Elesia Ashkenazi is a wife and a mother of two boys. She often hears people tell her that she seems completely normal. Sometimes people doubt that there’s anything different about her, because they don’t see what’s going on in her brain. But Elesia wants us to know that she’s different.
Elesia is on the autism spectrum and has had a cochlear implant to treat her profound deafness. She is fluent in American Sign Language and is very sensitive to people’s facial expressions, because she has lived much of her life not being able to hear very well.
Elesia spends most of her time “pretending” to be “normal.” Every move she makes, every word she speaks, has to be carefully run through what she calls her “internal editor” to ensure that they’ll be acceptable to the outside world and help her to fit in with those around her.
But this internal editing is exhausting work. Forcing herself to learn every little nuance of tone of voice, gesture, and facial expression that helps her fit in is tiring. She turns to ballet, even though it is one of the hardest things she’s ever taken part in, as a stress reliever and a reminder that there’s a type of communication out there that requires no words and yet is still so beautiful and deep.
This woman has a loving family surrounding her, a love of the arts, and a beautiful articulate heart, and we don’t think she’s pretending at all.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?