Winter is coming

I am looking forward to winter this year. It is beautiful here when it snows and I actually enjoy the colder temperatures. I love how snow makes everything seem fresh and clean. And I’m excited to take some trips up to Grand Lake and go cross country skiing. I tried it last year and really enjoyed it. I am trying to do new things and to also stay in good shape and cross country skiing is great exercise. I think I could get good at it if I work at it. Downhill skiing is fun but I’m having a hard time learning how to turn. It’s kind of an important skill, you know. For cross country skiing, you just have to keep your skis in the tracks and keep moving. I am good at moving! Aaron

Making progress

So far, I have not made much progress typing on my own. But, my dad and mom are now trying a new method. Instead of holding their hand, they are now just holding my forearm. It is way harder for me because I can’t control my movements as easily but I think it is a good next step. When I try it on my own, my mind just becomes jumbled. I don’t get it, but that is what happens. For some reason, I need that physical connection with someone for my brain to focus. I am really tired of autism. I won’t give up though. What else can I do but keep trying? Thanks for listening. Aaron.

My brain drives me crazy

So, I’m trying really hard to improve my independence and being able to write without holding someone’s hand is going to be the key to that. Once I can do that, I think my life is going to change. I don’t know why I can’t do it. It makes me feel mad and frustrated with myself but I just have to keep trying. I think that it is like my marathon training. At first, I had to hold onto a rope to be able to keep running but now I can do it by myself with a reasonably solid pace. I’m still holding onto the “rope” with my writing but I just need to keep training and eventually, I should be able to do it on my own as well. My brain drives me crazy, though. Why can’t I just do it? I know that I’m capable. How long will it take? I have no idea. Aaron.

New Heights

Last Saturday, I ran my second marathon.  I established a new personal best of 4:01:28 which I feel really good about.  I was going for four hours which I just missed, but it was still about twenty five minutes faster than my first marathon.  I am happy because we pretty much only stopped at the aid stations and an occasional five-second mental break.  This is way better for me because I normally need to stop running about every ten minutes.  But, now I know that I can push through and that gives me confidence.  From here, I just need to keep getting faster when I am running.  I am also happy because I got to spend the weekend with my dad and my brother, Ben.  Ben ran the marathon with us and killed it with a time of 2:54.  That was good enough for the win and qualifies him for Boston.  My dad also found out that there is a Boston-qualifying time for disabilities including autism of 6 hours, so I’m also a Boston Qualifier!  And my dad has qualified before too.  Now, he needs to run one by himself so he can qualify again.  Then, we’ll shoot for Boston 2020.  How cool would that be?  I am grateful to be able to run and to set ambitious goals.  I have good examples in my family to follow.  Thanks Dad and Ben for letting me be part of that world with you.  It is a life-saver for me. Aaron    

Just catching up

It has been a long time since I wrote in my blog but I haven’t been idle. Since my last post, I have written a book about my journey of faith as a disabled person. I’m hopeful that since I kind of felt inspired to write it that Heavenly Father will open a door for it to be published. I’m glad to be done with that project and to have accomplished that goal. Now I am just going to focus on writing in the blog and trying to improve in various other ways. My dad and I are getting ready to run another marathon. I wanted to do it in a place that I have never been before so we are going to Illinois in September. We aren’t as well trained this year because we’ve had a busy summer but we should get through it. I was hoping to break the four-hour mark but we will have to see if the high-altitude training in Colorado will compensate for the fewer training runs. I hope so. And, this week we start another year in school. This will be my last year in the transitions program before I have to figure out what the next phase in life will be. So, I hope to make the most of it. Thanks for listening to me think out loud. I didn’t really have a theme for this post. I just wanted to get started again with something. I’ll think about something more interesting for next time. Until then, have a good end of summer. Aaron.

When I think about Easter. . .

