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Hello all! My name is David and I'm the chef instructor of a rural high school in Nevada. When I was 53 years of age (and teaching in Vegas), I was told that I'd be getting a new student who was a high performing autistic. Since I didn't know anything about autism, I read up on this and as I examined a listing of symptoms I found myself thinking, "Gosh ... that sounds like me."

I took a self diagnostic test and the test results suggested that I might be autistic and that I should seek out medical confirmation for a proper diagnosis ... so one year later I did and was not particularly surprised to learn that I'm in the high functioning ADS spectrum.

Instead of being upset, I found myself relieved to know that after all these years, there was actually a reason as to why I felt so uncomfortable in trying to conform to society's norms. I have never been socially outgoing and have long had issues with making and retaining friends. Since I am project oriented I have always preferred to work independently rather than as part of a group. Although I am attracted to women, I have had no interest in courtship, marriage, or even dating. Prior to this diagnosis, I could not figure out why I had commitment issues. Now that I know why I am the way I am, I've had a series of ah-hah moments and now realize that my problem with women has always been the very real fear that if I were to have a successful relationship, I would lose any opportunity I had for the solitude I need to emotionally recharge after having been out and about in a confusingly chaotic and stressful world.

My parents were regretfully not very patient with me. I have many childhood memories dating back to my time as an infant and toddler and I distinctly remember how my parents used to swat me every time I tried to spin or violently shake my head or flap my hands.

It is a great pity that they never saw fit to reward me or even praise me for things I got right. In retrospect I understand that while they might have described the way I was treated as "tough love," the reality is that today we would call such behavior "child abuse".

Since I was extremely clumsy as a young child, my father had me wear leg braces as a toddler. As a result of having to wear these braces, I missed the all important physical transition between knowing how to walk and learning how to run. Since I did not receive physical therapy after the leg braces came off, I did not learn how to properly run until I was ten.

You may perhaps imagine how demeaning it was to always be the last kid chosen to play on any team during recess or P.E. The constant rejection by my peer group did not encourage me to socialize and I became a reclusive introvert.

With this being said, I can still look back on my life with some degree of pride. This is my 26th year as a teacher and since I grew up without the benefit of any proper diagnosis or treatment, I evolved contingency scripts for dealing with nearly anything.

I have a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction and have a steady job. I own a home as well as a car. I even lived abroad for 17 years in Ghana, Thailand, El Salvador, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon.

Rather than seek therapy to help me work around my limitations, I decided to embrace my diagnosis and to adopt the lifestyle choice of a reclusive introvert. A rather unkind person at another site suggested that I was using my condition as a scapegoat to justify my behavior. My response to this was, "So what?" Why should any of that matter? This may not have been the choice that others would have chosen ... but it's my life and this is the choice I have made for myself.

I feel nothing but RELIEF to know that there's a reason I'm uncomfortable with making friends and socializing. Rather than work with my therapist to develop better social skills, I have decided that outside of work, I really don't want to socialize at all.

I made it through most of 54 years without a diagnosis or therapy. I see no reason to adjust my personal life simply to conform to social expectations. I conform perfectly well while I am at work from 6 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday, thank you very much ... and my time off work is my own to be shared with no one other than my three cats.

I have joined this site to learn more about my condition but have no interest in being lectured.

If you can accept me for the person I am, then well and good. As Temple Grandin is fond of saying, "I am different, BUT NOT LESS."
Welcome aboard :)

Welcome! You sound a lot like me (with a more interesting life, though). I'm another reclusive introvert who is only recently realizing that there's a reason for all of this!
Hi David, welcome and thank you for such a wonderful introduction post. You have certainly lived in interesting and varied life so far. I congratulate you on recognising your own limits and making a choice to be alone. :herb:

I very much doubt you would be lectured by anyone on this forum. From what I have experienced so far everyone has been very supportive.

Looking forward to reading more of your posts and maybe hearing about your experiences living in other countries.


