Turning Heads

My formative years can best be described as tumultuous, marked by odd behavior and incessant clashing with family, peers, and medical professionals. These seemingly endless conflicts prompted my parents to take me to a doctor, who not only informed them that I have Asperger’s Syndrome, but that I would never know any kind of friendship or success. My parents were devastated. Even today, my mom recalls seeing my dad slumped against his car in the parking lot, his head buried in his hands and his shoulders shaking with sobs. My mom’s reaction quickly turned from one of defeat to one of determination. From the moment I was diagnosed to the moment I left home for college, my “training” to become a functioning member of society never stopped. My parents never let my diagnosis become an excuse or a hindrance, and they urged me to expect the same level of greatness from myself as they did.

For a long time, though, it seemed like I was destined to stagnate for the rest of my life. I craved a better life more than anything else, but it just didn’t seem to be in the cards for me. I failed to connect with anyone, except for a few neighbors I would occasionally play outside with as a youngster. But those relationships were founded on convenience rather than actual care, and I knew this. The void in my soul grew, just as my anger and frustration did. Why couldn’t I establish lasting friendships at school? Why couldn’t I enjoy academic and social success like my peers seemed to be? Why did heads turn away from me when I entered the room, as if I was too repulsive to look at?

This frustration festered and became self-hatred. I attributed all of my agony to my Asperger’s, and retreated into a state of pity and rage that threatened to destroy me. I closed my mind and my heart to anyone and everyone, setting up impenetrable barriers that made it impossible for my life to go anywhere. My grades plummeted, and my drive disappeared, turning me into an agent of sloth instead of an agent of success.

This vicious cycle continued until I entered my junior year in high school. Friendships formed between me and the kids at my new school, teachers frequently sang my praises, and everyone seemed to know my name. What is this sorcery? Is this really all it takes? Those questions and dozens of others lined up in my brain, eagerly waiting to be answered like a line full of excited girls waiting to meet Justin Bieber. Then it hit me with the force of a speeding train. All I had to do was make a decision, a split second decision that forever changed my life. I believe that our lives can be altered in a single, definitive moment, a moment that can come at any time and that forever changes our course.

For the first time in my life, people paid attention to me. I turned heads not away from me, but towards me. I eventually became an award-winning, internationally recognized journalist and an accomplished entrepreneur, proving that life can be a wonderful, empowering experience. But you have to demand that experience. Demand excellence from yourself and from others, and don’t let anything stop you from taking the reins and steering your life in the direction you want it to go.


152 thoughts on “Turning Heads

  1. Well, in that one split decision moment, just what was that decision? I wish you would share that part, it would be a great help for other teenage boys to read!

  2. Hayden,
    You are a very inspiring young man that gives me hope. As a stepfather that has dealt with a young son since age three. I have seen it all that you can well imagine! It took me 9 years to stop my drill Sargent personality! Because you will be lost if you don’t follow my survival skills boy! So I thought? But my wife like your mother always had and has hope! I have learned much over the past couple years. We so appreciate running into you as well! Someone who truly lives in the trenches of reality that challenges so many (with a different way of thinking) I would like to call it. That’s all! But a real life struggle for so many young people when family and friends don’t want to be around such a difficult child? But no wonder if you were that child? I find myself asking so often these days. Would every body abandon you? Throw you out? It’s a journey and a life lesson for so many. I am excited to be in your program and look forward to your insight for a 54 year old guy!???? Thank you Hayden! God Bless you brother????

  3. My 10 year old son was diagnosed with Asperger’s last year but along with this he also has seizures and severe ADHD/ADD combined along with immune system issues and not progressing as he should. Any advice? I would love the cd’s but with all the specialist we already see along with his medicines for all this money is tight. I would love some practical advice.