When I think about Easter, I think about Christ at the tomb after he had emerged with a resurrected body and before he had risen to heaven to be with Heavenly Father. I love that it was so important to him that he show himself to Mary before he left to complete the mission. To me, that shows about how much he loves each of us. He knew that Mary was grieving and that she was there early to show her respect by preparing his body. I assume that she wasn’t the only one that was going to be involved in that process. But she was there by herself probably after another sleepless night, mourning her Savior and friend. I love that it was her that saw him first because she was there trying to serve him. It wasn’t Peter or any of the other apostles. In fact, Thomas had to be convinced of her story. I love how Christ rewarded her for her faith. I love how she had so much love for him that she pled for his body when she thought it was stolen. I love how Christ was so kind to her. I love how Christ gently spoke her name and revealed his identity. I think Christ will reveal himself to us in the same way as we humbly serve him with an eye of faith. I love the example of Mary and that is what I’m going to focus on this Easter. Aaron

A new year’s resolution

It is 2018 and I have been thinking about what I want to accomplish this year. First is to begin my service mission. It has been slower than I expected to get started but hopefully it will happen soon. That is my biggest goal for the year. But as part of that, I want to get better at writing and speaking so that I can gain more independence. I really would love to eventually live in my own place but I know that I have a long way to go to get to that point so I need to really focus on it as much as I can. Maybe my missionary service will give me good chances to practice some of those skills. Maybe I can bless others in the meantime too. I also want to run another marathon and do it under four hours. I think I can achieve that. I hope to climb a couple more fourteeners this year too. Over three years now, my goals have sure gotten bigger. I’m glad for being able to reach new heights. Aaron.

Time for Christmas

Today, I have been pondering about how mankind has become so dependent on technology to function. Hardly a minute is spent away from our phones or IPads or our computers. I know that these things are useful and in many ways have improved our lives. In fact, without them, I would be unable to even share my voice so I am not calling anybody out. But, how much of the time that we spend looking up needless information could we use in a better way. In my world, I find that if I look at something too much, I can’t get it out of my head. So, I need to be selective about what I look at. I want to fill my brain with things that are worth perseverating about. This time of year is my favorite. I love the lights and the trees and the presents. I love Christmas music. I love snow on the mountains. But, what I really love most is the story of the Savior’s birth. I love to imagine that I was there, in the manger, when the shepherds came and the angels sang his praises. For unto us a child is born. Unto us. We were watching from heaven, I believe. Maybe we were part of the angelic choir. I love to think that I could sing and shout for joy before my voice was taken away by autism. These are the things that I choose to perseverate about this month. Not Donald Trump or North Korea or who is being accused of sexual assault. To me, Christ fixes all of that. I plan on focusing my energy on Him. Love Aaron.

My Light the World video

Last September, the missionary department from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints asked me if they could tell my story as part of this year’s Christmas campaign called Light the World.  They thought that my efforts to deal with my disability would be able to inspire others to think more about Christ and to focus more on Him during the holiday season.  I agreed to it because, although I’m naturally a shy person, I feel strongly that Heavenly Father has a plan for me to use my challenges to help others overcome their own difficulties.  It was weird to have a camera in my face for a whole day but the crew was super nice and made it as easy on me as possible.  The video turned out very well and I like it.  It is weird to see myself on the internet, I must admit, but it’s for a good cause so I’m okay with it.  I really do hope that my story can help someone out there who is struggling with their faith and wondering if God is really there.  I can testify that He is and that He loves us.  I love Him and I love the Savior.  I am thankful for my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  If any of you who read this blog would like to know more about our church, please contact me on Facebook and we can chat.  I will tell you what I know and will help you find the missionaries in your area. Love, Aaron https://www.mormon.org/christmas/25-ways-25-days/day-19 #LighttheWorld

The newest Jepson

This week, my family got a new addition. He is a really cute puppy that we have named Jack. He is part Australian Shepherd and part poodle. It’s called an Aussiedoodle. Every dog is a doodle these days, it seems. We are just another doodle family. But, our doodle is the best! I really love it. It follows me everywhere I go and I’m excited for when it’s a little bigger and can go running with me. That is why we decided on this particular breed because they are bred for herding cows and sheep and are really athletic. And the poodle is just to be trendy, I guess. No, actually, it’s so it won’t shed as much. Anyway, we are going to try to train it as a service dog for me so I can take it everywhere with me to decrease my anxiety in public places. I love it already and I’m really not a huge fan of most dogs. But, this one is different because it’s going to become my best friend. Welcome to the family, Jack! I love you! Aaron. Dog trainer and now a two legged cow.

