I am 16 years old and am an incoming tenth-grader this coming school year. I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome (AS), a combination of social and learning disabilities on the autistic spectrum, at age 4 and have been in Special Education since age 3. I have faced countless challenges throughout my life. Foremost among them has been anxiety, which has been an issue since day one. My father recently told me that when I was a baby, I would constantly examine my physical surroundings by anxiously looking all around.
After I entered grade school, I tried to hide this pervasive anxiety by appearing mischievous while answering questions in class. For instance, once in elementary school, a teaching assistant asked a question about what a prominent ice cream company was named. Anxious that I would answer incorrectly, I (incorrectly!) answered, "Ice Cream Company." (This was logical in my mind, as why would an ice cream company not simply be called "Ice Cream Company?") The teacher, who mistakenly thought I was trying to make trouble, gave me a "time-out."
As I matured, worrying about the consequences of misbehaving and transgressing was a major hindrance to my social development. Later in my elementary-school years, I worried about getting arrested after I heard about juvenile and teen delinquents. My AS hindered me from being able to distinguish between one teen's situation and my own.
After I stopped worrying about run-ins with the law, my anxieties were…