Edit: by "wonderful", I meant thoughtful, eloquent and detailed. I'm not sure if "wonderful" comes across as insensitive to some of the painful things you described.
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Sounds a lot like my story. I started unraveling this mystery at 55. Did what I had to do socially for work...and live in relative isolation presently. I may not necessarily embrace being on the spectrum, but I certainly acknowledge that I am.

Welcome to AC.
Hello All

Thank you all for your kind replies.

I perhaps spoke in haste in saying that I have "embraced" my condition. A better word perhaps, would have been to say that I have accepted it. It's not as though I really felt as if I had any choice. At 54 years of age, my personality has long been set and I'm getting a bit long in the tooth to think about a wife and I certainly have no interest in having children ... not that a woman in my age group could even do this without having possible health complications given her age.

I have embraced my predisposition towards being a reclusive introvert. I do what I need to do at work. I have also volunteered to sponsor a couple of extracurricular organizations but to my way of thinking, work is work and home is home. I try to keep the two separate and although I am willing to spend 12+ hours a day at work, when I'm home, I'm HOME.

From the moment I pull into my garage, I feel an utter sense of relief. With the exception of yours truly, my home is a people free zone in which I can relax and unwind from the stress of having to interact with other people. It's not that I don't like other people ... but whenever I'm out and about in the world, I'm constantly on guard to avoid the miscues that might result from not understanding someone's else intent or their unspoken body language which may be in conflict with what they're actually telling me.

Every interaction I have with anyone is a potential disaster in the making because of the potential for misunderstandings. It doesn't help that some of the NTs I know have a dry sense of humor and will tell jokes without cracking a smile. Knowing their proclivity for making jokes is particularly stressful because I never know when they're joking and when they're not. Since I have a tendency to accept everything as literal truth unless I know that a given statement was false, I have wasted time responding to a comment made as a joke and really don't appreciate it when my response makes them laugh.

The NTs think they are being amusing but I find this to be rather cruel nor do I appreciate being the unintended source of their amusement simply because I lack the ability to understand their sense of humor.

The good news for me is that I've developed some pretty sophisticated scripts for navigating through conversations. I've read Miss Manner's Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior. Armed with this and having grown up in a conservative military household and being familiar with school and district policy, I have a firm grounding in social etiquette and generally understand most of the social do's and don'ts.

With this being said, nothing is perfect. My last fiance was a sous chef in Iowa who had talked about moving to Vegas after we were married. While visiting her during Spring Break a couple of summers ago, she asked if I'd come out to Des Moines the following summer to help her move. She then leaned forward and nuzzled my ear and whispered that if I were to help her move, she'd pay me back as soon as we arrived in Vegas by (censor censor censor).

Suffice it to say that I was somewhat taken aback because I didn't think I had the stamina or even the flexibility to do some of the things she wanted to do. I'm not even sure if some of these acts were even anatomically possible.

In any event, after a hug and a kiss, she told me that one reason she loved me was because of my "unfiltered language."

We subsequently went out to a restaurant to meet her parents for dinner. During the middle of dinner, her father asked me what we'd be doing after his daughter moved to Vegas.

My script immediately came into conflict. Social protocol would suggest that I shouldn't tell her father about the very private things she had told me ... but the script was in conflict with what she had said regarding her love for my "unfiltered language."

I went into a brain freeze and could not articulate an answer.

My fiance jolted me back into awareness with a swift (and somewhat painful) kick under the table and I found myself telling her parents about all of the things that Rachel had promised to do to me after moving to Vegas.

Rachel's mouth fell open in apparent shock. I'm fairly certain that her Baptist father was quite angry though I do not fully understand why since Rachel and I would have been married. Her mother burst into tears.

The dinner ended rather abruptly ... as did my engagement.

I have since modified my scripts to include a warning as to not discuss sex with anyone outside of a partner ... and perhaps not even then.


Life is admittedly easier as a reclusive introvert because there far fewer interpersonal hazards to navigate. I realize that a therapist could probably help me develop better social skills ... but I simply don't see the point in doing so because having friends or developing a relationship would intrude upon my personal life ... and I enjoy the solitude of my home which my cats graciously share with me.