Marathon man

This past weekend, I accomplished a major goal of mine. My dad and I completed my first full marathon! It is such a great feeling to set an epic goal and then to achieve it. I love to break through those barriers that some put up for people with disabilities. The race was in a beautiful area in southern Utah called Goblin Valley State Park. It is full of cool red rock formations that stand in the middle of this big valley surrounded by red rock cliffs. We hiked through the valley the day before the race. It was really cool. It would be fun to spend more time in there. You could definitely get lost among the goblins. The next day was race day. We got up early, had some breakfast and headed to the park. I got pretty excited at the beginning and took off sprinting at the starting gun. My brother Ben saw the video and said I looked like The Flash. That was pretty funny. Anyway, my dad reeled me in and we found our pace. The first six and half miles of the race was on a paved road with some rolling hills. It wasn’t too bad and I felt pretty good. I like to break down the big goal of 26.2 miles into smaller ten-minute goals. It makes it easier for me. So, every ten minutes, we stopped running and walked for twenty seconds or so. I loved the feeling of ticking off those miles in my head. Pretty soon, the route turned more challenging. It became a dirt jeep road with lots of sand and rocks and some steep climbs. The views were amazing, though. You could see forever out across these incredible vistas that reminded me of what I imagine the Grand Canyon would look like. I loved that part of the race. But, we reached the halfway point and had to turn around. I was still feeling alright through the trip back on the dirt road. When we hit the pavement again, my legs were starting to hurt. My dad kept encouraging me through it though. He said that this was the part that everyone dreads. They call it “the wall”. But he said if we can get through those next couple of miles, then we’d be home free. I loved those words because I knew I could do a couple more miles. The next few miles were definitely tough but we kept plowing ahead and made it through them and still kept up a pretty good pace. As we started up a long climb in the last few miles, my dad saw the guy who was in the lead of the race. I couldn’t believe it when my dad said that we were going to catch him and win the race. My dad was getting really excited for me and his enthusiasm helped me kick it in. We caught the guy with about two miles to go. I was really tired at that point though, but my dad wouldn’t let me quit. We kept plugging away until I could see […]

Top ten things that I wished I could have told my parents when I was younger

My dad suggested that I write a post about what I wished I could have told them when I was young and unable to communicate. He thought that a lot of parents might want to hear that. So, I’m going to write it as a list. My top ten list for autism. 1. Mom, please don’t cry. I know that you are so worried about me but be assured that I’m going to be ok. My life won’t be what you had dreamed of for me but I’ll still find a way to make it be a meaningful one. 2. Mom, thank you. I see the effort that you put in every day in trying to help me and I am so appreciative that I have a mother who cares so much. You have given up your life and sometimes your happiness for me and I cannot ever repay you. 3. Mom and Dad, you need to go out on a date. Both of your lives revolve around mine too much. Take care of each other too. 4. Mom and Dad, stop and smell the roses. You both can do things for yourselves sometimes. I’ll still be here and will still be autistic, even if I do get that extra therapy session tonight. 5. I just want to eat some real pizza! Quit trying to give me the cardboard box! I appreciate the effort, though, and know it is in my best interest. 6. Ben, I am sorry that we can’t go outside and play like normal siblings. I’m sure you feel gypped and so do I. I’m always watching you though. I love you so much and am so thankful that you are my brother. You make me laugh on the inside, even if I’m not laughing on the outside. I do get all of your jokes. 7. Ben, you are an awesome brother. You are kind and patient and have also sacrificed your life in many ways for mine. Be proud of how you’ve handled it all. 8. Dad, thanks for always pushing me to do normal things as much as I can. I love it when we go running, hiking, skiing, biking, backpacking. It is when I feel the least autistic. Those are the best moments. 9. Thank you for teaching me about God. That is the only way I’m getting through this. And yes, I am listening to what you are saying. Each time I look away, I’m very frequently trying harder to concentrate on hearing your words. I can’t look at you and hear you at the same time. So try not to force that. 10. I do like to be hugged and touched even if I turn away. Again, I just can’t make my body hug back all of the time. Bonus 11. I must have some down time every day to recharge my battery. Without it, I can’t function. Give me that opportunity no matter how late it is. 12. Don’t ever give up on teaching me things. I’ll get it, it just takes longer. 13. After I learn something, help me practice […]

