La Cañada High School

Living with Autism: Meet the ‘Faulty Avatar’

You might have seen me around campus, slowly walking to the library or wrapping my arms around my head and freezing as the bell rings. You might be wondering, “Who is that guy? Could it be one of those kids with autism in room 112?”

I am Peter Tran, a student on diploma track like you. Yes, I have autism, and yes I’m in Ms. Laska’s homeroom. I’m also the sixth of seven kids in my family and I love skiing, biking, and swimming, I love Dickens, classical music, and poetry. I have interests and people, friends and family, whom I love, just like you.

How I differ is that my nervous system is wired differently from yours. I have senses like yours, but the channels are tuned way up or way down. When the bell rings, I feel like the very sound blinds my eyes and I can’t move my legs. My motor output isn’t as smooth either. I have difficulty initiating my intentions and have a stuttering “go” switch, so that even when I manage to start walking, I may stop periodically.

Conversely, sometimes I just have to tap on something. I love tapping swim goggles because they bounce and give a nice satisfying feedback to my hands, but then I can’t stop. I have dyspraxia which is difficulty coordinating the muscles, so I can’t talk clearly. But I have learned to type to communicate. There are many other glitches I’ve learned to live with, but basically I operate a body I call a faulty avatar.

The strangest part is that I seem to have two pathways to motor output, a stuttering faulty one for my upper brain’s voluntary intentions and a lower-brain pathway that carries out my impulsive desires just fine. Have you ever found it really hard to get out of bed and go to school on a Monday morning but sprung out of bed with no problem when you knew you had something fun to do like go skiing? You know how I feel then, but magnify that effect tenfold.

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