This is not to say that I regard myself as being selfish for wanting "me time" when I am not at work. Throughout the course of my life, I have been a strong believer in community service. I was a USO baker for our troops while working at an American school in Saudi Arabia. I mentored two Lebanese student teachers while teaching at another school in Beirut, Lebanon. I have been a Red Cross volunteer in Michigan and have picked up trash for Texas Parks and Wildlife in Austin. I have also been a volunteer firefighter in Pennsylvania and a food bank worker in Arizona. Once the current school year gets a bit more settled in, I'm going to volunteer to work with the local Salvation Army because I understand they run food trucks and I think it'd be a hoot to chef in a food truck.


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The NTs think they are being amusing but I find this droll sense of humor to be rather cruel nor do I appreciate being the unintended source of their amusement simply because I lack the ability to understand their sense of humor.

Yes, I've had exactly the same problem with many, many people throughout my life. I totally agree. That is why I can't stand "mockumentaries" and deadpan humour... Because I don't know what is supposed to be funny and what isn't. That deadpan style is very popular in Australia at the moment and it irks me. Canned laughter in an American sitcom may be goofy, but at least I know when to laugh. :)
Canned laughter in an American sitcom may be goofy, but at least I know when to laugh.

That is an EXCELLENT POINT. I hadn't thought of it but yes, this is precisely why I like comedies with canned laugh tracks. The laugh tracks are a useful cue for knowing when something is supposed to be funny. I don't always understand the humor but it beats laughing at inappropriate times.

An NT friend once took me to watch a rather gory movie called "Kill Bill." The violence was so extreme that I found myself laughing as the blond protagonist fought her way through a veritable horde of bad guys leaving a trail of bodies in her wake. The other viewers were offended by my laughter and I was mortified to know that I had acted in an inappropriate manner.
Hello all my name isTabitha and I live in North Carolina.

Hello Tabitha. I have a cat named Tabitha. Her actual name is Princess Tabitha Panda Kitty Toe Biter ... but that's really much too big of a name for what is really a very small cat. I usually just call her Tabitha ... or sometimes Tabby for short. (Smile)
Yeah people call me Tabby for short also. I see you are a chef instructor. I tried to go to culinary school, but I gave not been able to finish yet because of my anxiety. I hope to finish one day though.
Yeah people call me Tabby for short also. I see you are a chef instructor. I tried to go to culinary school, but I gave not been able to finish yet because of my anxiety. I hope to finish one day though.

Is the culinary field your passion? Teaching Culinary Arts is actually a 2nd career. I started out as an elementary teacher and taught for 17 years ... 9 in Texas and 8 at private American schools in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.

Why did I go into teaching?

I loved history and was fascinated by the ruins in the Middle East - particularly those belonging to the Sumerians and Babylonians but around this time Americans were being kidnapped in that part of the world, so I decided to become a history teacher. That interest lasted for about a week. My university bused us into the inner-city to show us the gritty reality of "life in the trenches." The reality was overwhelming.

We parked in the parking lot of a huge high school and waited. There were people who looked like teachers who were also in cars that were neatly parked in rows behind us ... but nobody was getting out of their vehicle and our professor told us that we'd have to stay on the bus.

After a police car arrived, teachers began jumping out of their cars. Under the watchful eyes of the police, they hurried into the high school and we quickly followed. It was apparently "that" type of neighborhood ... inner city and high poverty with a lot of gang violence.

School security stopped us at the door and we all had to go through metal detectors. The metal detectors had been put into place because gang affiliated students had been entering the building with weapons. Although security was able to keep most weapons out of the school, they could not prevent violence and we witnessed several fights during our visit.

Security was such a problem that classroom doors were locked. Students who were late to class had to go to the office for a pass. They were then escorted by a security monitor to a classroom. Teachers would only open a door if the security monitor was present.

I opted out of secondary education the next day and switched to elementary on the premise that it'd be easier to control the little ones. I was not wrong.

