opportunity to use that strength to help others.I treasure the moments when my calm rationality allows me to be a solid rock to a friend in crisis, or when my Aspie humor draws a deep belly laugh from a loved one. I take deep joy in my ability to guide others on the path to social success, and great pride when my Aspie insight allows me to see a solution others might have missed. My Asperger’s has given me the ability to make an incredible and unique impact on the world, and I truly believe that my Asperger’s is a gift. It’s a hard gift, to be sure. But I believe that Asperger’s invites me into a rich life – a life marked by pain and struggle, yes, but also by strength, by joy, by purpose. For those of you with Asperger’s or a similar diagnosis – this rich life belongs to you too. Your road ahead will have challenges, but it will have joy as well.You are the way you are for a reason – you are not broken or wrong, just different. And that difference will equip you to make an incredible impact that only you can make.Your Asperger’s is a gift to you, and you are a gift to the world. Cherish that gift, and don’t give up.

ABOUT THE BLOGGER: Daniel Wendler is the author of www.ImproveYourSocialSkills.com, a comprehensive online guide to social skills. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s as a teenager, and has dedicated himself to overcoming the challenges of Asperger’s and helping others achieve social success. He likes people a lot, so if you are a person, he would love to get to know you! Get in touch by visiting www.ImproveYourSocialSkills.com or www.DanielWendler.com

I hope that Daniel’s story inspires you, as it is inspires me, to find Joy in the Journey! 

A Post From Amy Gravino, Member of The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Self Advocate Advisory Board

 

The inspiring story of Amy’s vacation to Italy this summer will surely leave you longing to take your own adventure.  Although, just like everyone else, people living with Autism, may or may not enjoy traveling, we encourage those who do to explore places of interest and expand their horizons…Enjoy!

Barefoot in Italy: The Travels of a Food-Loving Aspie
by Amy Gravino

I can hear the bells.

Can’t ya hear ‘em chime?

I did.

For three weeks I heard the bells, in the town of San Marco Argentano in Calabria, Italy, where I visited family this past summer. It takes some getting used to—the sound of loud church bells ringing on the hour, every hour, accompanied by quieter tones on the quarter and half hours.  It’s an almost nightmarish proposition especially for a person on the autism spectrum, at least until the bells become a part of your daily routine.

This trip to Italy was my fourth thus far, but it was a “first” in many ways. When I was growing up, during the summer breaks from school, my parents and I would go on vacation all over the country, from the East Coast to the West. But it never really was a “vacation” for me, because I was constantly overwhelmed by the noises, the lack of routine, strange beds to sleep in, and sights unfamiliar. This made traveling an entirely unpleasant experience for me—and for our family.

The day that things began to change was the day that I learned how to pack my suitcase—which previously my mother had had to do for me. When you’re a kid on vacation, you never have much in the way of control, as you have to go where your parents want to go, when they want to go. 

Learning how to pack my suitcase suddenly gave me control over some element of my travel. I did it by finding a system that worked for me, a system of clearly labeled plastic storage bags for different items, and as a result, the stress of packing disappeared completely.

So when I finished my Masters degree and my mom and I made plans to travel to Italy, I could not have been more excited.

From the third floor of my mother’s cousin’s townhouse, we surveyed the goings-on in the street below. The church across from their building was one of at least five in San Marco, and was the source of the loudest bells that we heard each day. Jagged cobblestones lined the way into the main piazza, which bustled with teenagers, old men congregating in front of the Bar Centrale, and shopkeepers standing on the sidewalks waiting for customers.

There were several green grocers within walking distance of where were staying, but my favorite was the closest one, adjacent to the church. Every day, I would admire the deep red tomatoes on display, along with the rainbow of produce surrounding them: Peppers, zucchini, beans, oranges, apples, and more.  

As beautiful as the vegetables were, they tasted even better. You hear a lot in the news about “eating locally,” which means eating fruits and vegetables that are grown in your area, instead of ones from other parts of the world that are then shipped to supermarkets.

 In the United States, we have Farmers Markets that let us buy locally, but most people do their shopping at the supermarket. In Italy, it is the opposite—people buy vegetables mostly from the green grocer and do not get them at the supermarket.

I will never forget how sweet those red tomatoes were once I finally got to eat them.  Or how crisp and green the Romaine lettuce was, the leaves of which were washed and eaten completely plain at dinner, one at a time, or how juicy and ripe the nectarines were that we had for dessert.

Because I saw the difference between what I buy in the supermarket at home and what I ate in Italy, I gained an appreciation for fresh, local food that I didn’t have before. Now, it’s become important to me not just what I put in my body, but where the food I put in it comes from.

For a person with Asperger’s Syndrome, who may have many food sensitivities and preferences, it can be difficult to eat healthy. Finding out where food comes from and choosing when and where to buy it is another way to give a person on the spectrum an element of control over this facet of his or her life.

In Italy, one feast at the dinner table often gives way to a different feast later that night in the streets. San Marco was no exception, and the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua took place during the first week of our trip. My mother, her cousin, and his wife readily went out into the crowd, but I stayed behind. The prospect of so much noise and so many people in a tightly packed area proved too daunting, and I knew that if I went, I wouldn’t be able to handle it.

The booming crackle-pop! of multicolored fireworks that capped off the night validated my concerns, and then some.  I shuddered and cringed at every explosion, which somehow seemed louder than any fireworks I’d heard before.  My only source of relief was that I was not outside entrenched in the mass of feast-goers when it was happening.

Sensory issues are something that every person on the autism spectrum has to consider when preparing to travel. Planning ahead for a situation like the Feast of St. Anthony might have helped me to take a chance in venturing out, especially if I had a specific, set “exit route” that I could use to escape from the crowd if it became necessary.

It takes time to get used to many new “firsts” on a vacation—your first flight, first hotel bed, and the many new foods, sights, sounds, and people that you will encounter. Being able to travel is an invaluable skill, as well as something that gives you opportunities that you otherwise never would have had staying at home. Whether it’s the sweetness of tomatoes or the unpaved cobblestones moving under your feet, being on the autism spectrum doesn’t have to mean missing out on the fun of vacation.

Everyone deserves a chance to hear those bells chime.

 

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