What if you were born looking at the world like a puzzle, but the pieces just don’t fit quite right? The problem of course is (for everyone else) that unless someone tells you that things don’t fit, you are quite happy with how they are. Unless someone insists on the rules of the puzzle, there are many ways to put it together. Unless someone tells you that your puzzle is ugly, you think it is beautiful. I loved my world as a kid. I loved the leaves, the grass, the sand, my toys, (water). I loved my parents. I loved the stories they used to tell me at night – stories about animals, about adventure, about places. About dragons and magic and witches. About big families and friends. Other kids who magically were there to be with, to so things with. I understood friends the way I understood dragons and swordplay and talking dinosaurs. Because there were no friends in my world. In fact, there were no other people in my world. Not the way the books talked about people because the people had names, they were (truly) just like me. My world had a mom and dad in it only, and sometimes a person they called grandma. Mom was tall with long hair. Dad was really tall and skinny with short hair. Grandma was short and round with really red hair. Sometimes I would get grandma wrong; especially when there were other people with her they were called aunts and uncles. They were kind of like her, but kind of not. In books Aunts and Uncles always have names and they were clear, but somehow not in my world. Nobody seemed to mind until one day I was taken to what they called kindergarten. There was someone there who was kind of like mom, but kind of not like mom. Sometimes I thought she was mom, then mom would come to pick me up and there would be two, and that was not right. Then I noticed that there were others. They were my size. There were many. They were fast and for the first time, they would hurt. I would play with the toys, and they would say something, there were so many all the same and yet I was supposed to do something different for some of them than for the others. Then they started laughing and hurting me. A big mass of kind of like mom and dad things, ones that hurt. Not friends, not kids, not dragons. Something else. My mom made it go away, and I did not have to go back. She asked me if I would miss my friends? I was confused. I did not see any friends. I don’t know how she could have gotten it all wrong. There were no dragons or unicorns either. Then two years later it started again. I had to go to school. Of course I know about school from books. I wanted to learn to read so that I could read the stories in the books by myself. I knew you learned to read in school. This time there were lots of others. They did not hurt me, not at first. There were beautiful things there, books, toys and things to make, numbers, my backpack and my pencil. Plus a swing set over the pink rubber tiles. I learned to read about all kinds of things! The stories had friends in them. My world just had others. My persons had expanded. There was the red sweater lady that taught my class, Ms. Eice. Someday she did not wear a read sweater, and that was confusing, I think it was she on those days because her hair looked the same. Then there was the other teacher in a different room. The one with the brown jacket. There were the 2 PE teachers. One with a red jumpsuit and the other with blue shoes and grey hair. They made me do things over and over again away from the others, some of the things hurt. Then the others would laugh! A sea of colors and sizes and hair. Some days blue sweater would be friendly then the next day blue sweater would not be there. Someday blue sweater would be somewhere else in the room and not be friendly. My world of grown ups was populated now. There was the old couple in the yellow house, and the family in the green house and another old couple in the blue house. When I would go there they were the same, which was proper for a person with a name though they were not really friends. Friends were in books! Sometimes we would go shopping and my mom would say “Isn’t that so and so from school but I just noticed a blob standing next to someone she was talking to, no not a friend. Friends were in books. There were no friends in my world. Until one night, when Natalie came to me in my dream. She said she wanted to be my friend. She played with me we talked we had adventures together. She was just on the other side. We met every night for a week. I know if I could just remember her address, her phone number, I could go there at daytime too. I could find her and I would not have to loose her again. I tried and tried desperately. There was a friend, a real friend, and if I only could… it would be so easy. I knew the city. I could read maps. I could ride a bike. I would have a friend just for me, the way there were friends in books. As much as I tried, she never gave me that magical address. For many more years to come my friends lived in books and in toy boxes. I have often wondered if Natalie was a child as lonely as I was before the world knew about Autism, or if my mind simply created her. If she was like me – I hope that she eventually made the puzzle fit the way it is supposed to as well. Autism is not about what we know, it is about seeing the world as puzzle pieces that fit together to make a friend. Science tells us that there are 300 of those pieces that make a face – which is why many autistic children can do algebra before they have their first friend that at least only involves 3 variables. So do not laugh at me! Do not call me names.