🌈Yes, I am Autistic; I Discovered This At 33.

adventure, Africa, Antarctica, Anxiety, Art, autism, beauty, Big Chop, courage, Depression, Education, explore, faith, family, Foreign Language, Hair, Health, Health, wellness,, Lesson Planning, love, Mental Health, music, Music Class, Mystery, natural hair, Podcast, special needs, stroke, Teaching, travel, Uncategorized, Wellness, worldview

🌈E X P R E S S I V E #autism

“You’re doing too much.”

“You be doing the most.”

“You’re a lot.”

“Why are you so extra?”

“You shouldn’t have asked that.”

“Did you just say that?!”

“Sit down, Kris.”

“Tone it down.”

“Your posts are too long.”

“You’re too old to be using rainbows.”

“That’s just Karissa.”

“Relax your face.”

Conformity.

Conformity was never my cup of tea. I’ve sipped several times, but it never tasted quite right. Typically, that lukewarm bitterness always found itself spat out.

I couldn’t deal with the box. It never fit.

However, because of my “packaging” I got away with a lot. Yes, because of how I look and my language, I never got evaluated, never showed severe enough signs to even be suspected. Why? Mimicking. Modeling. Copying. Con. Form. Ing.

Never found out I was on the autism spectrum until the age of 33. I’m talking months ago, y’all. Never had a clue.

Throughout my life, I watched and studied everyone and tried to appear #normal—whatever that is; I tried to blend in.

But…

•from my tantrums in front of the tv (Dad shut that down before he went on leave to Alaska #DoItOneMoTime)

•naked streaks in the home (got to pick that up when he left and it was just all girls)

•cussing volcano (ask my brother KaDar or my sisters about that one day.)

•disdain for eggs, pancakes, macaroni and cheese, grits

•shyness mixed with stuttering

•bouncing a little extra while my sisters and I sang

•sensitivity to certain materials, textures, jewelry, scents, and ingredients

all proved that I couldn’t just blend in. Apparently it didn’t phase me too much.

However, my stimming emerged in different ways. Sophisticated stimming is what I now call it.

I learned how to manage it. Learned how to cope.

Part of my coping with my #extraness happened through various activities and from childhood until now.

Odyssey of the Mind

Forensics

Cheerleading

Free Spirit Show Choir

Marching Band

Concert Band

Basketball

Volleyball Camp

Tennis

Track

Clubs, offices, councils and societies galore

Souls A Fire Gospel Choir

Frontline at ORU

Songwriting in seconds

Speedy Math Skills

Modeling

Acting

Drummer

Author

Speaker

Substitute Teacher

Learning “foreign” languages

State Praise Dance Choreographer

Toastmasters

Exploring all seven continents

and those are just a few that helped me #LetItOut.

So if you came into my life mid-song, I must share: the treble and bass that God put in my soul ain’t going nowhere.

I’ve learned that my sophisticated stimming allowed me to “blend in” in this world. However, I’m interested in raising awareness about the autism SPECTRUM. Not just one side. All. Of. It. It is deep and diverse. After counsel and evaluations galore, I’ve been congratulated and celebrated for this discovery.

Let me be clear: I am not an expert. I am not a licensed medical professional. I chose Special Education as my major for three years. I changed it and graduated with a BA in International Community Development with two concentrations in Special Education and Teaching English as a Second Language. I’m challenged to search and study more now. Back in the day, girls easily got overlooked because of their social skills. Just look up “Autism in Females: How is It Different?” on YouTube. I cried through it because it was all me. Thanks to Special Education teacher Kelsey at G. Stanley Elementary for introducing me to that video. Thanks to Darius for telling me about Temple Grandin. What an inspiration!

Will I be the voice for non-verbal autistic peeps? Absolutely not. They, in fact, have their own voices. WE simply have to listen to HOW they speak.

I look forward to sharing my voice and journey about how I functioned WITHOUT the label for 32 years.

Slap the autistic label on a child; no problem. Just make sure that when you explain autism to a child—if you dare—you explain that they carry superpowers, are genius in their own way, and that YOU are willing to WORK to draw out the genius, to fan their flame, to exercise extreme patience, and to respect them enough to study and learn them.

Faces were scratched out if the students left mid-year. I was at a school full of other military brats like me. I’m clearly the one leaning in the pink.

