Disclaimer: This myTake is dedicated to people growing up with Asperger's syndrome, and since everyone's autism is different, this is only ONE example. I hope that other people with other types of Autism (or Asperger's as well) share some of their experiences in the comments to make this more holistic!
Given the recent feedback on my post "Dating with autism from a girl's perspective", I have decided to write another myTake on this topic. This is very long and while I hope people will take the time to read it, I understand that it may be too much to handle, I still appreciate feedback very much!
I also want to mention that the exact causes of Autism are unknown, but these are good sources for exploring some of the causes:
Before Birth & another Disclaimer
After conceiving me, my mother didn't drink any alcohol, she always ate very healthily, which she continued throughout the pregnancy, and she made sure I was well. She's also always been very active. She was in labor for more than 24 hours and the birth didn't go too well, which had something to do with the hospital. Her memories of the birth aren't positive and they may have influenced me to some extent - I was born naturally, without a C-section, and my mother breastfed me for nine months and then combined age appropriate food with breatmilk until I was 1.5 years old.
Also, contrary to what some of you may think, I was never abused by anyone, neither in my family nor by someone else.
There are two known cases of Asperger's syndrome in my distant family.
Infancy and early childhood (0-4 years)
I don't have memories from being an infant, but I've been told that I screamed all of the time. I was awake more than other babies and always seemed uneasy. Apparently, I also looked around me all the time and wanted to see what was going on, which is something I still feel a strong urge to do. I was awake longer than babies usually are, which is something my mother later told me she only noticed after having another baby and talking to her doctor about it. She was fairly laidback with me.
I started walking early, had no problems with learning how to speak, but avoided eye contact.
This is where experiences vary greatly, some may experience difficulties with their speech development for example.
Preschool and School Age I (4-9 years)
I hated my first elementary school, I knew nobody and couldn't talk to people without knowing their names, which is something I still detest. I read all the books and comics they had at this school [we didn't have fixed classes, otherwise this wouldn't have been possible] and then transferred to another school. Due to differences with one specific teacher I only went to school for three out of five days in the third and fourth year of elementary school.
To some, this may seem ridiculous, but I was very annoying and this teacher couldn't cope with me at all, so the headmistress decided that it is best for everyone involved if I stay at home for two days every week.
For example, I was extremely senitive to sound, smells and touch, which made it very difficult for me at this open-system school (Waldorf). I have fond memories because I could do whatever I wanted and learned so much more this way than I would have at a regular school, but it was still hard.
I continued to read many books, mainly thrillers. I tried fantasy but didn't enjoy it as much, because my imagination had a mind of its own and didn't like being fixed to letters in a book.
One of my special interests definitely was everything related to human relationships and sex. This is also one of the reasons why I don't treat children like they're too young for everything. If they have questions, I'll answer them in a child-friendly but honest manner, which is something my parents did too. I used to be too ashamed to talk to my parents about sex, but I read about it a lot and later, we had good conversations about it.
And again, I wasn't sexually abused.
I was diagnosed at the age of eight with Asperger's syndrome after my parents had tried to find out what was wrong with me for many years. Although it was a relief, it meant that I now went to therapy, which was exhausting to say the least.
I've been in therapy ever since, at the age of nine I was at a psychiatrist who also did group therapy.
My parents and I decided to tell my class mates that I have Autism in a way that they could understand I have some deficits but am stronger in other aspects. My brain is simply wired differently. They took it well at first but I still wish we hadn't told them [a doctor, psychiatrist, two teachers and my parents were present].
School Age II, Adolescence I (10-14 years)
When I transferred schools again, things got much harder for me, middle school was very different to elementary school and the kids were horrible. We again told everyone that I have Asperger's Syndrome, but this did not help at all and made things much worse as kids bullied me instead of being more understanding (this is fairly common in that age range I think).
I loved middle school content-wise and always got good grades. But I didn't have any friends, and although at the time I felt like some people were at least my allies, they chose to either support me or put me down time after time after time.
Every week someone told me I should go kill myself, jump out of a window, transfer to another school or something similar. It hurt me, but I know people from my old class would say that I was no saint either. This means that I could be very hurtful too, mainly as a defense mechanism or because I didn't know better. I hated it when people wanted to borrow pens etc., because I knew I wouldn't get them back, and would just say "No, you can't borrow anyhthing" when people asked, which was too direct for most. There were other issues too, but this is a good example. I was too frank with people.
I was sort of friends with a girl from my neighbourhood who cut herself and told everyone that she was suicidal. One day, we got into a fight and I told her she should go hang herself, I immediately covered my mouth with my hand and looked at her with a shocked expression, she stared at me and waited. One second later, I apologised, hugged her and said that I didn't mean it what I said. We had conversations about it with our favourite teacher, she forgave me but I will never forget how horrible I was for saying that, especially because of what happened later.
So, school was horrible, especially because my class was extremely loud [confirmed by teachers that it was much louder than the other classes].
Therapy-wise I was with a new therapist receiving both one on one as well as group therapy specifically for teenagers with Asperger's, as well as being treated at home by another therapist. This meant eight hours of therapy every week, which got too much after three years (I was 13 at the time) so I skipped the group therapy and continued with both at home and one on one therapy sessions for another year (until I was 14). The reason why this was too much is that I had numerous obligations both inside and outside of school, I was a member in different clubs and was busy all the time.
I briefly want to talk about becoming a woman gradually as this is difficult for some Autistic girls, so a TMI Warning to all men who are uncomfortable with periods.
When I got my period at the age of 12, I wasn't overwhelmed, because I had educated myself before on what I should do when it happens. I also wasn't surprised because I weighed enough and had recently had a growth spurt. I was expecting it to some extent. I've never used pads, I started with tampons and now use menstrual cups because my flow got very heavy after around three years of having my period.
I think it's difficult for all girls to get their periods and to grow up, but what was much harder for me was to learn to deal with my hips getting wider and my breasts starting to grow. As a result of a boy I had a huge crush on for four years telling me that I was fat, I developed an eating disorder, I was active in pro ana forums, blogs and in the Instagram community at the time, but this is not the topic of today.
If you think you may be struggling with an eating disorder, try taking this test to decide whether you need help or not. I am not a doctor and cannot give you advice when it comes to this.
My point is: it's difficult for everyone but when you have access to resources, it can really help you deal with physical changes which may happen.
School age III, Adolescence II (15-18 years)
I transferred to another school again and have been much happier ever since.
Although we never told anyone I have autism officially, one teacher sort of "guessed" it and "self-diagnosed" me, told all the other teachers and ever since, I've had some problems which I don't want to get into in this myTake.
I started cutting one month after transferring, mainly because I started realising how harshly I had been treated, how bad my time at the other school had been and how little I had told my parents. I wrote more on my experience with self-harm in this myTake. I've been clean for a year now.
I already outlined my problems with dating in the other myTake.
I could write one on the problems my Autism has caused me at school and in my personal life, how people's reactions have been and so on but I'm not sure whether anyone would like to read that as it's just my experience.
How has Autism influenced your life?