I taught at various public schools in Texas for 8 years and spent the last 5 of those years working at an inner city district similar to the one I had observed while I was in college. I subsequently taught abroad for 8 years and after having worked in the private schools where kids were on or above grade level, I found myself unable to adjust to the reality of public education. Even though I was teaching at the 4th grade level, I had students who were indifferent to learning ... parents who'd tell me to "deal with it" when I called to discuss their child's attitude ... administrators who'd send unruly kids back to me after I wrote them up on a discipline referral for disruption and insubordination. One of the notes a smirking student brought back from a vice principal said, "So what am I supposed to do about it? You're the teacher. Deal with it!"

I finished out my 17th year, resigned from my job, and quit the field of elementary education. Since cooking had always been one of my passions, I cashed out my teacher retirement account in Texas and used the money to pay for culinary school. I then worked in the industry for a few years and reentered the field of education as a Culinary Arts instructor in 2007. I am now in my 26th year of teaching and this will be my 8th year as a Culinary Arts teacher.

So why have I given you a snapshot of my career path?

In both careers, I used my interests to pursue a successful career. I focused on those interests and did not allow anything to distract me from my goal of graduating and pursuing certification.

If you have a passion for food, FOCUS on that passion. Aspies are known for our focus ... our tendency to put on blinders while working on a project. If you are interested in the Culinary Arts, FOCUS on Culinary Arts.

Since I was in my 40's when I went to culinary school and already had a bachelor's degree as well as a Master's, I didn't have to take any of the general ed courses ... English, math, communication (public speaking) etc. I had to take food safetey and sanitation, management, nutrition, and of course all of the classes related to cooking and baking.

The culinary classes typically had us in a classroom with tiered seating so that each row of seats was raised behind the seats in front of them. This gave everyone a nice view of the kitchen demo station and video displays also gave us an over the shoulder look of what the chef instructor was teaching us.

While some of the younger students sat in the back and texted, doodled, or even took naps, I focused on the instruction and took copious notes because I knew that after the demo, we'd be in the kitchen at workstations to produce the product.

Since most instructors allowed us to form our own cooperative learning groups, I usually worked with 3 other older students. The only things we really had in common was that we were older than our other classmates. We also shared a passion for the Culinary Arts.

Since everyone in my group had taken copious notes, we were always able to correctly reproduce the demoed product. Other students were not so fortunate. The students who had texted or doodled or napped were totally lost. Some of the others had problems because they hadn't done their reading assignments or hadn't brought the tools they needed to class even though the student handbook said that we were supposed to be properly attired in clean uniforms and were to have our tool kits with us at all times.

Throughout my time in culinary school, I focused on learning as much as I could. I ignored distractions and did not gossip, chit chat, or socialize with anyone outside of class. I did my homework, I took notes, and aced all quizzes and tests and graduated with honors.

There is no reason why you can't do this as well. It's simply a matter of taking advantage of your inner-aspie. Put on blinders ... focus on the task at hand ... and ignore distractions.

Instead of worrying about things you have no control over, focus on developing scripts for working in small cooperative groups. Start by finding others with whom you can work. Look for people who take notes and aren't vegging out in class. Get to know those people by introducing yourself ... because the people you'll be wanting to work with in the kitchen are the ones who are focused in class.

Kitchen production will result in group grades, so you want to be in a group with responsible students. Don't team with the slackers who sit in the back and do nothing because they'll be a liability in the kitchen. You also don't want to team with a smoker because smokers have an annoying tendency to disappear on extended "smoking breaks" leaving you alone to wash the pans and clean the work station.

The first culinary classes you will take will be in nutrition and food safety and sanitation. Use this as an opportunity to identify the work oriented students and find a group of three others to form a cooperative learning group with when you're in the kitchen.

Most chefs will allow students to form their own groups, so finding a group you can work with is really important because these are the students you will most likely group with in all of your classes.