Being Autistic

Everyone with autism is not the same so I don’t know how my experience will compare with others. But, I can tell you what it is like for me. When I was really young, I didn’t really know that I was different. I just knew that my parents were worried about me and started me working with all types of therapies and interventions. It was really tiring for me to have to work that hard all of the time but it is probably why I am able to function at my current level and I can look back on it and appreciate what my parents sacrificed to help me progress. I can remember how very clouded my brain felt all of the time with an occasional moment of clarity that was always short-lived. My brain was constantly racing and I could always hear a lot of background noise that made it really hard to concentrate on what people were telling me to do. The only thing that helped me to be able to focus was to cover my ears and not look at anyone in the face. I know that is not socially acceptable but it’s how I got through life. I also tried to control my immediate environment the best that I knew how by surrounding myself with favorite toys and objects. For me, that was Toy Story toys. That movie came out right as I was developing signs of autism and it got stuck in my brain. And, even to this day, I have a hard time thinking about anything else. I really am quite sick of Buzz and Woody but I can’t seem to let go entirely. Just throwing the toys away doesn’t help so I don’t think that is the answer. My dad would do that sometimes but it just made it worse for me. I think that as my autism gets less severe, my link to Toy Story also becomes less intense. I guess it is like a kind of lab test of sorts. Anyway, as I have gotten older, my brain has definitely improved. I don’t have as much noise in my head so I can focus for longer. I still deal with a lot of issues though. Anxiety is probably the biggest of those. I deal with that by being outside as much as possible. That really helps me especially if I can run around or jump on the trampoline. If I don’t get that time in, then I’m in much worse shape. The hardest thing for me now about having autism is that I can see all of the things that other people my age are doing and I’m still pretty dependent on my parents for everything. That really sucks. I really want to have my own life but I don’t know if that is in the cards for me. That is a hard reality to face. I love my family but wish I could be more independent from them. But each year, I’m improving so who knows? That’s all for this post. I’ll write a separate post about what advice I […]

A simple truth

I learned an important lesson in the general conference of our church this weekend. The leaders of our church, who we consider as prophets, seers and revelators give inspired messages to the members of the church about topics that they feel that Heavenly Father wants us to know. Yesterday, one of these leaders gave a great talk about how we should be heeding the advice of the prophet, Thomas S. Monson, and studying the Book of Mormon every day. That leader is very likely going to be the next prophet and his name is Russell M. Nelson. I was impressed that even someone of his stature in the church is humble enough to take the message from the prophet and look for ways to improve his own study of the scriptures. The Book of Mormon is the words of ancient prophets that were led from Jerusalem to the American continent. They received revelation about Jesus Christ and his gospel just like the prophets in the Old World, whose words were recorded as the Bible. Our first prophet of the latter days, Joseph Smith, was given the ancient record from the Americas and translated them by the gift and power of God. It teaches the gospel of Christ in a simple and pure way without the confusion and contradictions that sometimes exist in the Bible. The Book of Mormon is a companion to the Bible and works together with it to bring the complete truth back to the light that once existed in the Bible before much of it was lost in translation and by men who chose to remove some of the plain and precious truths. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that we will become closer to God by reading it more than any other book on earth. I look forward to also doing a better job of studying it daily. Thanks for listening to my beliefs even if some of you likely believe differently. I hope that you will at least consider reading the Book of Mormon after reading this blog post. I know that if you will read with real intent and with sincerity of heart and will ask God if it is true, you will feel it strongly in your heart and you will also know that what I am saying is right. If you take me up on this challenge, please write me back and let me know how it goes. Thanks Aaron.

