Why The Hidden Gifts Project?

My name is Michael Gerard Walzer and I was inspired to write a book, which includes a CD with music and lyrics, illustrating a story of a man, who experienced an epiphany on Thanksgiving eve, November 24, 2010. He described it as coming out of a coma, awakened and free and in a moment of clarity, he had been given the ability to rewind and review his life history. Suddenly, with hyper-focused clarity, revelation after revelation came forward and revealed all the answers to the questions he had in his lifetime, giving him a fresh perspective on life. He had been given the chance to amend things in Iife he did not understand and he promised to give back and be a better man.

His journey would take an unexpected turn, when both of his sons at an early age, were diagnosed with autism. (Dane’s diagnoses included autism, obsessive compulsive disorder and ADHD. Raun’s diagnoses included autism, ADHD, Tourette’s Syndrome and later with auditory processing disorder and Ellers Danlos Syndrome.) In his late 40s, he began to suspect that he also might share the same disabilities as his children. His suspicions were confirmed in the year 2011, when at age 52, he was diagnosed with autism (a high-functioning man with Aspergers). Although not officially diagnosed with OCD and ADHD, he was aware of his OCD, but not his ADHD, which was discussed during his diagnoses. After his son’s diagnoses with Tourette’s Syndrome, he began to recognize some of the same traits he had as a boy, which he eventually outgrew in his childhood.

Until he was diagnosed, no one was aware of his disabilities. This included his family, friends, neighbors, teachers, co-workers and clients. Life was a maze he had to face, navigating at his own pace, he learned to adapt, embrace, harness, tame and befriend these disabilities and mold them into tools, that he would come to call hidden gifts. He applied these gifts to his personal and professional life. He realized he needed to share his story with others, who could benefit from his experiences. His journey has given him a unique perspective on life and though his disabilities caused him much heartache and grief, he considers himself to be the happiest person he knows. And I should know, I’ve known him my whole life, his story…is my story. My name is Michael Gerard Walzer, a high functioning Asperger man with multiple disabilities.

There are not enough people with autism sharing their personal stories. We need some advocates to express their thoughts, through their own words, telling their own stories. In my book, I will write about my experiences with success and failure, my humiliating and insecure moments, as well as my empathy and creativity. I want this book to reach parents, caregivers, professionals, and most of all, people with autism spectrum disorder. If my words and music can be a positive influence and assist in revealing a piece of the puzzle in someone’s life, then I will have accomplished my goal. I believe that education, communication and participation will effectively increase the public’s sensitivity to these disabilities. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF AUTISM.

After reading the first couple of pages of John Elder Robison’s second book, “Beautiful People,” I realized I wanted to tell my story. Towards the end of the book, John even suggests and urges the reader if he or she have a story to tell, they should write their own story, which seconded my opinion on writing my book. I wanted to help educate society about who we are as people and see us as human beings, not just a disability. As an Asperger man, I, now see my disabilities, for the most part, as abilities. I knew telling my story would have a unique perspective, because as an autistic man, I was giving personal insight, by expressing my words and thoughts, and revealing how an autistic man has functioned in society his entire life. Many autistic people can not express themselves, so l wanted to tell my story. Every story is different. But, each story will reveal something new about us. Collectively, we can have a say in who we are as a people, not just the allistics, (non-autistic people), who write about us. Don’t get me wrong, we desperately need their input, too.

I have walked both sides of the tracks my whole life. As an autistic man, I have played the game, acting as a chameleon, masquerading as a normal citizen in society. Crossing back and forth into both worlds. At times, I did not understand life, pretending and posing as one of it’s members in order to function in society, deciphering their language (spoken word and body language) and culture, while avoid being detected and found out. By that l mean, society thinking l am different, odd, weird or unusual, because l did not keep my behavior in check. I often felt clueless, stupid, inferior and insecure. Sometimes, I thought of myself as an alien being, visiting the the planet earth. I had to adapt, absorb and blend in and live amongst them. I believe many Aspergers are aware of their disability and remain “in the closet,” because they do not want to reap the wrath of society’s ignorance, indifference and abuse and be labeled as “Rain Man.” Then, there is the other part of me, living in the autistic world. My autism had other friends, OCD, ADHD and Tourette’s . At times, they over layered each other, causing havoc in my life. What I did not know, at the time, are these “friends” were educating, challenging, and expanding my perspective on life. I learned to control and use them as tools and eventually, I would see them as gifts.

My journey in life has been enriched because of the experiences l have encountered. The fact that l am an artist, allows me to express myself and illustrate my life through words and music. This gives me a great combination to use in telling my story. Words are like a box of chocolates, that come in all shapes and sizes. Little morsels of ear candy that excite our listening palette, evoking memories and creating new ones. As an artist, l thought the book could expand the mind of the readers by giving them more than just words. I envisioned taking the book to another level. I had a more ambitious concept, l wished to introduce. I decided to create a audio-visual experience to further explore the readers’ experience. I wrote, arranged and recorded music, with lyrics, about some of the topics l covered in my book. I believe this will help support and enhance the readers’ curiosity and participation. I have been a professional artist since 1981. I have worked, dabbled and explored in many genres of the arts.

For most people, I believe music is the most enjoyable of all the arts. Perhaps back in the day, the written word and spoken word may have had more of an affect on society. Maybe, it still does. Maybe, l should rephrase my statement. For most people, music would be society’s choice for entertainment, relaxation, etc……socially and privately. More than any of it’s peers, l feel music touches the human spirit like no other. Words with music and lyrics, will help create a bond, strengthening the message l am trying to convey in my book. It’s no different than watching a film, while listening to a movie soundtrack. A movie score is written to support, compliment and sell the story. It is a great one-two punch combination. Multi-tasking the arts, enhances the product you are advertising. The music triggers our emotions, eliciting all these feelings about the subject we are watching.

Of course, we read a book, not watch it, but my music is doing the same thing…..illustrating the book. The magic of music connects on so many different levels. Although, writing is new to me, creativity is not. The book, along with the music, make a great tag-team partnership. This combination will invite and challenge the listeners to use all five senses and open and educate the readers’ minds and defuse the stigma of autism.