  4. Thanks you for your experience’s and contacting me through e mail. I am coaching with Jeffery Combs and shared my life about my son Michael who is now 20. Jeff told me to stick with you guys for assistance. Michael ‘s dad passed away and he is lost. He loves fishing and goes out every night to fish. He is amazing, and one with the ocean.I have been talking to him about a career move and now he is angry and argumentative. I want nothing more than to see him succeed at something he can do that will allow him to be independent should anything happen to me. Everything I suggest he frowns upon. I have not been pushing him and gave him time to grieve the last 1.5 year’s. Counseling, life coach, taking 1 course, trade school, Captains license. Everything he finds an excuse why it won’t work. He is frightened and talks about wanting to die. I am praying for an answer and love him dearly. He does not like to hear the word Aspergers which I haven’t spoken in 5 year’s. I recently told him I have joined your website for direction and now he’s become more argumentative. I know he’s afraid to step out, but I am willing to do anything to help him Any suggestions would be gratefully appreciated.

  5. Hi, getting so much understanding than we have ever had before.
    We would love to hear more on how to help older children that have moved out of home in their 20’s


  7. Having to deal with a situation on his own without outside help forced our ASD son to make a change. Because of his grades, he was selected for the governors honors program in high school and attended this weekend 200 miles from home. He was scared, but he learned how to play bridge! It was only a small decision like many since then. He decided that despite his cerebral palsy he would master keyboarding. What a great decision for his computer career field. Sometimes things are so unpleasant that the only option is to go forward. The Academic Team experience in high school was tough, but he earned a college scholarship. If I could say one thing helped,for him it was going forward no matter what,because parents won’t always be able t o see what is happening. Find your gifts and don’t let anyone stop you!

  8. Thank you for sharing your experience of life. You are amazing. I am hoping to come and listen to you sometime.
    I am a parent to a girl with asperger.
    // Maria

  9. Here is my question . My 16teen year old grandson see you reproductions for the things he dose wrong , when asked why he did something like why did you do that his answer us always I don’t know .He see that friends are only at their convent other wise they really don’t bother with him . When he spends the weekend with me ,he plays video games from the time he walks in the door till he leaves .I talk to him about school and home and he gives me the short story of everything . He desperately wants a girl friend and after a few calls with her he loves her . I do worries about him alot . He goes to a therapests and I asked he he tell her everything that brothers him about home and school ,he says they would pull him from home and he wants to stay and finish school were he is . So he is not being honest with the therapest.Somethings seen to turn towards Asperger then I an not sure and wonder is you could help me so I can help my grandson and he dose have a lot of anger .

  10. Thanks for sharing your story Hayden! It is inspirational for all who read it! I am learning so much from your business that is helping me with my own children, I just really am grateful to you for not giving up!

  11. I appreciate your candid honesty, because I know that you are speaking from a place of first hand experience. The things that I am learning from you is like a breath of fresh air. We have struggled a great deal, and have come a long way with our counselor’s help. BUT knowing that you have been through all of the things that our son is experiencing, especially since he has entered back into the public school system as a freshman, has been a comfort and help to us. Thank you for your willingness to share what you have lived, in order to help all of us (parents and Aspi’s)alike. Thank you so much for all that you do to make it easy to understand, and visual as well, for those of us who learn best that way. PS: I learn better with personal stories too, so thanks for your input as well as Danny’s. 🙂 PSS: Do you address anywhere about the specific issues with puberty and foul language (surely these must be adding to “sensory” issues that he has to deal with” Thanks again!

