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As a woman, I was written off as lazy and disorganized. My unexpected diagnosis? Autism.

Difficulty adapting to daily life is not a symptom often factored into the diagnostic process for autism. It should be.

Rushing off the subway platform, I race through the crowded streets to try to make lunch with my friend.

I’ve canceled on her twice this week, something she isn’t exactly thrilled about. As I cross an intersection, my foot catches the curb and I tumble to the ground, my phone smashing into the busy street.

Grabbing it quickly, my daily reminders flash through the cracked screen  — wash dishes, clean room, buy tampons, email manager. I groan, remembering that I was supposed to do all of these things before lunch. I start to panic, contemplating how I will squeeze them into my schedule now.


Overwhelmed by the thought of having to sit down and socialize while feeling on edge, I call my friend to cancel. She digs into me for being inconsiderate. I head home, filled with shame. But instead of beginning my tasks, I push the clothes on my bed aside, turn off my phone, and crawl under the covers. I don’t resurface until the next day.

My inability to properly plan ahead and complete daily tasks has stunted my personal growth and well-being since I moved away from home seven years ago.

I live in a constant state of disorder, expressed through missed appointments, forgotten text messages, and errands and assignments that take twice as long than my peers to complete. My poor organizational and cleaning skills have fractured my relationships, prevented me from thriving in jobs, and, in the process, destroyed my self-worth.

I reached out for help multiple times, relaying to various therapists my struggles with organization and cleanliness. Not one specialist connected the dots. They viewed disorganization and forgetfulness as easily amendable and never searched for the source of my struggles.

Defeated, I lamented my woes to a friend one afternoon. When I mentioned that I obsessively ruminate  —  something I rarely admit to anyone  —  a light went on.

"Has anyone ever suggested autism?" she asked.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition that’s thought to be primarily expressed through differences in socializing, communicating, and repetitive behavior. Lesser known are its effects on executive functioning (EF)  — the transit map in our brains that tells us how to plan and organize, keep track of time, and remember information in the moment.

Teachers and therapists don’t equate difficulty accomplishing daily living tasks with ASD. Continually showing up late doesn’t raise a flag like, say, lack of eye contact readily does.

New research, however, is shedding more light on how EF affects autistic people, especially those socialized as girls.

It’s presumed that autistic girls adapt better in life since many display stronger social skills. But a five-year study published this year in Autism Research unveiled a different layer  —  autistic girls are struggling in their ability to function in daily life, perhaps even more than their male counterparts. They just struggle with different skills.

My therapist was stunned when I broached the topic of autism. She hesitantly said, "But you don’t seem atypical." Like so many people, she believed autism manifests through missed social cues or lack of eye contact, neither of which I possess. My disarray doesn’t fit the mold, and so it was never seen as a neurodiverse trait.

The study looked at children and adolescents, which left me wondering  —  what about adult women? Are there women who pass socially but have difficulties navigating the pressures of daily life?

I posted the question online, and a flood of responses came in within minutes. Sue is professionally and socially successful, but struggles to remember appointments, manage money, and clean her room. Gregarious and emphatic, she didn’t see herself as autistic. But as she learned more about the different ways it can affect women, she realized that ASD fit her perfectly. She was diagnosed a decade later.

Melissa, a 32-year-old working mother, struggled to keep on top of daily tasks when she lived alone in her 20s. Trash and dirty clothes piled up in her apartment. She now leans on her husband, who does the cooking and cleaning and checks that her clothes are on correctly before work.

She has a master’s degree and a successful career, yet despite her accomplishments, she struggles with poor self-worth as a consequence of her differences in organization. "Most people see me as lazy and gross," she says.

Different executive abilities particularly hurt those socialized as women.

"Women are expected to just pick up daily skills naturally. You’re tainted as a moral failure if you can’t get organized," says Becker.

Bre from Oklahoma echoes this: "I compare myself a lot to other women. I am frequently disorganized and forget stuff  —  it’s been a lifelong struggle."

Melissa was misdiagnosed twice growing up, and it wasn’t until four years ago that a psychiatrist finally recognized ASD in her. Since discovering she’s autistic, she’s started to accept herself  —  but it has understandably been a long road. It’s easy for undiagnosed people to compare themselves to allistic (non-autistic) people, and it’s easy for allistic people to judge differences harshly if they don’t recognize a disability.

Every time I look at my messy room, I am reminded of this disheartening fact: So long as my friends, family, and therapists recognize me as allistic, my executive differences will always be interpreted as a personal failure.

At 25, I finally received my overdue diagnosis.

It hasn’t waved a magic wand over my messy room but, at least now, I understand why I struggle with organization, cleanliness, and short-term memory.

Still, while my diagnosis has helped me understand and accept myself, it hasn’t improved my relationships. When my differences surface  —  when I accidentally wear my shirt backwards, or bleed through my tampon, or tell my friends to meet at the wrong bar  —  my friends display an eye-roll, a sigh of exasperation, an embarrassed look away, a patronizing laugh, or pure anger.

Support, not criticism, after a diagnosis can help an autistic person learn how to accommodate their differences.

Recognizing areas of strain  —  that maybe those wont’s are indeed cant’s  —  they can try different methods, such as finding a routine that does work. They may also learn to accept, for instance, that maybe both cleaning and cooking are not possible in one day, as each depletes so much energy.

I am happy that, today, I have a better sense of who I am. My hope is that, eventually, we will live in a world that recognizes who I am, too.

