I was born in April, Autism Awareness Month, and as irony would have it, I was born with autism, myself. To strangers, it was more evident in my earliest years and just out of sight for my parents, altogether. People often asked them if I had autism, and my parents, of course, told them that I was just really shy and overreacting whenever someone tried to socialize with me. During age 8-11, nobody outside the house got to really see the part of me because I was hardly given the privilege of meeting other kids, but in the house, I was constantly fussed at, spanked, and punished for what appeared to just be “odd behavior I was too old for”. I struggled in school, but my parents assumed I wasn’t trying, so I was often grounded for not doing too well; whenever I found something I really liked, I would only want that one thing, and it annoyed them that I wouldn’t settle for anything else; I had meltdowns and panic attacks whenever I noticed someone came into my personal space and moved something of mine; I just couldn’t explain it and they didn’t think to get me checked out. Off and on, during that age range, it would ebb and flow; some weeks, it was hardly noticeable, and other weeks were just plain unbearable. And at 12+, as I began to interact with other people again, it showed more than ever. Over time, I became aware of my different behavior and I wondered why I was so different than other kids; but I never actually knew I had autism until early last year. It took two other people who had autism to tell me that it was, clear as day, and coming to terms with this new development that actually wasn’t new sent me into a panic. But I felt better in knowing that nothing was truly wrong with me all this time. So, today, I’m going to talk a little about autism and what it does for me. This Take is not meant to diagnose anyone as I am not a doctor; I’m just sharing my experience.
“Autistic people hate interacting, are obsessed with numbers, and are overly active”
This is the stereotypical analysis that people go by when trying to determine if you have autism, but each autistic person is different.
-I don’t hate interacting with people; I’m introverted and often struggle to express what goes on in my mind; I don’t have too many instances where I can relate to the general population, and it takes some time before I feel comfortable being around someone; even if I’ve known you for years, I’ll still have a hard time talking, every once in a while.
-Math is actually my biggest problem in school. I don’t have talents in numbers or spelling and reading. My talent is art, which is something else that people with autism are exceptionally well at. I do a lot of sketching, and it’s actually good that I have a bit of compulsiveness because, then, it helps me to do my very best and perfect my art, not just give up on it or leave it sloppy.
-I rarely get excited. I’m highly mellow unless someone provokes me or I get started up on talking about something I adore. I don’t do too much, activity-wise, but I will say, on that note, that I have a highly active mind and short attention span, consequently. Creative persons tend to be flooded with thought, especially when it’s just about time to quiet their minds. My brain is highly active at night, and as the day drags on, you’ll often find me pondering life and multitasking in my thoughts. Some of the people I regularly see online are just baffled at how random my posts appear to be. One minute, I’m talking to them, and the next, I’m brainstorming for a story idea in between writing an essay about my favorite videogame character. Wherever I have a personal thread, it’s a glimpse of how my mind works—a little messy but super-efficient.
“You didn’t get diagnosed, so you CAN’T have autism”
Well, first of all, that’s not how it works. I can tell you “You don’t have a cavity because you didn’t go to the dentist” and there could be a gaping hole in your tooth. Whoever does and doesn’t have autism isn’t based off of who got diagnosed, because the sad truth is: Just as my parents have done, many of us are often overlooked and dismissed, so we never do get diagnosed. Autism is one of the things acceptable for self-diagnosing. Sometimes, you could go to a doctor, and they’ll never diagnose you because you don’t meet THEIR standards of what autism looks like. I’ve never been able to go, but it’s clear to most people that SOMETHING’S different about me, whether they think autism or not, and I don’t have anything to prove because I’m okay with myself and having an official label for autism won’t make having autism any easier. Chances are people won’t care even if the President of the United States declared that you have autism; some people will still be mean about it, anyway. So, if you’ve self-diagnosed and you’re coming to terms, I’d suggest you just learn yourself; find a way to handle the tough situations and don’t worry about what other people think of you. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO PROVE.