  12. I need help. My daughter is 18. I had her in catholic school her whole life. I did receive a call in kindergarten telling me my daughter doesn’t interact with the other students. By time she was in first grade she had issues of going to school. She started having seizures and was diagnosed with hypoglycemic. She missed 40 days of school every year. Her social anxiety and depression worsened every year. By time she reached senior year in hs she missed 90 days of school She wouldn’t take s.a.t. No matter what. She didn’t want to be around other kids from other schools. Didn’t like movies cause other kids her age were there. She is now worse than ever. Won’t go to college. Won’t get a job. Won’t leave the house and now won’t let any friends come here to see her. She is musically inclined. She is absolutely a beautiful girl (this is a big problem) cause people who see her think she doesn’t have a problem in the world. Everyone stops me to comment on her beauty and most friends won’t let her near their boyfriends and have admitted they are jealous of her looks. She feels like people are out to get her. She doesn’t trust anyone. Her iq is extremely high. She was doing 100 piece puzzles at 2 years old. Her uncle had autism. Her 2nd cousin have aspergers and 2 others with PDd. She only eats certain goods. She has many sensory issues. Her psychiatrist just diagnosed her with borderline personality disorder but my gut is telling me aspergers. Please tell me who woukd I bring her to to get am evaluation to see if she has aspergers. I am stressed out to the Max. I need answers. I am
    Desperate to help her. Please help me to help her. Thank you so much

  13. Hi Hayden. You are a fantastic writer! You have me on the edge of my seat…you said.

    “Then it hit me with the force of a speeding train. All I had to do was make a decision, a split second decision that forever changed my life. ”


    So proud of you and all your accomplishments and continued success!!!!

  14. Thanks, Hayden. Your blogs are insightful.

    My 27 year old son is an Aspie, and functions fairly well, has a good software job and is about to get his own place. He has been delayed leaving home because along with mild autism he also has to deal with Crohn’s disease. My greatest fear is that away from family he will feel lonely. I have to trust things will work out all right.

  15. I have that will be 6 years old in January. He was diagnosed with mild autism at Head Start Program at 3 1/2 years old. I did all the right things when I was pregnant. My son didn’t cry at all when he was born but was very alert. When he was a year old if not sooner he would line his toys up in a straight line/also all of his gerber graduate meals/snacks. I taught him so much in the first 3 years it was exhausting everyday, but enjoyable. He knew how to use the computer (bookmark, retrieve history, etc.) at 2 years old. At 3 years old, he would read books all by himself with no help from Mommy. Some days it’s like speaking to a 10 year old and others like he is confused of what to say at times. I was 40 when I had my son & will be 46 in October. I feel overwhelmed sometimes, but try to be patient everyday to give him confidence in himself to succeed. My husband and I praise him everyday when he does well. When he does something wrong we just talk to him (no spanking) and explain to him what he did that wasn’t so nice to do. God Bless everyone that faces challenges everyday. God has blessed us with beautiful children that need that extra guidance to succeed & we also learn things about our children that make us stronger!

  16. Thank you so much for all the encouragement and information you are providing. My grandson is 10 has been on sooo many different medications since the age of 5. I live with him his 2 younger brothers and their mother my daughter. His father left 2 years ago because he can not accept his sons issues. It was not hard on my grandson because of his fathers a use towards him. He was quite happy he left. He was diagnosed with ADHD and ODD at 5. But I have worked with children who have those problems and do not bieve it is true. His last 2 teachers have asked if possibly he has Aspergers also instead of his diagnosis. He had a psychiatrist appointment last week and my daughter brought it up and the doc said yes he could have it. He is highly intelligent always honor roll but his quirks and the ability to converse quite knowledgeable regarding physics and astronomy have of course caused children his age to shun him. This school year is the first time anyone has sat with him in the lunchroom. The mean stories he tells of the other kids breaks my heart. He says I am his favorite person because I understand him.my health is failing and it scares me to think of him without me. We lost his grandfather 3 years ago and he still grieves for him. He has a wonderful sense of humor plays soccer and actually scored 5 goals last week. He has all As on his midterm but is still lacking social skills. He has no friends at all. He shoots hoops alone rides his bike but prefers to read and listen to music, all music. He has insisted on reading the Readers Digest since he was 7 from cover to cover! He remembers everything he reads! I think he is quite amazing! I am so happy to have found you guys!

  17. Go get em Hayden. Show everyone you are not only unique but gifted and excellent in a wonderful way. Thank God someone is brutally honest these days. Go for it.


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