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.

My half-marathon sized accomplishment

Today, I did something that I never thought that I’d be able to accomplish.  My dad and mom always encourage me to push myself to do things that are hard and that will take much effort.  So, my dad and I decided that we were going to run a half-marathon.  We have been training for it all summer and today was race day.  We got up really early and headed to downtown Colorado Springs.  The race was at a park called America the Beautiful Park and it has a great view of Pikes Peak, the mountain that inspired that song.  I was quite nervous and didn’t get much sleep last night.  But, I knew that we were ready.  All summer, we have been working our way up to longer and longer runs and we already had done an 11-miler, so I knew we could do another two miles.  So, I decided that I was going to try to enjoy it and “run with joy”, like my dad always tells me.  The gun sounded and we were off.  Could I actually run that far?  We started running and my dad looked over at me and smiled.  That is when I relaxed and just settled in.  The run was actually enjoyable.  There were lots of people giving me encouragement and also the water stations every couple of miles really helped.  I almost forgot that it was supposed to be hard.  But, at the end, I remembered.  My legs were definitely feeling it and I was ready to be done, for sure.  Soon, I saw the 12-mile marker and I knew that it was almost over.  My dad said to listen for the cheers of the crowd and to wear a big smile because we were almost done.  As we came around the bend and crossed over the river, I could see my mom smiling and cheering for me. That made me so happy and I was so proud of myself for doing my best.  We crossed the finish line at 2:00 even.  This was a good time for us.  Better than we expected.  It felt so good to have set out on this journey and to have made a challenging goal and then to have accomplished it with style.  It helps me to realize that even though I have autism, I can still do things that are hard if I set my mind to it.  A great day! Aaron

Hurricane

A long time ago, my ancestors on the Jepson side moved to a place that was out in the desert of Southern Utah.  I am not sure how they survived the heat and the lack of water but somehow they turned an arid place into a town that they called Hurricane.  I guess that it was windy there and it felt like they were going to blow away.  My great, great, great grandpa James was instrumental in digging a canal that brought water from the Virgin River to the town of Hurricane.  It took several years to complete and most of the people that started working on it quit before it was completed but James never gave up and he secured the rest of the financing from Salt Lake to finish the job.  I’m really proud of him and want to live up to that same determination.  My dad and I are training for a half-marathon right now and although I know that it doesn’t compare to the challenges that my ancestors faced, I am going to think about James Jepson when I feel like giving up and that will keep me going.  Today, on our training run, I wanted to stop and walk even though the end was in sight.  My dad said, “Don’t quit! We are almost done.”  I heard that and thought of my Grandpa James and I pushed through to the end. Aaron.  Jepsons don’t quit.  Thanks Grandpa James.

Mesa Verde, Native American’s high rises

My family and I went on a trip to Southern Utah last week.  On the way back, we went to Mesa Verde in southern Colorado.  It was amazing.  It has an incredible collection of the ruins of the Pueblo and Anasazi Indians from about 600 A.D. to 1200 A.D.  There were various stages of development of houses in the same areas, sometimes built right in the crevices of a cliff.  Can you imagine going out for food and water and having to carry it all back up the cliff?  I was really impressed with their ingenuity and resourcefulness.  The Native Americans have a rich heritage and I would love to experience more of it.  It would have been cool to have been a fly on the wall and to see exactly how they lived.  Someday, I want to go on the tour of the bigger buildings that we could only see from a distance on this trip.  Very cool place, though. Aaron.  Sight-seer and history buff.

My first backpacking trip

A rough start and a bucket of pinecones. This week, my dad took me on my very first real backpacking trip. We started out after driving to the trailhead on Monday afternoon. My dad was getting the stuff ready in the packs and I decided that I needed to go gather pinecones in a big bucket that I brought from home. My dad didn’t know where I had gone. He was worried and angry that I had disappeared. He went looking all over down by the river which was raging very hard from the winter snowmelt. He was gone for just a few minutes. My dad was calling my name and whistling and I knew that I should get back but I really wanted to fill the bucket with pinecones and take it with us. My dad came back to the truck and we met up again. My dad was really mad that I had left and reminded me that the first rule of backpacking was the buddy system so that we wouldn’t get separated. He also told me that I couldn’t take the bucket with me. It would be too hard to carry for our long trip and we needed to leave it behind. He was right, of course, but I still didn’t want to leave it. So we had a bit of a showdown before we even got started on the trail. My dad just sat in the truck until I was ready to leave the bucket behind but it took me a while to make that choice. Just then, it started to rain and so our trip was off to a rough start. I’m sure my dad was having second thoughts about bringing me on the trip. He said he didn’t know if he could keep me safe. But, I decided that I really wanted to go and that I needed to listen to my dad. So, I put down the bucket and we started on the trail. Love you Dad for making me listen. The first campsite. Now we started walking and carrying our packs. They were really heavy. Could I do this? I wondered, at first, but I  decided not to think about it and started just putting one step in front of the other. We made some pretty good progress. As it started to get dark, we found a spot where we could set up camp. It was a very beautiful and quiet spot near the river in the middle of some trees. My dad got right to work setting up camp and starting a fire. He gave me an assignment to gather wood but I didn’t really feel like it. So my dad did all of the work of setting up the tent, gathering wood, getting water and making dinner. My dad did this the whole trip. I felt bad about that but I just didn’t have the energy to help him. My dad just did it without complaining and I am really grateful for him. The first night dinner was a pizza that we cooked in tinfoil on the fire. It tasted […]