One of the key elements of blackness is resilience. So on this seventh day of Black History Month, I can’t help but applaud this little resilient girl who used a combo of faith, fire, and imagination to get to this point. I applaud my mother for helping me figure out some things and make modifications for me knowing my challenges, but not my diagnosis. She got me the right creams, gave me instruments, non-nickel jewelry, and didn’t force things in my diet like dairy. I applaud my father for influencing me to suppress the tantrums. I applaud him for being the only living parent to say these words: “Yep, I could see that. It makes sense. I’ve always told you that you were a genius.” I applaud those who fanned my flame. I applaud the teachers who told me I was gifted and special.

I applaud those who laughed at me; I also admonish them to stop the madness; I challenge them to look at the gifts in a person with curiosity instead of judgment; I nudge them closer to research instead of ridicule; I push them nearer to advocacy instead of teasing.

#LetsGoDoBe

P. S. If you’re looking for a diagnosis as an adult, it may be difficult, but the best place to start is in the school district in your area. They can direct you accordingly. You can also look up autism groups in your state or region. They’re rising up now more than ever.

#Rom12v2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” 

Feeding a Giraffe—with My Mouth

adventure, Africa, explore, love, Mental Health, Mystery, Teaching, Wellness, worldview

✨BRE🦒KFAST, anyone?✨

🦒Is there anything that freaks you out? Anything that just the thought of it makes your stomach turn? Anything that you said you’d never do? Anything that makes YOU look crazy?

😛I never thought I’d feed a giraffe with my own mouth, but I never knew I’d be given the opportunity to either. There’s a host of things we say we’ll NEVER do, but when opportunity knocks, our tune may quite possibly change.

🦒Today, DISCARD some of those NEVERS and FEED into some new MYSTERY, some new ADVENTURE—some #WILDLIFE.

#LetsGoDoBe

😛Tag someone who needs to be shaken up this morning.

P. S. Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

P. S. S. Much love to my #InstaMom @travelingblackwidow. Before I went to bed last night, I screenshot my pic my giraffe feeding for this morning’s post. I logged on this morning and I saw her post and was like 😍. Go check her out! 🦒

P. S. S. The tongue of the giraffe felt like SANDPAPER!

Anxiety, Depression, faith, family, Health, Health, wellness,, love, Mental Health, Teaching, worldview

L🌍VE

Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Evening!

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, remember this:

Worry is a NEGATIVE form of meditation. It’s like praying for the wrong thing to happen.

STOP. Redirect your thoughts toward the beauty that CAN and WILL happen. Reflect on PLEASANT memories. Refuse to RECYCLE pain.

PRESS forward and be RENEWED in your mind, daily by His Word.

You’re NOT forsaken. You’re NOT forgotten. You’re NEVER alone.

I heard The Nevels Sisters sing “I got COMPANY following me!”

Be comforted in knowing that you’re not walking this out alone. You’ve got COMPANY following you.

“Many things

about tomorrow,

I don’t seem

to understand,

but I know

Who holds my future,

and I know

Who holds my hand.”

#HeWasThereAllTheTime #HeIsWithYOU #YouAreNeverAlone

📸: @iamtryon

👘: @ladykroach

Students: What do you think of when you hear Africa?

Africa, Education, explore, faith, Teaching, travel, Uncategorized, worldview

L🌍VE.

I’m a substitute teacher. I bounce around from school to school around my district and have yet to see more than three TEACHERS who look like me. I absolutely LOVE opportunities to ask my students this question:

What do you think of when you hear Africa?

Sure, I could substitute for both Omaha Public Schools, however I was raised in Papillion-La Vista School District. When I graduated with a class of 569 students, there were approximately 15 African-Americans. I never sat in a class with a Black teacher during my entire time in the district.

Let’s get back to the question.

What do you think of when you hear Africa?

🍍I think of sick kids.

🥑Dirt roads.

🥥Poor people.

🍦Helpless.

Above are actual answers from elementary school kids about a month ago.

When the little girl said, “Helpless.” I stopped and said, “I’m so glad that you said that, because there are so many lies that are being told about Africa and I want you to hear from someone who’s not on a screen and who actually visited.”

