Well, I am Ilan Laham, and first of all I would like to express my thanks for the invitation. We all have something that makes us different from everybody else. Each human being has their own tastes, their ways of behaving, their habits and other things that characterize them. As for me, those things are, for instance, that I like [Uruguayan band] Cuarteto de Nos, that I’m red-haired, that I study Medicine, that I do Drama, and that I have Asperger’s syndrome. I was invited to speak today about my experience growing up with this condition. To be honest, it was pretty hard for me to come up with something to say because many times I wouldn’t notice
(many times I don’t notice) certain things I have naturalized since I was born. However I can assure you that living like this means neither being a person with no visible feelings nor being a scientific genius with a supercomputer in his head. (Unfortunately) To live with Asperger’s means, in general,
to develop in an unusual way. To me, Asperger’s means thinking rigidly
about many topics, but it also means having great memory. Asperger’s is not having an innate ability to understand my peers or to show empathy, but it’s also the possibility of acquiring that ability, something I fulfilled. It means every now and then I will become single-minded about whatever comes into my brain, and it also means having perfect pitch, and being able to completely detach myself when listening to music, and everyone telling me I’m really intelligent.
(You guys can be honest with me) Asperger’s means having strong fears and insecurities, and it means getting wonderful results when I overcome them. But growing up being like this wasn’t easy. Quite the contrary. It was when I was a kid that the first signs appeared of me having something different to other children. I wouldn’t play too much with them or react to certain situations in the same way as them, I used to talk to myself a lot, found loud noises hard to bear, and at the same time my memory was impressive and I had learned to read and write very quickly. It was in that period that the first concerns and the first searches began. My parents did not stop consulting several professionals, until they met dr. Waisburg.
(Héctor Waisburg, the father [of Claudio Waisburg]) He told them about a diagnosis that matched the aspects they noticed about me: the diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. Back then, in Argentina, information about the topic was scarce and not well spread. Nevertheless, at four years old I could start a process of several treatments to develop my social and communicative skills, amongst other things. For the next years I worked with several professionals who accompanied me in facing different challenges. With them I learnt to adapt to social norms I didn’t fit in, they taught me skills I hadn’t obtained naturally, and most importantly, they gave me support I truly needed. Among these professionals is Matías [Cadaveira], who has been my psychologist for five years now. I am extremely grateful to all these people, because without them I don’t think I could have the life I have today. And currently, at the age of nineteen, having finished secondary school, after completing the Basic Common Cycle [a series of subjects that must be taken before entering a career], I’m in my first year of the Medicine career, I’m acting in a play and collaborating in a local community center. And I continue to face challenges and live with a few oddities, but those are the things that make me unique and are also what makes each person unique. Finally, if you were to ask me, I can tell you: that Asperger, as well as any other form of autism, can be treated. I can tell you that the earlier someone is diagnosed, the better. That for people wih ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorder], support from their family is fundamental, that unlike fifteen years ago, nowadays there are lots of available information about ASD, and that it’s fundamental to break down all prejudice about autism and make it clear that it is a life condition and not a disease. People with autism are not disabled people, and they should not stop to be recognized as autistic people after they become eighteen. So I simply want to tell you… Do consult, do inform yourselves, do accompany, and do not stop talking about autism.