Moving bites

This week our family moved to a townhouse. We are building a new house in a very nice area that is right near the mountain where there are mountain bike trails galore, right out our front door. I can’t wait to get over there but in the meantime, the house that we were living in is being sold and we had to find an interim situation for our family. We decided to move into a townhouse that is closer to town and school and everything. It is an okay place but it is really small compared to what we were in before and we don’t have room for about half of our stuff. So we are kind of in a mess right now and everyone is a little stressed out. My anxiety is a bit out of control right now, too, and that makes it harder to deal with everything and everybody. In 2 days, my dad and I are going backpacking in the mountains. I’m so ready for some peace and quiet and to just go enjoy nature. My dad and I might go climb another 14er during the trip so that will be awesome. Love Aaron.

The autism sack of treats

I am always wondering why autism always leaves such a bad impression on people. My dad and mom say that it is because people just don’t understand. But I think it is because people are afraid that we are going to do something to make them uncomfortable. I really don’t ever try to make people uncomfortable around me but my behavior sometimes does make them feel that way. I am sad that this is the case. I wish that it wasn’t but I’m not sure how to control myself entirely yet. I am trying to do better though every day. What I hope for is a day in the future when I am behaviorally normal even if I still have a hard time speaking. Then people would not be as freaked out by me.  Autism is like a sack of treats–you never know what you are going to get when you reach your hand into the bag. Love Aaron.

Why I Stim

Stimming is the short way to say self-stimulatory behavior . In autism terms, it is the repetitive behaviors that we do that seems odd or unusual to the rest of the world. My stims include making loud noises or saying letters in funny ways or pacing back and forth. I also have compulsive behaviors like needing to go through a particular pattern when I leave a room or needing to be sure that doors are closed especially to refrigerators and freezers. I really can’t explain why I need to do these things. I just know that if I don’t do them, I get really anxious and can’t function. My brain is so weird but my mind still works so I can’t complain too much, I guess. It does make me act funny though and it would be nice to have better control. A big goal of mine is to be able to control my stims so that I can go to college. Being unable to get out of a room is going to be a problem if I am in a room of hundreds of people. So I have to work on it every day for the next year. I can’t believe that I’m going to be a senior in high school. Crazy. Aaron.

Mother Near Me

Mother Near Me by Aaron Jepson May 6, 2016   Mother are you listening to me? Heart is beating in sync with yours. Soon the time for me to enter, Eyes will meet and mine will close.   Am I a child that came with angels? Am I an answer to a prayer? Am I a loved and precious addition To a family sealed forever?   Mother, are you sad and crying? Has your heart begun to tear? Do I ask a price that’s heavy, Far too much for you to bear?   My new  beginning has been challenged, Travelling on a winding road. My journey starts a little different. My future feels a little cold.   My mind is mostly fogged and damaged, My spirit housed in misty seas. I cannot speak and say I love you. I show love by other means.   I love you for the hours of giving All you are and all you’ll be. A mother’s job is never easy. A mother’s love will never cease.   Am I the son that makes you happy? Am I the son you really need? Am I the son that you are proud of? I’m trying to be in word and deed.   Am I the one who knows you better? Sometimes I know how you can grieve. Are you the one who makes me stronger? What can I do to give relief?   Mom, you teach me and protect me From the pain of Satan’s lies. Without you, I would be a wanderer Lost and lonely in his vice.   A distant time and far away manger, A quiet, starry night so clear, A Savior born to virgin mother, A baby soft and sacred dear.   As Christ was born to mortal mother, As Mary felt the pain and angst, Am I a son to ask for better? Am I more worthy or more a saint?   A beautiful, soft and special woman Made for a sacred mission here, No one knew the pain she suffered When Christ the Lord was hanging there.   Must we ask our Lord and Savior Why our mothers are so dear? What answer can He give that tells us More than what He showed us here?   Behold, Thy Mother was His challenge To all of us that faith adhere. I love you, Mother, with all my spirit, All my soul, I need you near.   Editor’s note (mom): http://jepsonfiles.com/2016/05/mothers-day/    

Lame plays for Autistic people

I am not much of a theater goer but I can imagine that people who enjoy that sort of thing would like a play about someone who worries about what other people think of them.  People with autism think about that, too, but we can’t dwell on it or we would be depressed all of the time.  I’m so glad that the people that I care about the most love me for who I am.  I can’t imagine living your life always trying to please everyone else.  Shouldn’t we all be more accepting of each other so that everyone feels loved?  I think so.  Maybe I should write a play about autistic people who conquer the world, one kind act at a time. Aaron.  Playwright extraordinaire.