I didn’t go to Africa on a missions trip. I went on vacation. First to Egypt and then to Kenya. Pictured here I’m in Malindi, Kenya.

It’s in Kenya where my newly adopted Baba Baha told me, “Tell them we have ice cream over here.” He said that as we stood there eating some. We laughed so hard!

It was in Nairobi where I (confession) smuggled avocados back to Saudi Arabia because they were massive and I simply couldn’t go back without them. I took two.

It was in Kenya where I went to the Del Monte pineapple farm and stared at the unending rows and rows of pineapples.

It was in Kenya where I sat at the beach in Mombasa and drank fresh coconut water from a man who picked and pierced the coconut just for me.

So when I ask, “What do you think of when you hear Africa?” and then I hear statements like the ones aforementioned, my eyes light up! I realize: This is a teaching moment.

I do a test. I show them a picture and ask them where is this? It’s usually a picture of a dirt road or slum.

They almost always say, “Africa.”

I reply, “It’s Nebraska.”

I do it with a vibrant picture or setting and they reply, “Europe or Australia!”

I tell them, “Actually, it’s in Africa!”

😱

I pull out the photos of me in Kenya and the children’s jaws are ALWAYS on the ground.

It’s true, there are desolate places everywhere. I just have this holy conviction of telling new stories. The dirt road, shoeless kid narrative rings in our ears constantly.

Who will tell them of the golf courses in between Malinda and Mombasa?

Who will talk about the multi-millionaires and billionaires in African countries?

Who will tell them about the rich resources that can ONLY be found in heaps and bounds in African countries?

Who will tell them about M-Pesa and other brilliant mobile-tech ideas from African geniuses?

Who will show them Kenyan shillings with leaders on the currency who are even darker than me?

Who will show them the scarf that I bought and wore on the beach in Malindi that I later wore at the National Museum of African American History and Culture?

If you want to leave it to a substitute teacher to disseminate the information, I don’t mind. But I’m so glad to know that others are convicted about telling NEW stories too.

I’m not alone. Neither are you. If you went to an African country on vacation, please drop your memories in the comments.

I love hearing NEW stories.

Ciao for now!

Karissa Denae

P. S. I met a man in Kenya named Karisa. Apparently it’s a name for a boy. Guess what it means?! SHEPHERD!

P. S. S. Most of these photos were captured by Evans Maina. We attended the same church in Hangzhou, China. I was in China teaching English. He came to China for college. I think he was getting his Masters in Art there. For my birthday, he gave me one of his paintings that I saw in a gallery.

A Stroke THEN 7 Continents BEFORE 30 PODCAST

Anxiety, Depression, Education, explore, faith, family, Foreign Language, Health, Health, wellness,, Lesson Planning, Mental Health, music, Podcast, stroke, Teaching, travel, Uncategorized, Wellness

So here’s the deal:

I got to meet this remarkable young man who I shared a stage with at the Leadership Africa Summit this summer. Tayo Rockson invited me to speak on his podcast called “As Told By Nomads” which is not only sweeping the nation, but the entire world.

Check out the 👉🏿 podcast 👈🏿 to hear how I had a stroke and then STRUCK back.

Ciao for now!

Karissa

sevenby30.com/books

Urban League of Nebraska Young Professional of the Year & Educator of the Year Nominations

Antarctica, Education, explore, faith, family, Foreign Language, Lesson Planning, love, music, Music Class, Teaching, worldview

Take the survey here!

🎼Can you 👏🏿 on the 2 and 4 or the 1 and 3?

🍎A teacher may not feel the fire or sparkle every day in the classroom. Yesterday, unfortunately, was one of those days for me. Music class didn’t go as perfectly as I imagined it, but there were little gems along the way.

A “challenging” student taught the class the Jason (spooky) sound and a little brown girl with glasses sat with her Mom as I prepared to leave for the day. She happened to be talking about me as I approached them to compliment her on her behavior and her funky glasses. I think it made both of our days. Sparkle!

🌟More sparkle was added when I came home and found out that I was nominated for the Urban League of Nebraska Young Professional of the Year and ULNYP Educator of the Year.

I’m wildly honored to be recognized amongst a host of movers and shakers in the Omaha Metropolitan community. Being considered for these awards ignited even more fire to #GoDoBe!

#LetsGoDoBe, party people!

To vote,

Click here!