My testimony

This summer has been an important one for me and for my development.  I have had more experiences that have helped me to understand how God knows us and is watching out for us as individuals.  First, I had another opportunity to speak in church.  That is always something that brings a lot of growth because it is so hard for me.  Second, my brother Ben got home from his mission.  It was awesome to see him and to see how much he has grown spiritually.  He really has the light of Christ with him as such a recent full-time servant of God.  It is always a bitter-sweet feeling for me to see people come and go from their missions.  My church is a missionary church.  We have a message that is an important one to share about the gospel of Jesus Christ and about the restoration of the fullness of God’s plan of salvation that is meant for all of his children.  As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, most young men that are my age are leaving on missions somewhere in the world for two years. If circumstances were different and I didn’t have autism, I would be on my mission right now. But, instead, I am going to find another way to share my testimony.  So, I hope that you all will bear with me and not be offended if I use some of my blog space to share what I know to be true. I did not always believe in God or that he loved me.  I didn’t think that a loving God would give his children the kinds of challenges like autism, or cancer, or losing children to illness, or a hundred other really hard things that people face every day.  My parents taught me that I was a child of God but it just didn’t make sense to me.  I love my parents, though, and I trusted that they knew more about it than I did and so I just tried to rely on their belief for a long time.  But, I was getting frustrated with my life and not being able to function at most basic levels.  I wanted to not continue living on some days.  I was in a pretty dark place and couldn’t see my way out of it.  I decided that I had two choices.  I could give up or I could do something different to try to make my life better.  I decided that I needed to figure out if what my parents had been teaching me was true or just a good story to make me feel better.  So, I resolved to start praying–not just going through the motions, but really praying to God with all of my heart to see if he was really there and if he loved me.  It took many months of earnestly seeking an answer.  One day, my dad showed me a video produced by our church called The First Vision.  Here is the link. https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2008-06-01-the-restoration?category=topics/joseph-smith&lang=eng.  It is about a young boy named Joseph Smith who had […]

Costa Rica–cool place to visit and my first big international trip.

This past week, my mom and dad treated me to an awesome adventure. It was a gift for graduating from high school. I wanted to go somewhere in a foreign country and somewhere by the ocean so we decided on Costa Rica. My dad had heard that it was a cool place and not as touristy as some places like Mexico. So, we got our passports updated and made our plans. The plane rides were kind of painful because we had long layovers getting down there and the seats were uncomfortable. But, we made it without any issues. As we got there, we took a shuttle bus to our rental car place and picked up a car. Then, we hit the road. Speaking of the road, it was pretty beat up and had tons of potholes. It was a very bumpy ride. It was cool though because we were in the real back country of Costa Rica. There were people riding bicycles, motorcycles, ATVs, horses and just walking along the road. You never knew what you were going to see around the next bend. There were also dogs running free wherever you looked and chickens roaming around outside of coops. There were also these very cool looking cows all over the place and horses just tied up on the side of the road. It was very different than the USA where everything is behind fences and people all drive cars even on short errands. Costa Ricans are probably healthier because they get lots of exercise. Anyway, we made it to the house that we rented for our stay. It was really cool. It wasn’t real big but had nice wood ceilings and a great courtyard with hammocks and a swimming pool. My favorite thing was that it was very close to the beach and we could just walk to everything that we needed. It was fun to just be outside and not reliant on a car. I loved all of the trees and you could watch these cool little crabs crawling all over the place in the evening. They had vibrant orange legs, bright purple claws, black bodies and yellow eyes. They looked like little Halloween decorations. Plus, they kept sneaking into our house. We would just be laying on the couch, would look down and there was a crab staring up at you. It was kind of funny. The beach was awesome. It went on forever and the sand was perfect and clean. My dad liked to dig up crabs that had buried themselves in the sand after the tide had passed. All of a sudden, he would jump down and scoop up two handfuls of sand and there would be a crab sitting in the middle of his hands. I’m not sure how he knew where to dig because it all just looked the same to me. My dad is like a little kid sometimes. He gets excited about little things in nature. Every time any deer come in our backyard, he has to go watch them. I think the ocean animals have the same effect. I love […]

