A friend with Autism

In honor of Autism Awareness Month here is a special post written by my best friend who discusses her first hand experience with having a friend on the spectrum.

When meeting Erica ten years ago, we made up two out of the 8 girls living in a college campus suite. I know what you are thinking, 8 ladies living together sharing one bathroom. That seems like the making of a good horror movie but it surprisingly was anything but that. It was a great experience mainly due to the group of ladies we were that year.

All in our early twenties and still struggling to figure out who we were, I think we all saw Erica’s struggles and took her in under each of our wings. I’m not sure any of us were fully aware Erica had Aspergers but we were able to recognize she needed a little more support.

Thankfully we were a group of ladies that embraced Erica’s quirks, along with each others, always with a good laugh and mutual respect. There might have even been an occasional celebratory drink for any and every occasion.

If we all had a different role in that suite, Erica was the brutally honest one. She was the girl you went to if you wanted to know if an outfit made you look fat. Sometimes the opinion was offered without even asking Erica. Thanks Erica, I guess I’ll return that new dress!

In the beginning of the year, Erica was the girl behind her computer instead of hanging out amongst a social group. Some might even have called her a loner. It became our mission to always include Erica and make her feel a part of our sisterhood. By the end of the year she was the first one asking what we were doing that evening.

Now in our 30’s I can honestly say Erica does not need protection from anyone. She is able to not only defend herself but she does a great job at it too. I think she is a wonderful example of someone who has learned to live with a condition and grab it by the horns.

She continues to speak her mind honestly, sometimes her honesty stings but like a true friend she has always apologized if offensive. Erica is smart, successful, works hard and is more confident then the Erica I met in her 20’s. I am very proud of the person Erica has become.

Katherina Mancuso

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