It's always game time for Maya Glavin.
The 17-year-old goalie starts focusing on her next game days in advance. Her pre-game ritual begins long before she heads to the rink.
"The game has already started as I sit down in my car," she said over a hot chocolate at a Kanata Tim Hortons a few hours before a practice.
This girl lives for hockey.
Sporting a Bauer ball cap and a Kanata Rangers workout jacket, it's all the 5-foot goalie -- nicknamed McGlovin' (a play on her family name and her quick glove hand) wants to talk about.
The obsession with hockey comes naturally.
It's one of the effects of Asperger Syndrome, a disorder that gives people intense focus on one thing while making it hard to concentrate on others.
"It makes you focus on something so deeply. I focus on one thing until I switch off... which takes a long time," Glavin says.
In the dressing room, the 5-foot goalie barely talks to anyone because her mind is on the game.
Her teammates know she's focused on the game. They get her. And that's what has become so valuable to the teenaged hockey fiend. She counts on them and her friends at All Saints Catholic high school to manage a disorder that makes her act differently from her peers.
Glavin was a 13-year-old Grade 8 student when she was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.
She was living away from home, on a hockey scholarship at Appleby College, a private preparatory school in Oakville.
She has played hockey since the age of two. Her older brother Eric, who was then five, was starting to play. Her father wanted to get her into a sport but thought there was too much contact in hockey.
But little Maya was jumping up and down at the thought of hitting the ice like her brother.
Glavin played AA hockey most of her life, but this year is playing B hockey so there's less travel and she can focus on school.
Glavin knows there's a stigma attached to Asperger but says she has found immeasurable support from friends and teammates, who know she's different and accept her anyhow.
Asperger Syndrome is a disorder on the autism spectrum.
It's considered to be on the "high-functioning" end of the spectrum, according to Autism Speaks Canada, an autism advocacy group.
People with Asperger often have difficulty interacting with others.
They can have "robotic" speech, have one-sided conversations and have trouble understanding gestures or facial expressions. They'll have a restricted range of interests -- sometimes an obsession with a topic -- and will often repeat behaviours. They can be clumsy because their motor skills don't develop.
Clumsy. Socially awkward. And an inability to communicate as easily as their peers do.
Not exactly what a 17-year-old girl wants to deal with.
In school, Glavin sometimes doesn't know what's appropriate to say to people.
"There are times I don't know how to carry myself in class," Glavin says.
But Glavin said she works through it with the help of friends from school and her hockey teammates, coaches and teachers.
Jessica Muldoon, a teacher at All Saints high school, calls Glavin "incredibly positive and a very hard worker."
"She doesn't let obstacles get in her way," Muldoon said.
Glavin only told some of her school friends about her Asperger at the start of the year.
Julia van Leur met Glavin at the start of the semester because they share a parenting class.
Her good friends have accepted Asperger makes her how she is. Sometimes they don't understand why Glavin acts the way she does, but when she fills them in, they get it, van Leur said.
"It helps when she explains herself," she said.
Most people understand how Asperger Syndrome makes Glavin act differently from others her age, but there's still some "unacceptance" among teens.
"You really can't change how another person feels," van Leur said.
Another friend, Alyssa Ross-Acheson, said Glavin's friends "don't care" about Asperger's.
"I will do everything to have your back and be your friend," Ross-Acheson says.
With help from her friends, Glavin manages the challenges Asperger Syndrome poses for her.
Five years ago, for example, she often had a messy face because it didn't occur to her to wash dirt from it or wipe food crumbs away.
Glavin admits Asperger caused her not to notice her own hygiene when she was in early high school. She didn't take any showers for a couple weeks.
Then, it caused her to obsess about hygiene and she took five a day. Now, she has evened things out at one a day -- or two if there's a hockey game or practice.
Today, her close friends use subtle hand gestures to clue Glavin in when there's something wrong with her appearance that she has overlooked.
Glavin also tunes in to her friends' social interactions for cues about how to talk to people, what's appropriate to say.
She only told her hockey teammates about her Asperger in early January, though she has played with the same group of girls since September.
Glavin said she was nervous about how they would react.
"It's hard to open up with something like that to 16 players and not know how they're going to react," she said.
But her teammates have been supportive and accepting, she said.
Playing defence in front of Glavin, Emma Laight calls her "an excellent teammate to have."
"We get along pretty well. Stick together on the ice a lot. Kind of always have each other's backs," Laight says.
Glavin has a reputation for being "intimidating despite her size."
"She's not fun to come up against if you're on the opposing team," Laight says.
Glavin had good timing because just as she started getting comfortable telling people about Asperger Syndrome and how it made her different from other girls her age, she found herself playing on a tight-knit hockey team where the girls all look out for each other.
Other teams have had their cliques as different friendship groups form off the ice. But this team is different.
"Our entire team is just one big clique. I might have different ways of doing things and they don't question it. I used to be questioned."
There are some advantages associated with Asperger Syndrome, including being good with numbers.
Now that her high school career is ending, Glavin said she would like to study for a career in real estate. Her ability to remember house prices, values and calculate clients' mortgages would be an asset, she said.
Now that she's comfortable talking about Asperger's, Glavin sees herself as an advocate. Because of the help she got once she told people, she hopes her example will make it easier for others with the disorder to be open about it.
"There's a lot of people out there with this disability."
Hi Maya! This is great. You should post a kickstarter or indiegogo campaign and add it on Mogul too! It's a great way to raise awareness and fund your project from many sources. Let me know how it goes!