With my son recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, after years of seeing doctors, it was a relief to finally get a diagnosis, specifically Asperger’s Syndrome. Kieran’s story below shines a light on this condition that is often misunderstood because the difficulties these sensitive, intelligent kids experience are not so visible on the “outside”. I also highly recommend this book for more insight into children with Autism:
Thanks to Kieran, Ambry Genetics, and author Tiffany Au for providing the interview.
Tiffany Au (April 6th, 2017)
To help support National Autism Awareness Month, we are sharing our interview with Kieran Best, a 14-year-old young man with an autism spectrum disorder. Kieran graciously shared insights into what his day-to-day life is like and offered words of wisdom to others who may be in his situation. Check back in two weeks to read our interview with Christina DeRochemont, Kieran’s mother, who also spoke with us. She’ll tell us about what life was like early on with Kieran, and how they received his diagnosis.
Ambry: Why are you excited to share your story?
Kieran: I have never done one of these before, so that’s neat. It’s nice to be a voice for people like me. I want to share who I am to show people at the end of the day – I am a regular teen with a good heart, I just experience difficulties in certain areas.
A: Where did you grow up?
K: I was born in Burnsville, Minnesota. I came to California when I was three and then moved back to Minnesota for six months. I came back to Los Angeles when I was 11, and here I am.
A: What’s something exciting in your life right now?
K: I am going to Japan with my classmates. This will be my first time going abroad. We are going for 10 days and will be leaving towards the end of June. I am also going to Catalina [Island] for three days. I know it’s a lot of travel and being in the outside world… are you proud of me?
A: I am envious of your adventures! Outside of travel, what are some of the things you enjoy?
K: I enjoy video games, mostly the older varieties. I collect them. Now, I am into all sorts of media and analyzing them. For example, video games are a work of art. I play them for fun, but I like to learn the history of the game and understand the complexity of its makeup. I like to read. However, I will only read classics; I have not picked up a book that isn’t famous. By famous, I mean that everyone knows the author. For instance, I am reading Around the World in 80 days, The Picture of Dory and the entire Sherlock Holmes series. I watch movies and television. Just like my books and video games, I love older forms of media.
A: It’s wonderful that you are able to appreciate so many forms of media and have such a curiosity in complex messages. What are some areas of your life that you like to keep simple?
K: I keep my foods pretty minimal and simple. I am not a vegetarian; I just don’t like meat. I don’t like the texture. I am sensitive to texture when it comes to food. Vegetables are hard for me to eat, as well. I am not the proudest of my diet, but I am getting better. A year or so ago, I noticed I am more willing to try new things. I mean, I am going to Japan so I need to force myself or I may starve. Oh, one last thing: My favorite dessert is macaroons – vanilla. I only like vanilla because it’s well on its own and it plays well with others.
A: Sounds like something a chef would say, would you ever consider being a chef? If not, what do you want to be when you grow up?
K: No! I would never be a chef. I am not even proud of the three things I eat. I see myself in the gaming industry, but I’m not sure what I would be doing. I truly enjoy video games. I wanted to be an artist, but I realized I can’t draw. It is probably because I have shaky hands. I found out I’m half-decent at writing. I started my blog, www.tehyoshiking.com, and figured out that it is fun to make. I know I needed to do something with my life, so I started the blog. I don’t know if I really want to do this for the rest of my life, but it’s fun for now.
A: Now that we know a little bit about your background and interests, would you like to share about what it is like to be a young man with autism?
K: There is a stereotype for everything and everyone now. People think that having autism will harm your quality of life. When they hear “autism,” they think people like me are overly excited, act differently, have a hard time focusing, and lack social skills. In my eyes, it is nothing like that; it’s just a mild annoyance. I take medication, mainly during the week, so I don’t act strange. Other than that, I feel pretty normal. When I am on my medication, I have a harder time adjusting, but can focus better. When I am off it, I can’t focus, but can do more things at once.
A: How does this affect your life at school?
K: I do have some social issues when I am on my medication, but like I said, I can focus a lot more and do my school work. When I don’t take my medication, I am more social. Also, when I’m not on my medication, I am more confident, or at least feel it. There are more people like me at my private school, and it makes me feel more comfortable because we have similar interests and speak similar terms, if that makes sense.
A: How does this affect your life in relationships with your friends? How about family?
K: It doesn’t change much in my eyes. I suppose starting relationships with friends is a little more difficult. I am an emotional person, but it is not easy for me to talk about my emotions. I don’t like sharing them with other people because I don’t want to cause emotional distress for other people. I don’t like making people feel sad.
A: You are quite empathic! What other areas in your life do you feel most confident?
K: I am most confident in academics, knowledge of historical events, and video game knowledge.
A: What areas in your life do you wish to improve?
K: I always feel like people are judging me. I assume that everyone judges, but I know they don’t. I think that it’s a personal thing. I want to feel less judgement.
A: Do you have any advice for others who live with autism?
K: Sure! Stay in school, don’t do drugs, and drink your milk. Try and think positive in life-that is really how you end up on top. Try and be more social because I promise there are people that are like you, even if it doesn’t seem like there are. Try and reach out to other people who have similar interests. I started a video game club in middle school and had to turn people away because it got too big! Most importantly, never try to be someone you are not.