The students in my group were all production oriented. We didn't really chit chat. We didn't gossip. We always focused on the task at hand and were consistently among the best performing groups of our class. The only thing I ever did with them off campus was to invite them to Thanksgiving dinner at my house. Since we were all culinary students, we actually prepared the meal together. Two of the students brought their spouses with them ... and after dinner, everyone helped to clean up. It was a good experience and didn't stress me out too much because we had all been working together for several months.
Yes culinary has always been my passion. Your education back ground sounds like what I have always enjoyed. I love history and I love culinary and before I ever thought about going into culinary, I actually thought about going to school to try to be a teacher. I have already taken a class called food science, basic culinary skills 1 , food and beverage service, and also sanitation and safety. All these classes I passed already.
Yes culinary has always been my passion. Your education back ground sounds like what I have always enjoyed. I love history and I love culinary and before I ever thought about going into culinary, I actually thought about going to school to try to be a teacher. I have already taken a class called food science, basic culinary skills 1 , food and beverage service, and also sanitation and safety. All these classes I passed already.

That is most excellent!

And yes - I prefer teaching to working in the industry. The industry gave me some good hands-on experience and helped make me a better teacher because I know precisely what chefs and managers are looking for in entry level employees and can better prepare my students to work in the food service because of this.

I chose not to continue working in the industry because the hours were ghastly. Since I was on contract, my contract specified a minimum of 50 hours a week ... but there was no maximum ... and I found myself working 84 hour weeks which was just INSANE. I'd work my shift and would be asked to stay for a double shift with no additional compensation other than a free meal. I'd be called in on my days off. I was even called in on my vacation which was supposed to have been one uninterrupted week.

I much prefer teaching.

My nights and weekends are largely my own. We get 1 week off for Spring Break, 4 days for Thanksgiving, two weeks for Christmas, and TWO MONTHS for summer vacation.

The initial pay (depending upon where you work) will not be very high but if you stick it out, you'll accrue step increases as you develop experience. This is my 26th year in the field and when I came up to Nevada, my new district credited me with 10 years (even though I had 23 at that point). I'm now in my 3rd year of employment in Nevada ... so I'm at 13 years on the pay scale and with my Master's I'm earning over $60,000. Since the cost of living in my area is relatively low, I'm doing quite well.

One thing I like about teaching is that it's quite structured and nearly everything is scheduled. The one thing that is never scheduled are fire drills which we have to have once each month. The fire department conducts the drills and whenever they choose to show up is when the alarm goes off. I hate not knowing when this will happen because alarms can catch us in the middle of production which is always a pain ... particularly if we don't have enough time to finish the production and have to shut the stations down and clean them for the next class.

Dealing with students can be stressful but if you take a class management class and apply what you've learned, you can manage the students as long as you're firm, fair, and consistent.

Most states have a couple of routes to certification. You'd have to check with the department of education in your state but in general these are your choices.

1) Become a Culinary Arts teacher through teacher training at an accredited college.

2) Become a Culinary Arts teacher by dint of work experience. If you have X hours of documented work experience (the number varies from state to state ... but plan on having at least 2-3 years of industry experience), you can get an initial teaching certificate subject to various conditions which include having to take classes to learn how to become a teacher. These classes would probably include lesson planning and class management. They could include learning how to teach a class of diverse learners, SEI (structured English immersion for teacher students who may not be fluent in English). Many states also require teachers to take a class in the U.S. Constitution and/or the state constitution. Even though I came to Nevada as a certified teacher, I was required to take a class on school law - which actually proved to be quite informative particularly since I have since been diagnosed with autism. Knowledge of school law has been really helpful because I now know that I have certain rights which are protected under the American with Disabilities Act.

Here are some pictures of products I've taught students to make. On the left is a cucumber salad. This was a good exercise of knife cutting skills since the cucumbers had to be sliced very thin to be flexible enough to form an overlapping wall that was strong enough to support the diced bell peppers.

The other is a French dish ... Poluet Chasseur with a rice pilaf and honey glazed carrots.

Thank you for the info and the pics, very informative and very interesting. I have really enjoyed having this conversation with you. Looking forward to hopefully having more conversations with you in the future.

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