Author’s note: To promote acceptance, I refer to myself as an autistic person instead of a person with autism because it is a central part of my identity. The people I featured identify as autistic as well. Additionally, some autistic people do not see their executive differences as a disability  —  and that is valid. My goal with this article is not to confirm or oppose that, but show how difficult it is to live in a world that doesn’t recognize EF differences.

This story first appeared at The Establishment, a platform dedicated to amplifying marginalized voices, and is reprinted here with permission. Support The Establishment's work by becoming a member here.

All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21


At 1:30 am on Monday morning an AMBER Alert went out in southern Louisiana about a missing 10-year-old girl from New Iberia. It was believed she had been kidnapped and driven away in a 2012 silver Nissan Altima.

A few hours later at 7 am, Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine, sanitation workers for Pelican Waste, were on their daily route when they noticed a vehicle that fit the description in the alert.

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As the saying goes, "You have to kiss a few frogs..."

Dating has certainly evolved over the years—we’ve gone from courtship being purely a financial arrangement (not that this trend has ever truly died) to knights jousting for a lady’s favor, to casual hookups … and now, romance is primarily found through an app more than anything else.

Technology used for meeting that special someone has become so advanced that you can base your search entirely upon specific interests. Like … oddly specific interests. Think a fellow cat person would be the purrfect match? There’s an app for that. Wish to “love long and prosper” with a fellow Trekkie? There’s an app for that too.

No matter the changes, one thing remains the same—dating is awkward. It’s got all the unspoken formalities of a job interview, disguised as innocent fun. The balance between playing it too cool and too eager is hard to find even for the smoothest among us, and usually results in total embarrassment. Even if we aren’t the ones committing those embarrassing acts ourselves, we are often the reluctant witness to them.

Terrible dates might not always be fun in the moment, but they can be just as important as the good ones. They can teach us a lot about ourselves and what qualities we want in a partner. And at the very least, they can teach us to embrace social clumsiness with a sense of humor.

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share a “funny or embarrassing first date story” for his ever popular #Hashtags segment. The best part—some of these awful first dates ended in marriage. There’s hope for us all.

Below, find 15 stories that are truly the best of the worst. How do some of your first dates compare?

1. "After a nice dinner, she invited me to her house. On the way up, inside the elevator, I decided to push the button to stop between floors and give her a kiss... She had a phobia of closed spaces and she smacked my face as a reflex, two punches after we were kissing and laughing.” – @PanqueAlgarvio

2. “His jeans were so tight he couldn’t sit down. Stood at a bar stool the whole time.” – @onlyintheozarks

3. “Waiting 4 my date when an older couple asked me for a ride. my date came up and said sure! We drove them home & they asked us to come in. Date said “sure”. I pulled him back & asked why he wanted to hang w/strangers. He said ‘sh@t! YOU DON'T KNOW THEM!?’ We bolted!” – @natashaham75

facebook dating

Talk about a fashion faux pas.

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4. “Before the date, we had been chatting about books we liked and I talked about a great book I just read. We went on the date. I loaned her the book. She ghosted me.” – @thenextbarstool

5. “The worst first date I ever had was when my date locked his keys in the car and I had a curfew so he had to break his car window out to get me home on time. Didn’t think I’d ever see him again but we wound up married.” – @csleblan

6. “First date movie ‘Basic Instinct’ not realizing how suggestive it was. We just thought it was a mystery thriller! We left the movie discussing how each character could have actually murdered someone. We're married now.” – @Southrnbell_Amy

black people meet

There are worse first date movies tbh.

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7. “First date with my ex husband was a double date with his parents. The preview for ‘Speed Racer’ came on, and she leaned over me to say to her son, ‘You know what your dad's nickname in the bedroom is?’" – @theostoria

8. “A friend asked me on a double date as a blind date with his date's friend. I went to the bathroom and came back just in time to hear my date say to her friend, ‘why do I get the ugly one?’ I said good night to all three and headed home, leaving her w/the bill.” – @StevenTrustum

9. “He loved cheese. I was subjected to a 2 hour conversation/lecture about cheese, and why cottage cheese is not cheese!” – @Optimist_Eeyore

bumble

I'd like to see this two-hour cheese lecture.

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10. “He took me to an Asian fish market. We walked around looking at live & dead fish for a while. I don’t like seeing dead animals & I don’t eat seafood. Then we sat on a curb & he pulled out a ziplock bag of pineapple for us to share. I don’t like pineapple.” – @markayhali

11. “My cousin set up a first date for me with a family friend. During a break from dinner, Mr. Man follows me into the ladies’ room, comes up close and says in a low voice, ‘I shave my butt.’ Can’t remember what I said in response but the evening ended abruptly.” – @carli_zarzana

12. “I once took out my high school crush to a sports bar and ordered the spiciest wings there in an attempt to impress her. Not only was she not impressed. The next morning I woke up with heartburn.” –@Dmonster38

tindr conversation starters

Talk about a hot date.

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13. “My date showed up with his bestie and girlfriend, and they talked through dinner about people I don’t know. Walking to the car, he gave me a wedgie because he thought he hadn’t been paying enough attention to me.” – @surrealDazey


14. “I was taking my date home and was pulled over by the police for speeding. When the cop came to my car, she jumped out and told him she had to get home. She walked home and I never heard from her again. I'm not sure who's #WorstFirstDate it was mine or hers!” – @eastriverbear

15. “After an evening of dancing with a first date, leaving the dance hall, I had to take a quick pee break. Rushing out to the parking lot, I see a lady, I grab her and swoop her around, and plant a big wet kiss on the lips. She was another guy's wife. Oops!” – @seadogskamore

date you

Only Gomez could have gotten away with it.

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