My next big thing

Now that I have graduated from high school, I’m ready to start some big changes in my life. Big changes are not easy for me but it’s time to make progress and that means doing some things differently. My mom has been trying to get me to eat better for a long time. I used to be on a gluten and casein-free diet when I was younger. I’m not sure if it helped or not but my mom thinks that I need to try it again. I haven’t wanted to because I am a picky eater but I know it will probably be good for me. I might feel better, who knows? I guess now is as good a time as any. Last time I was on the diet, my appetite wasn’t great but it has been a while so I might do better. Actually, I’m kind of looking forward to the challenge. My dad always tells me that I need to try hard things because that is how we improve ourselves. If I can run a half-marathon, I can certainly eat better food. And I have started marathon-training so it will probably help me with that too. Aaron.

The goal of words

Now that school is over, I am going to start writing every day so I hope that you enjoy the increased volume of blog posts. School was very important but now I plan on focusing all my energy on my communication skills. Like I said in my previous post, I want to be a missionary and go to college but I need to be a better communicator to be able to do that.  Dad and mom have challenged me to write for 30 minutes every day.  I think that is a great start and I plan on doing that. Maybe I will start working on my book again.  I have written several chapters already. It is just a memoir of my life as an autistic boy and how I am developing into a man who is capable of making a difference in this world.  I am so grateful for being able to type my thoughts. Without that, I’m not sure how I would have kept going. Life is hard when you can’t express what you are thinking, believe me. So, bear with me if I ramble or post things that don’t seem very important.  It is my method of practicing and improving my ability that God has blessed me with.  I will try to make my writings as interesting and applicable to everyone as I can but keep in mind, I am not like most of you who are reading this blog. Now, on to communication! Go team! Aaron. Master blogger, high school graduate, aspiring book author and more.

Hello, life after high school!

This week, I graduated from high school. It was a pretty cool moment, I must admit.  High school as an autistic person is very different than it would have been for me if I was normal.  Instead of AP tests and extracurricular activities like music or sports, I am stuck in IEPs and a contained classroom. No offense meant to my teachers, but I was never really challenged at school.  I understand why it is hard to teach me at the level that I am capable of because I still have a hard time communicating what I know in the school setting.  It’s no-one’s fault. It’s just my reality. But now, I feel like my life is about to start for real. There are so many things that I want to do, including going to college, going on a mission for my church, getting a job, and improving my writing skills so that I can be more independent.  I know that each of those goals will take some work but I also know that with God, anything is achievable.  Some day, I hope to be able to speak what I can write and finally be able to let others know that autistic people have so much to contribute to this world. We see the world through a different lens and that is ok. Everyone has been given different sets of talents and like it says in the Bible, God expects us to use and improve on what we have been given.  I know that I can do that much and am looking forward to challenging myself now to see what kind of progress that I can make.

What do we sacrifice to see baby Jesus?

Much about Christmas comes from stores. Small Jesus Christ statues and Christmas carols are the only things that make some people even realize that Christmas is supposed to be about Christ. Wise men traveled years to meet the baby Jesus and gave him precious gifts. Shephards left their flocks by night risking all to see him. What do we sacrifice on Christmas to see the baby Jesus? We can show Christ that we love him and are willing to be with him by serving his children. Christmas is a time when it is easy to lose ourselves in gift receiving and the material part of the holidays. But there are many ways to show love that does not involve ribbons and bows. It may be a smile to a stranger or a meal to someone in need. It may be a donation of time visiting someone who is lonely and it may be a phone call to a member of the ward who needs some cheer. Jesus was born in humble circumstances and was a child of poor parents. His greatest gift is bought without money but through service to others.