Inside Story of My Life
By Timothy O’Keefe
I am a 32-year-old non-speaking autistic man who lives in Madison, Wisconsin. I have lived in my own apartment for four years because my parents formed a company to support me. My family are my workers and they come over in turns to support me. I have my own space and my own things. It is set up so I can’t crash stuff. My apartment is very calm and cozy, it makes me feel good. I love it, and I love my family.
I love it so much that I have a job. My job is my favorite thing. I have worked for the Madison Public Schools Building Services since 2009. The Lafollette High School Post Grad program get me my job. I am supported by ICW.
I work M-F for two hours a day. I shred secrets for the Madison Public Schools. They include Payroll records, grades, IEPs, and human resources records. We recycle our shredding; it is good for the environment. I have a second job with my family’s company. I wash linens at the laundromat. It is awesome. I have always liked laundromats so I am good at it.
Jobs are for grown-ups, not kids. I have behaviors, but I learn I need to knock them off if I want to keep my job. I am far from perfect, but I have many people who help me to get to where I want to go. My job coaches are the best, they are my rock.
I communicate with Facilitated Communication, or typing. It’s when someone gives me support while I type so I can focus. I was four when I started typing. I believe mom was pretty happy when I typed my first word. PECs sucks, I am much smarter than that.
I mostly type with my mom, my sister a facilitator and a job coach. I think it especially helps in meetings. They listen. They think differently. Even if they not sure, they not treat me like an idiot. When I type, either they believe me or they think my mom is ridiculous. It’s ok for me either way.
I need help getting my thoughts out. It is the worst when I don’t have access to typing and can’t get my thoughts out. I see the whole page. I never forget anything. I get so nervous if someone is watching. I just yearn to be able to tell others how smart I am; (my goal is) to type on my own. I love typing with people.
I just think people need to know more about typing. People need to get more facilitators. Kids need to see people like me to see that we are very intelligent. People need to hear our stories.
Thoughts on Autism
I feel really good about my life but I hate having autism. Here are my biggest issues:
- I don’t like people touching me.
- Lots of times people get upset if I get stuck; they need to back off and give me time.
- There is too much giving me orders.
- People just think I can’t learn but they are wrong.
- People make me more nervous if they push me too hard
I just think I keep having more problems because my body is not programmed like other people. I do think I might be getting better at knowing when I have pain. I wish I had more control in my life. I need more help to be an adult.
Most people see us as just too stupid to know anything. Try to look at me as an adult and understand I know much more than you might think.
As a small child, I was mostly greatly angry. Teachers need to be more patient. People need to learn that we are all very intelligent but understand I might be nervous. Nothing makes me more nervous than having lots of people around.
Conferences and Groups
I really like going to conferences but they are hard for me. I really mostly want to be at conferences to meet more people like me. I just need to be with people who type.
I have been to the Inclusion Connection conference in Cedar Rapids for two years. They had many great doings. I had a great time. I love seeing so many people who type to communicate and knowing I might be some day able to type on my own. And I was happy to see some new families with young kids who might find their voice with typing. Other people like me have written books. I think I would like to do that.
The online conference (Stronger Together 2020) was fabulous. I loved it that I could watch it on TV and ask questions. I like it I can go to all the sessions and not melt down.
I have a Social Group (when we don’t have COVID). We meet together and type. They are my brotherhood. If you are interested, here is a short video of me with one of my facilitators working on independent typing – https://youtu.be/_kaXFFpqX2k
I am happy to connect with people who want to know more about my story. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Timothy O’Keefe was born in Stevens Point, and moved to Madison in middle school. He is a graduate of LaFollette High School and has been employed by the Madison Public School District Building Services for over 10 years through support from ICW. Timothy has been typing to communicate since kindergarten and has participated in The Social Group since its inception several years ago. He is a member of the YMCA and enjoys swimming, bowling and attending art class at Arts for All. He enjoys attending conferences, including Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin, Autism Society of America, AutCom, and the Inclusion Connection.