Personal Accounts of Being a University Student with HFA/AS

Kathy Lissner-Grant (, diagnosed with autism:


Let me tell you about when I was in college from 1984-87. My name is Kathy Lissner-Grant and I went to college in the state of Missouri and got my degree in Political Science.

I went to Maryville College for 3 years and during my Junior year I went to the University of Missouri-Columbia (Mizzou). I loved college because it was the first time I've been in an atmosphere where people trusted me and liked me for who I was. When I was in college, I met people from different countries and I loved that! Back then my conversational skills weren't as good and people from places like Japan, Malaysia, and Kuwait taught me how to converse in my own language!

I didn't have any confidence in myself when I entered college because I come from an extremely judgemental family and was criticised and nagged at a lot. When I came to college meeting people who accepted my differences and who liked me as I am was a life saver for me! Also, a professor, Radko Jansky helped me and talked to me about a many great things. I wouldn't be typing this message or even being here if it wasn't for him. He was one of the first people who truly listened to what I had to say. I asked him questions about a lot of things. I remember asking him during class one day if Muammar Qadaffi was a nut. And for 45 min. after class he explained to me what he thought. And friends like Choon Leng of Malaysia and others helped me just by being around me. I never minded when my foreign friends talked in their native language around me. I remember having my American friends not liking that because they were afraid that they may be saying something bad about them. I told them that if they were saying anything bad about me, it better not be in English. As a kid and as a teenager, I was made fun of and I didn't want to hear it in college. So sitting at the dinner table with everybody conversing in Chinese or Arabic didn't bother me. If they wanted to say something to me, they would talk to me in English.

I also enjoyed the intellectual stimulation of college. I liked learning about foreign policy, comparative political and economic systems, and different histories. And at the time I was in college it was during the last years of the Cold War, and so I enjoyed reading about the USSR and other Communist countries.

Not only was college a good time for me; it also was a hard time for me, in that I was suicidal and depressed off and on. And my friends, teachers, and the psychologist I went to kept me alive. There were times when I wanted to die so badly, but thank God I never took the other trail. I had problems with depression partially because I am biologically disposed to it. Also, there are some psychological reasons mixed in there, too.

I enjoyed dorm living. I considered every dorm I lived in home. I never felt at home in the house I grew up in because I never felt 'welcome'. But the dorms I lived in, I felt welcome because there were people there who really cared about me with no judgements. I also used to do things like watch Friday Night Videos at 11:00 p.m. while reading for my own enjoyment. I hardly ever did homework on the weekends.

When I went to Mizzou, I learned alot there, too. One of my best friends there was a girl named Victoria who was in the Army ROTC. She was great! She came from a small town of Ava, MO and she was well travelled and had lots of class. Also she and I talked about a great many things. Politically she was as right wing as I am left wing, but that didn't dilute our friendship. Also, that year, I was in the anti-nuke movement off and on and the same goes for the anti-apartheid movement. At that time I considered myself a 'eurocommunist' because I had great admiration for the Italian and Spanish Communist Parties.

Besides stuff like that, I went to football games (Mizzou was terrible) and ate pizza, and explored the town of Columbia. Also I had a good friend, Jan Patterson, who taught me alot about myself and my disability.

I probably have lots more to say, and if anyone wants to ask me questions about anything my email address is:

I am most interested in anyone contacting me. Also, I like other things besides politics, communist parties, anythig having to do with foreign countries. I also like cats, baseball, science fiction, and the mountains.

I hope to hear from all of you comrades soon!

Kathy Lissner-Grant

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