Thursday, June 18, 2009

Disability and DC, by Mitch Paschen

I am an introvert, and it is very hard for me to meet people and make friends. On my first day at the office, I was very nervous. I only knew one other person working there, and I had met that person only a week and a half before. A good impression had to be made, but I wasn’t sure quite how to do that. One thing that my Asperger’s Syndrome prevents me from doing is perceiving social cues that most people are able to pick up. I have a very hard time telling if someone is being funny or serious. I have run into trouble several times already here in DC thinking someone was funny when they were serious and vice versa. I also take things very literally, such as when I was told that the blog has to be between 200 and 500 words, I usually try to do that.

One of the first people I met at the office was a former AAPD intern. This turned out to be a relief, because he was able to show me around and introduce me to some people I would be working with. Everyone at the office wanted to meet the new interns, and they were very helpful in showing me not only how to get in, but also where to go for lunch.

People in Washington are very nice. If I have a question about anything, I can usually go up to anyone (I feel very uncomfortable doing this though) and ask. If they do not know the answer, they will usually point me in the direction of someone who does. Living in DC has not been a problem for the most part because I have been living by myself at college for three years. I have a single room there, so I have gotten along just fine.

One thing that I did not expect to happen is to take on a sort of leadership role. There are many sights that I want to see while here, and I even have a list to make sure I can see all of them. On every one of my free days, I have been seeing the sights. Some of the other interns want to see the sights too, but aren’t sure where to start. I try to invite as many people as I can each time I go out sightseeing. At least one person can go, and many times, several people go and we make it a group outing. In fact, I am trying to organize a trip to Baltimore via the Amtrak train for June 27.

I have enjoyed my time here, and will continue to enjoy it for as long as I am here. When I told some of my employees at work today what my disability was, they said that they did not even notice it at all. I am glad that people know me for me and not for my disability.

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