Samuel Schell-Olsen

Senior Reporter Samuel Schell-Olsen has autism, and he believes the disorder has helped him prepare a better future for himself.

I have autism. I am just one of the 3.5 million Americans that live with an autism spectrum disorder.

Autism is a developmental disorder that causes hardships with communication, restrictive habits, social interaction and repetitive behavior. People with autism are diverse. We are all not the same, and plenty of us are fully functional adults.

I have Asperger syndrome — a form of autism that is classified as high-functioning. While I do not struggle with cognitive development, I do struggle with social interaction.

People with Asperger’s have obsessions with certain subjects. I’m obsessed with professional football, politics and video games. We sometimes have trouble reading body language and facial expressions, too — it’s why I have a hard time understanding flirting and sarcasm. People with Asperger’s may also speak in a monotone. In the past, I’ve had a hard time controlling my voice when I was excited.

Despite these struggles, I have succeeded. I became class president in high school — twice. I graduated from the University of Cincinnati-Blue Ash last year with an associate degree in liberal arts. I am currently enrolled in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Cincinnati, and I plan to graduate with a bachelor’s in journalism and a minor in criminal justice next spring.

Throughout my life, I have been called a “retard” and have faced homophobic slurs. I’ve been the target of abuse. I’ve battled with tragedy and depression. I fight anxiety every day, and I’m not the only one. People with autism have been labeled by society as awkward and immature, and we are often mocked because of a disorder we can’t always control.

I have learned to shrug it off. As Michelle Obama once said, “When they go low, we go high.”

I was inspired to share my story after reading about Haley Moss. Like me, she has autism, yet her ongoing achievements in life are truly impressive. She received a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Miami School of Law in 2018, and she became the first openly autistic female attorney in the state of Florida. She accomplished all this at just 24 years old. If Moss can do it, what’s stopping me?

I’m proud that I have autism — and that might sound strange, but let me explain. Throughout my life, I’ve been told that my disorder makes me less capable than non-autistic individuals. I believe otherwise. Instead of being concerned about my social life, I’ve concerned myself with my studies, and it has resulted in a better future for myself. My anxiety keeps me focused on my classes, taking care of my two puppies when I come home and helps me focus heavily on being as objective as possible when writing those unpopular opinion pieces that peers of mine so often dislike.

I’m proud that I have autism. It was supposed to hold me back from being successful, but look at me now.