A hard lesson

I often think that people are pretty clueless about autism.  My suspicion was proven true again, recently.  Without going into detail, there was a situation at school when an adult said some things about our class of special needs kids that was hurtful and petty.  Why do people assume that we can’t understand what is being said around us?  Many, many times, learned men and women try to show that they are smart and use language that is flowery and impressive, but inside, they are simple and dense.  Truth is, the people with autism that can speak, all frequently talk about helping others.  Maybe we aren’t the ones that need fixing.  I am pretty sad this week because of some inconsiderate language.  Maybe I will get over it soon.  But, people need to think before they speak.  I don’t have a choice but most of the rest of you do.  Make good choices.  Please make someone feel better using words, not make them feel worse.  Autism is hard enough. Love, Aaron.

Never give a mouse a cookie

One of my favorite books as a child was If You Give A Mouse A Cookie. It shows how our actions always have consequences and lead to more reactions and these are not always part of the original intent.  A lot of cool lessons are taught in this story like how people often have made a mistake and then tried to cover it up with another mistake and it spirals out of control.  And simple fixes become complicated and may not be able to be cleaned up.  If you go against the trend of not taking responsibility for your actions and own up to your mistakes up front, life will be much simpler in the end.  Just a nugget of wisdom that I learned as a child.  Love to read simple stories. . . . .Aaron.  Watch me make it a cool book.  And a child will teach them.  And such is the kingdom of God.  Suffer the little children and bring them unto me.  Christ always loved the children first.  So must we.

Born on a Blue Day

A while ago, my mom and dad read this book to me.  I don’t remember most of it but I do remember the feeling that I had while they read it.  I felt like running and shouting because a boy and a book became real to me.  I understood a lot about what he was saying about how colors helped him understand the world around him better.  My own experience has been different.  I don’t see colors but after reading the book, I realized that numbers and letters do the same thing for me.  ABC magnets became like a way for me to make a little more sense of my world.  A is the letter that I use to be calm.  B helps me be brave.  C helps me be courageous. D is very dull.  E is exciting. F is my favorite. G is great. H is helpful. I is my ingenuity. J is my jealous letter. K is for kindness. L is for loyalty.  M is for mom. N is for nature. O is obedience. P is for peace and Q is for quiet. R is for reading. S is for surety. T is for truth. U is for understanding. V is for virtue. W is for wanting. X is for exaltation. Y is for yearning. Z is for zany.  I am always thinking about letters.  It is how I can navigate my world.  I find the letter that makes sense in a situation and think about how that letter makes me feel and then I am better able to deal with my environment.  The numbers do similar things for me but they are not as descriptive so I prefer letters.  Thanks for listening to my crazy brain.  Thanks for letting me explain my obsession.  My real obsession is understanding how my own brain works and why letters mean so much to me.  I hope to figure it out someday. Until then, have a P and Q day.   Aaron. In every brain, there is a pattern.  I am thankful for what I can do with mine and hope that it will keep letting me do new things.  Bye now.  Ciao. Aloha. Hasta la vista. Bon voyage. Arrivederci. So long, people.

My language story

I am always talking but am about as nonverbal as my brother Austin.  That is because the things that come out of my mouth are just the nonsense that I have in my brain.  About 2 years ago, my mom took me to Soma at HALO and she taught me how to type on a letter board.  It was an amazing experience and now because I can communicate, I know that I have a future.  I don’t know how she does it but she just expects you to know the answer.  I guess it just gives us confidence that we can do it.  My ability to communicate has opened up my world.  I am so thankful that I can share my thoughts!  I am now able to use an iPad and am always trying to get better at writing independently.  I still usually hold the hand of my mom or dad when I type because it helps me see the letters more clearly for some reason and helps calm my thoughts.  My teacher at school is helping me to type independently and I am getting much better at it.  And I am going to keep working hard because I want to go to college some day and it’s not like my parents can come to class with me, can they?  Now, I assure you that all of these words are mine.  My language is the key to my success.  I am going to succeed.  I promise! Aaron.  Wordsmith and thesaurus reader. And among the most agile authors in my house.  Ok, the most agile author in my house. [Editor’s note (dad):  Hey!!!!]  Later.

Love and the shell and the boy doctor

My mom and dad understand me like no one else.  Just like my mom once said, “Normal is overrated.”  I love this saying because it means that extraordinary things come out of otherwise normal people.  I think now that my most important work and passion is to be very friendly to the people who think that they don’t have any love in their life.  Maybe all that those people need is more kindness.  Maybe all they need is more love and understanding and support.  Maybe all they need is more people to believe in them and in their potential.  Love changes everything and love gives hope, pain goes away and anger no longer wins.  I am lucky because I have love in my life.  I am very blessed because my parents show me every day that they love me.  Not everyone is so lucky and that makes me sad.  More personally, I am sad that Austin’s real parents couldn’t show him love when he was a baby.  I’m glad we adopted him because now he is loved.  Maybe they weren’t loved by their parents either.  Maybe it is just a vicious cycle but now it’s broken and I’m thankful for that.  Austin is a great soul and I’m glad he is in our family.  After all is said and done, love heals all wounds.  Am I a doctor? And maybe I am but now all I can do is write. Aaron.  May happiness follow us.  Do you start to see me?  A little boy emerging from a shell.