Monday, December 16, 2013

Tales from an Autistic Childhood: School was a Minefield

While we were in Miami, I had the great privilege of meeting author Jeannie Davide-Rivera.  You might remember me talking about her in my post Reader's Favorite Awards.  She is the lady Teri just had to hug and a talented writer, as well.  She is also an award-winning author (Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed; Growing Up with Undiagnosed Autism), the autism category expert writer for, a writer for Autism Parenting Magazine, The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, and a professional blogger with Asperger’s Syndrome. Growing up with undiagnosed autism, and now raising three ASD children gives her a unique inside look at the world of those living with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Jeannie lives in South Carolina with her husband and four sons.

For more information about life with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome visit her website, (Aspie Writer: Understand Autism from the Inside), follow her on Twitter, or connect on Facebook.

About her Book!
Jeannie grew up with autism, but no one around her knew it. Twirling Naked in the Streets will take you on a journey into the mind of a child on the autism spectrum; a child who grows into an adolescent, an adult, and becomes a wife, mother, student, and writer with autism.

This is a gripping memoir of a quirky, weird, but gifted child who grows up never quite finding her niche. It took 38 years to discover that all the issues, problems, and weirdness she experienced were because she had Asperger's Syndrome (AS), a form of high-functioning autism.

The tale begins at age three and takes us all the way through her diagnosis. Along the way she explains autism in a way that will have fellow "Aspies" crying tears of joy at being understood, and "neuro-typical" people really starting to grasp the challenges that autistic people face every moment of every day.

Twirling Naked in the Streets is available on (Kindle Edition and Paperback),,, and on CreateSpace.

Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed: Growing Up With Undiagnosed Autism was released in e-book and paperback format on April 10, 2013.  Paperback: 204 pages.

And now for our pleasure, Jeannie is going to share an excerpt from her book.  I know you'll enjoy it.  the girls and I are already fighting over who is going to read it first.  Thank you, Jeannie, for being at the Mess.


An except from the award-winning book, Twirling Naked in the Streets and No-One Noticed; Growing Up With Undiagnosed Autism

 By Jeannie Davide-Rivera

“She was the last one in school, and the last one out. She made the whole class wait for her every day.” ~ Mom

I was late every day because my alien leaders, the ones that dropped me off at my mother’s house when I was born, didn’t give her an instruction manual—and she was not a fast learner. We struggled over what I would wear, and what I would eat, which was usually nothing. I didn’t sleep well so it was hard to wake me in the morning, but I was much easier to wake than my mother.
School nights didn’t mean much in my house; my parents liked to party. My brother and I stayed in their bedroom to go to sleep while aunts, uncles and friends played loud music, drank, smoked, and played cards.
I tried to sleep curled up in a ball under the covers cupping my hands over my ears trying desperately to drown out the noise. The smell of cigarette smoke and beer made my stomach sick and my eyes tear.
In the morning, navigating the sea of sleeping bodies sprawled out across the living room carpet surrounded by empty beer bottles, and half spilled over ashtrays brought on the vomit. The vomit brought on the screaming.
My screaming was because even then I hated to vomit; although I should have been used to it, and my mother’s screaming because now there was a mess to clean up. Now? There was a mess to begin with! Vomit was hard to get out of mustard-colored shag carpet.
Mornings sucked, school sucked, and we were late—again.
I was never in a rush; that much is true, but I certainly did not intentionally make the whole class late coming out of school every day—not intentionally.
The end of the school day was always the same.
“Pack your things, and line-up.”
Line-up I had down. I was number three; Toni was number one, Laura was number two, then me, and Shayne was number four. I knew how to line-up. Line-up: check. It was the pack your things part, the part that needed to be done before line-up, that was the problem.
My desk was a wreck. The small space inside the metal-framed desk reserved for books was jam packed with my things. Papers were shoved inside, crumbled and torn. Pencils fell when I pulled on something I thought I needed to pack up, and was followed by an avalanche of debris that scattered across the floor making my head spin.
The mess, the chaos, and the lack of things having their own place made me feel sick. My brain ceased to work; I ceased to respond. I just stood there staring at the mess that I had no idea how to begin to clean up.
“We are not leaving until Jeannie cleans up this mess and packs her things.”
I froze. There is that word again—things.
I made several attempts throughout the year to pack-up my things. All of them were wrong. I never arrived home with any of my textbooks, and couldn’t do my homework. I spend the nights crying because my homework wasn’t done, and the morning being screamed at because my homework wasn’t done.
Going to school without my homework meant writing, I must do my homework, twenty times on the blackboard. I longed for the end of the day; longed to be out of the clutches of the classroom.
“Jeannie, pack up your things,” the dreaded words seemed to echo throughout the room.
The whole class grumbled while I stood there staring blankly at my desk. They knew we were not leaving until I got my things together. The mother’s waiting outside would be angry and grumbling that everyone always had to wait for me, again.
“If someone doesn’t help Jeannie pack her things, we are going to stay here all day.” Ms. Montouri said.
I didn’t know what to pack.
Shayne, number four, rushed over to help. He helped me shove everything into my book bag, and slung it over his shoulder. Shayne wanted to go home.
From that day on Shayne helped me pack, or rather he packed my things for me. Actually he packed everything, and then carried my book bag because it was heavy. I couldn’t lift it; I could only drag the book bag along, slowly.
When Shayne packed my book bag, I was able to do my homework. He packed the textbooks; I never did. The teacher told me to pack my things. The textbooks did not belong to me; they were not mine. They could never be my things; they were their things.
School work was easy, but navigating the school day without stepping on a landmine was not.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Want a chance to win a free, autographed copy of Jeannie's book?  Everyone who leaves a comment below and gives her Facebook page a LIKE will be entered into a drawing to their own copy of Twirling Naked in the Streets.  Don't miss out on your chance to get a copy of this great book!

You can find Jeannie as well as some important information at the following links:
Book (Create Space):
Autism Category ( 
Autism Parenting Magazine: 

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Did you enjoy what you read?  Leave me a comment and then join me at The Mess that Is Me on Facebook!

Other posts you might enjoy ~ Surfers for Autism 
                                             Reader's Favorite Awards  
                                             Messing in Miami

Thanks for visiting The Mess! Keep chasing your dreams!


  1. Thanks so much Robbie for having me here! I am looking forward to sending an autographed copy of my book to one of your readers!

    1. Quite welcome. Thanks for being here. It was a pleasure to meet you in Miami.

  2. I loved this book!! I have recommended it to several of my friends. I have the kindle version and would love a hard copy. (I teach elementary children with autism and this book helped me understand my students so much more!)

    1. CONGRATULATIONS! I'm told you were the lucky winner! Contact me at so I can get your copy out to you!

    2. Thanks so much!! I sent you a message on Facebook.

  3. Pattie Ritter December 16. 2013 at 11:22PM

    I don't know anyone who could not love this book...I have 4 sons and two are aspies and after reading this book I found that that chances are I am too...I am very similar to the author...I hope in time she writes more on aspies and just how to deal with daily struggles and battles...Your awesome..!

  4. Hi! I have read this book on Kindlee and it is absolutely awsome. Loved every page and didn't want it to end. I want to win a copy som I can show it to my friends an have them all to know what I am about. Reading that book was like reading about myself.

  5. You all are awesome I am so glad you enjoyed the book! Pass the word so more people come and join the contest!

  6. I remember this book, the lovely author, and Terry's obsession to hug her! Love the shared passage. Thank you for sharing your truth, Jeannie. Bravo!