Zoom Autism Magazine Issue 8 - Page 22

A utistic Alex Plank is the owner of Wrongplanet. net, a community for individuals with autism that he co-created with Dan Grover when he was 17. Alex is also an autism advocate and international speaker, most recently speaking at the United Nations for Autism Awareness Day. He worked as a consultant for the FX series The Bridge and, as a filmmaker with partner Noah Trevor, made the (not released) documentary Shameful about the mistreatment of autistics in France. Alex’s biggest obstacle – finding and making friends – was the very thing that led him to success. MP: You were 9 years old when you found out you were on the spectrum. What do you remember about that discovery and your reaction to it? PLANK: I remember looking through some papers in my parents’ room, and I found the document that had the diagnosis on it, and then I confronted them and said, ”What is this?“ They were going to tell me, but they hadn’t yet figured out what they were going to say. I think at the time I felt ashamed because I felt there was something wrong with me. At first, it just made me feel bad about myself because when you’re 9 years old, you see things differently; things are either bad or good. Obviously, now, I don’t feel that way. Asperger’s isn’t something that needs to be cured. It just gives me a different outlook. By the time I was a teenager, I would go online and try to find other people like me, and that led to me creating Wrong Planet. MP: Were you always pretty smart? PLANK: Yeah, I guess. In elementary school I 22 ZOOM Autism through Many Lenses had my first IQ test, and the principal told my parents it was the highest score they had seen … ever, maybe. That’s why it was confusing that they were looking for something to be ‘wrong with me’ because I was this really smart kid, and they didn’t land on autism until later on. MP: It seems like your parents exposed you to many different pursuits in childhood. PLANK: My parents were really supportive and got me into a lot of activities. I was on the swim team, I mountain biked, played clarinet and was in the youth orchestra. Some of these things I still do today, and it played a part in helping me find my special interests. MP: What were some of the toughest things you had to overcome in childhood? PLANK: Not knowing how to make friends was really hard for me. I got bullied a lot, the teachers didn’t really understand me, and so it was pretty hard to be in school. MP: Looking back now, are there people you knew then who you think might have been on the spectrum? PLANK: I tended to be friends with nerds and geeks, so I think most of the people that I was friends with were probably somewhere on the spectrum. MP: How is today’s world different for autistic kids than when you were young? PLANK: There’s a lot more support out there. When I was a kid, I didn’t know anyone else on the spectrum and I never went to any real Plank with The Bridge star Diane Kruger life support group, which is why I created Wrong Planet. I was seeking other people who had gone through the same experiences as me. There’s more knowledge now. People are more likely to get a d v62vVW&FFW&^( 2&R66WF6RࠧFRf'7BfWrF2vRB&RfWrVG&V@V&W'2࠮( ( bF( B6VP&VV7F2R7&VFVBFRw&pWB6FRvVRvW&P7Fv66v@v2W"&vf6@vW&R2FR6FRFF䳢7&VFVBw&p&BFsW7B6VPB2'@`FR&6W72( РWBvFFvfW"#B^( 266RfVBFFW"Fw2'W@&66ǒvRvFVBF7&VFRFRW76VF6Pf"WfW'Fr&VFVBFWF6vRB'F6W0BVR7V&֗GFrWG'7F&W2WF2@&VǒFV6VBBbVR&rvࠥFW&R&R6W76vW2ƖRFRf'V3FW&R&P֖Ɩ2b6VG2vV৖R6V&6f"7GVfbFP6FRFW"F&VG2vWBN( 26F6VRF6RvRfRB&RVPw&Fr'F6W2vVvPV6VBWF6FƲEb@&WGGV6&VVBFPfFVvRvBBbFW&W7@g&FBࠥFFw&rWB2vV"6VGFW6vV@f"FfGV2vFWF67W&vW.( 27G&RDBDG2BFW"WW&v6FffW&V6W2B&VG2&fW762&VFV@FFVҒvRfRF67W76f'VvW&PWF6F&VvV6W0#0