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Ruby Slippers

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Ruby Slippers

By Jennifer Cook O’Toole

Autism Asperger’s Digest  Sept/Oct 2014


Before you look to anyone else (including wizards) for the love, brains, or courage, start a little closer to home.


I want you to imagine something. Forget who you see in the mirror or what you worry about when you close your eyes. Instead, imagine you are Dorothy Gale. You know, Dorothy. The girl from The Wizard of Oz. Now, here’s your situation:

After a long, confusing journey (in heels), after battling loneliness, disappointment, fear, loss, and insecurity, you’ve just discovered that no one is waiting behind the curtain. No one is coming to save you. No one ever was. Instead, the power to save yourself—to dream and do and be everything you’ve ever wanted—has been with you since your story began.

That, sweet friends, is the real tale I’m here to tell you. The real adventure you get to live. The real magic that is anything but make-believe.

When Dorothy landed in Oz, she (quite by accident) killed the Wicked Witch of the East and was given a treasure: ruby slippers. They were lovely, of course, but let’s be honest. Aside from being a rather fabulous fashion statement, those shoes didn’t do Dorothy a lick of good. Who knows? Maybe they rubbed her the wrong way. Maybe they pinched. Maybe they made people stare.

Whatever they may have done, here’s what we know for sure: Dorothy’s gift couldn’t have felt like much of a gift at all. From start to finish, all those slippers brought was a big bully, lots of havoc, and a huge amount of heartache.

And then came the kicker.

Exhausted and hurting, Dorothy made a game-changing discovery: her nagging, gauche, uncomfortable gift secretly held the power she’d been seeking all along.

What if she’d known that earlier? What if she had always known the value of what she possessed? Well, maybe Dorothy could have avoided the flying monkeys. She could have skipped the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, and Wizard, not to mention the whole broomstick fiasco. Yes, everything would’ve been a whole lot faster.

But there’d be no story to tell. No adventure to remember. She would’ve missed out on the journey.

Each one of us is born with unrealized abilities to think and feel and do much more than we ever think we can. Like Dorothy, we mistake immeasurable worth for hindrance and discomfort. We can’t see the power that has always been here, with us from the start.

Why? Well, it’s not because we’re clueless or blind or not good enough.

Before you look to anyone else (including wizards) for the love, brains, or courage, start a little closer to home. No matter how much you dress up or mess up or trip up, your truest self will remain hidden until you risk the journey to discover her. Along that road—which is most certainly lacking clearly marked, Technicolor bricks—you can find trouble. And adventure. And love. And brilliance.

Truth? You are not going to find happiness by having the right prom date or report card or figure or friends. You are not going to find happiness until you are willing to start your journey as Dorothy did—alone. Because, frankly, it’s impossible for anyone else to know you or love you or respect you if you don’t take the time to do it first, and then keep doing it. You can’t expect anyone else to do for you what you aren’t willing to do for yourself.

How to start? A game, of course! I call it: Detective You. Ask yourself the following questions and record your answers (unedited!) using a “voice memo” app or in a notebook.

* What do you really hope we don’t ask about?

    • If something is forbidden, do you want it less or more?
    • If you suddenly had an extra room in your house, what would you do with it?
    • What are your three favorite words?
    • What is your biggest regret (wish I could do over)?
    • What was your best decision?
    • What music makes you feel most alive?
    • When do you feel most valuable?
    • What is your favorite moment of the day?
    • What are you secretly envious of?
    • When you meet someone, what do you think but not say?
    • What is the best (not necessarily biggest or fanciest) gift you ever received? Why did you like it so much?
    • Whom do you trust? Why?


Next, it’s time to create The Me Manifesto: your declaration of what you believe, what you want, and how you’re going to get there.

All you have to do is finish the phrase, “I believe…” as many times as you’d like with as many different types of answers as pop into your mind. There’s nothing too silly or too practical. There can’t be. This is your manifesto!

For example? Here’s a smidge of mine.

    • I believe that love wins.
    • I believe life should have spontaneous moments when everyone breaks out in song (á la Broadway musicals).
    • I believe in red shoes.

Once you’re clear on who you are (for now) and what you believe in, you can start to see where you want your own “yellow brick road” to take you. That’s your “Off to See the Wizard” beginning. But words alone don’t count for much. Actions are what really matter. And that means it’s time to ask: what will I do to turn my beliefs into more than words? What will I do now?


You don’t need a wizard to steer you home. Everything you need is already within you. Everything you dream of doing or becoming—those things aren’t somewhere over the rainbow. They are here, now, and always have been…you are the magical, sparkling treasure. And the world is waiting for you.



Jennifer O’Toole, winner of the 2012 Temple Grandin Award, is an Aspie (married to an Aspie) with three Asperkids of her own! Her conversationalist presentation of useful insights has touched hearts, lightened spirits, and even led to the founding of Asperkids, LLC, a multimedia social education company. Jennifer is the author of five books, including The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules.


Copyright © Autism Asperger’s Digest. 2014. All Rights Reserved. Any distribution, print or electronic, prohibited without permission of publisher.

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