Peanut Butter and Jelly
By Angi DiSpina Shumate
We go together like...
We go together like
Rama lama lama
Ka dingity dinga dong
Remembered forever as
Shoo-wop sha whadda whadda
Yippity boom de boom
Chang chang changity chang sha bop
That's the way it should be
We both happen to be very humble people. Yet, even we must admit that we make a perfect team. People who meet us often assume we have known each other forever. The truth is that we only met about four years ago.
Ann and I met about a year after IDEA House was established. She was working for a local newspaper at the time and contacted me, through email, to do a story on a local event IDEA House was sponsoring. I was so excited for the opportunity for people to learn about IDEA House and was honored to be interviewed by a journalist.
Ann sent me questions by email and we talked back and forth a few times online. When the article was published, I contacted her to thank her. I promised her a “big hug” if we were ever to meet in person. (We laugh about that to this day, as Ann is not exactly a fan of hugging!) I had no idea, at that time, that Ann has ASD.
Fast forward a few months to the first time Ann and I met in person. She came to IDEA House to do a photo shoot. She was (and still is) amazing to watch when she has her camera in hand. She was all business, but friendly. She captured some terrific photos of the teachers and the students. I was in awe when I saw the prints she framed for me.
All was fine, until it came time for me to pay her for her photography. She had worked very hard and invested her time and money into the beautiful pictures. Yet, she was completely unconcerned with being paid for them. When I did finally convince her to take a check, I was left feeling a little guilty and fearful that it was not enough. I was also sad to see that Ann did not seem to be aware of her “value.”
The tendency for Ann to underestimate herself is now one I am very familiar with. In fact, in was a huge factor in our friendship and working relationship in the early years. There were many, many times Ann became upset with me for pushing her out of her comfort zone. She called it pushing; I called it believing in her enough to accept her anger and respecting her enough not to say “I told you so,” when she was so successful at things she thought she “could not” do!
Over the years, our work relationship has evolved to the point that we make a perfect team. We trust each other and work in perfect harmony to provide the very best for our students. Our friendship has become one of the most important factors in my life. There are times when I am weak and she is strong for me. There are times when she needs the support and I am honored to give it to her. There are times when she wishes she could see things through my neurotypical eyes, but there are far more occasions where I wish I could see the world through her uniquely autistic perspective.
We go together, like peanut butter and jelly, like cookies and milk, like hot cocoa and marshmallows. One is “fine” on its own, but together we are extraordinary!