By Adam Mardero
Adam Mardero was diagnosed with Asperger's at the age of nine, and began the journey to understand his differences and the label that would define his life. Uncommon Sense is a vulnerable and insightful exploration of a boy growing into a young man while battling a label and ... Read more
Adam Mardero was diagnosed with Asperger's at the age of nine, and began the journey to understand his differences and the label that would define his life. Uncommon Sense is a vulnerable and insightful exploration of a boy growing into a young man while battling a label and the misunderstandings that arise from being on the spectrum. Through the perspective of his geek world, Adam shares the challenges faced after being labeled and how he found his voice as an activist for neurodiverse young people.
Adam Mardero founded the blog Differently Wired to educate and advocate for neurodiversity. He holds a Master's Degree in History and a Bachelor of Education. Since coming to terms with being neurodivergent, he's dedicated his life to helping further the causes of Autism and neurodiversity acceptance. Adam lives in Sudbury, Ontario.
1988 was a big year. It was when Super Mario Bros. 3 cameout in Japan, and when Die Hard landed in theatres (which Imaintain is the best Christmas movie ever made). It was also theyear of my birth, and unfortunately my parents divorced soonafter. You see, my mom struggled with mental health issues as aresult of childhood trauma. I'm not at liberty to get into details,but abuse was involved, and while she was able to get throughmuch of life without being consciously aware of the toll it tookon her psyche, eventually the cork popped. Her mental healthdeclined, and my parents' marriage disintegrated. Because ofthis, they parted ways and I ended up living with my dad -- anelementary school teacher -- once the dust had settled.
Their separation was only the beginning of the storyfor me though. Not long afterward, my dad met a fellowteacher named Trish while working at St. Francis School inthe special education department, and by 1992, she becamemy stepmother. The emergence of this new family dynamicwreaked havoc on my brain. It was a lot to process all at once,and our initial relationship was tense as a result. In retrospect,this difficulty with change was obviously due to the fact I amautistic. At the time though, we all lacked such vocabulary inour family lexicon. All I knew was I didn't like it. Not one bit.
To quote Peter Parker at the beginning of Sam Raimi's 2002Spider-Man movie, "if someone told you this was a happy tale . ..someone lied. " My life was more complicated than it appeared,and it so often felt as though others couldn't comprehendthe intense maelstrom of emotions going through my youngbrain -- heck most of the time, neither could I. I just knewcertain things made me extremely uncomfortable; food texture,smell, visual appearance, even doing homework. Each one ofthese became a potential flashpoint between us, as Trish and mydad tried to assert dominance and be stern in a situation theyfelt was best solved through discipline and order. That was theprevailing educational and parenting logic of the time after all,and my parents -- being teachers themselves -- were nothingif not up on the literature. The problem was, this didn't workon me and I dug in my heels, becoming even more intransigentin response. I was adrift, and in deeper waters than I was evenaware. I didn't want to be argumentative or disruptive, but I hadno other way to communicate the distress I felt.
The thing was, I did in fact love Trish a great deal. When weweren't butting heads, she was actually a lot of fun to be around. She had a good sense of humour, and genuinely seemed to caredeeply for both my father and me. It was just that I found thesituation extremely overwhelming and hated that she wanted tobe my mother so soon after my actual mom and dad had split. Iwasn't ready for that. But I also resented my mom for not beingaround more than every second weekend. In short, life was amess.
From what Trish and my dad have described of those earlyyears, my behaviour and outbursts kept them up often, and ourentire family was on edge. According to my dad, everythingabout me was extreme: I was intensely fixated on things I foundinteresting to the point of obsession; I needed to completely,exhaustively finish one thing before I moved on to another;I preferred playing alone and had difficulty making friends;and, most notably to everyone around me in the family, I wasextremely defiant when I didn't get my way. In addition to fightsover dinner menu preferences born of sensory processing issues,screaming matches would frequently erupt over the smallestthings. My zia (the Italian word for "aunt" in case you aren'tfamiliar with the language) once wanted me to wait until aftercoffee to open gifts on my birthday, for example, and I washaving none of it; I immediately created a scene, crying andshouting until they let me.
Told as a child that his autism meant he might never communicate effectively with other people or forge meaningful relationships, Adam Mardero had to fight harder than most to believe in himself. In this touching and exuberant memoir, he chronicles his struggles and his victories on the way to realizing that he is perfectly okay the way he is. His story is by turns funny, painful and determined, but always engaging.
- Catherine McKercher, author of Shut Away: When Down Syndrome was a Life SentenceMardero's quirky (and at times touchingly geeky) narrative is funny, thoughtful, and endlessly informative. Through his stories of growing up as an autistic individual, we're given a glimpse into not only the singular challenges but also, the astonishing triumphs that are an inextricable part of living a neurodivergent life. --Hollay Ghadery, author of Fuse: A Memoir on Mixed Race Identity and Mental Health