I had the pleasure to sit down with Ben and get a look inside his life and experience on the spectrum!
S) How old were you when you learned that you were on the Autism spectrum?
B) I was thirteen years of age when I got diagnosed officially but I think my parents were quite sure I was autistic from a very young age. They were told they would have to wait on a list for two or more years to get me diagnosed through public health. They would otherwise have had paid for private therapy and diagnosis, the cost was steep.
S) Is there anything that is noticeably different for you in your experience being on the spectrum?
B) I have found that super loud music with lots of bass is very soothing for me. I have two, twelve inch, sub woofers in my car and not many people can handle the volume as loud as I prefer it. For me it is therapeutic.
S) What other activities do you find are good for coping with some of your autistic challenges?
B) Some of my coping activities would be either lifting weights or other types of exercise. I also use cannabis to balance out my mood and manage my anxiety.
S) Do you engage in any stimming behaviours?
B) Sometimes I will rub behind my ears softly or repeatedly click a button or something like that.
S) What are some of your special interests and why do they interest you?
B) A special interest I have would be big transport trucks. This has been an interest of mine for a long time because I’ve always wanted to be a long haul truck driver and drive across Canada delivering freight. I also have an interest in car audio. I think I have this interest because of my love for loud music. I also think it is fascinating how much sound one can get out of something as small as a speaker.
S) What challenges do you have regarding how autism affects you?
B) I often have had people express dis-belief that I am autistic. I have noticed that sometimes when people learn I am on the spectrum they think negative things of me and treat me noticeably different to others. I have also noticed that past employers have either fired me or treated me like I am slow witted after they learn I am autistic, so I just stopped telling my employers that I was autistic.
S) That’s unfortunate. I have had similar experiences myself regarding my own autism status. Can you describe any situation in which your autistic behaviour or thinking has helped someone?
B) There were a lot of situations growing up where I felt a huge fight or flight sense, mainly if someone was being bullied or just picked on. I would sometimes fight the bully out of a sense of obligation because I didn’t know how to handle situations. A lot of times it would get violent because it really bothers me when anyone with special needs gets bullied and I believe they (authority and peers) don’t do enough to deal with bullying.
S) I too have had such experiences and also share your feelings on bullying. I have learned that my autistic gifts can sometimes be like super powers though. What autistic super powers do you feel you have?
B) I feel like an autistic “super power” that I have is being super passionate about the things I am interested in. My passion for such interests has really allowed me to enjoy my job as a school bus driver.
S) What advice would you give to those living with autism or those that think that may be autistic but have trouble getting diagnosed?
B) Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re “different” as if it’s some kind of problem. You’re not “different” in the way they mean it. Everyone has their own specialities and qualities. No one was designed to be exactly the same. Everyone is meant to be unique in their own way. Keep conquering every hurdle you encounter along the journey.
Sean Leal is on a mission to advocate both for mental health awareness and for Autism awareness as well as care. After looking back on the tragedy and abuse he suffered in his childhood he spent eight years in therapy and was diagnosed with level one Autism at the age of thirty-two. After his diagnosis other members of his family were tested for ASD as well. His brother, sister and uncle have been formally diagnosed with ASD as well as several of their children.
After helping his family learn more about the Autism spectrum he is very excited to be given the opportunity to volunteer and write for ASO. It is his hope that the book he has written, an autobiography of his life, will one day be published so that he might pursue his dream career of being a writer and published author. He considers his autistic traits to be a gift, they absolutely are the reason he survived what he did and he is proud to be on the spectrum.