“All autistic people are either extremely sensitive or not autistic”
Not so. The stages or severity of autism can be broken up into three stages. Stage one is hardly noticeable; the behavior of one person who has autism might not be too obvious, but they still have autism. Stage 2 is more moderate; you’ll see it here and there; it might be as if it comes and goes but really, it’s always present and somewhat more obvious than Stage 1. Stage 3 is most obvious and the person in this category most likely needs a caretaker or someone to assist them with keeping calm when something triggers them; they might require assistance and guardianship at all times. I think I’m more of the second stage, as I can act and get by on my own, but I do occasionally have some moments that require consolation. These stages are also broken off by mental dependency—Stage 1 being most independent and Stage 3 being dependent; of course, Stage 2 is in the middle, where some assistance is necessary as I just don’t understand what I am to do, at times.
“All autistic people are mentally impaired”
That’s not what I was saying. There are some who are and always require assistance in daily life, but there are also those who have an above-average IQ and can be even smarter than the normal person their age (or older). It varies for each person. I know that I have an IQ that is slightly below average, which is considered to be moderately impaired. My IQ could probably be raised with some further training, but it doesn’t mean I’m incompetent. My wisdom often lies outside of academics and more in daily life situations. I don’t always understand what people mean when they speak, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have deep, philosophical conversations. I’m often told that I think of things no one else has ever thought of, and I see on a level most cannot.
“Autistic people are self-centered, don’t have a sense of humor, and have zero personality”
-Wrong again. Speaking for myself, I’m not self-centered; I actually try not to speak about myself or draw attention to myself because it makes me uncomfortable. However, I DO occasionally get absorbed in my own thoughts, forgetting to return a “hello” or “how are you”. I often have to tell myself aloud to ask how someone’s doing because I don’t quite have the concept of conversing under my belt; sometimes I just get into talking about something without having asked how someone’s doing.
-Oh, I have a sense of humor, alright, but eccentric, to most of you all’s tastes. I have dry, morbid, gross, and suggestive humor—always have. I also have a streak of randomness like a little kid where I’ll make a joke about something totally off-the-wall. I’ve noticed that a lot of other people with autism really liven up a conversation when they crack a joke; their humor is highly different to most people, but it never fails to get someone laughing, and I tend to be able to relate well. So, tell me a joke about anything under those lines and I’ll probably laugh.
-Everyone has SOME SORT of personality. My relatives say I have a type-A personality—headstrong, stubborn, leader-like, edgy, sometimes arrogant; somehow also cool and collected, sympathetic, graceful, and well-spoken; I work well under pressure (even when I’m having a panic episode inside), but I can be frustrated, at times. I have a bit of an architect personality—perfectionist, soloist, creative, and highly attentive to detail. I’m opinionated, blunt, and sometimes mouthy; my sarcasm knows no bounds and sometimes shows itself as a more joking manner even when I’m not trying. I also have a dark side of me that adores a little mischief as well as a nerdy side of me that enjoys science and electronics. And there are more parts of me than these. So, yes, I would say I DO have a personality.
“What makes you uncomfortable?”
-Being asked several questions at once
-Meeting someone new
-Being around lots of people
-Talking about things I’ve never experienced (to peers)
-Being further questioned after giving a firm answer
-Having my personal space invaded (even by people I know well)
-Extreme and sudden change in location/décor/familiarity
-Singing/reading/drawing in front of other people
-Expressing my feelings for someone
-Being graphically questioned about sex
“What are your responses to being uncomfortable?”
I often have an anxiety attack and I’ll start shaking, get quiet, pace around, or hide myself (usually under my hoodie I’m almost always wearing). Worst case scenario, I cry after having done all of the previously stated. If I became uncomfortable while talking, I’ll grow distant very quickly because I don’t know what to say and I probably would like to be alone, at that point. If there’s room I pace around the house or area just to distance myself from the situation that’s bothering me until I feel better. I also usually wear a hoodie. I have one particular hoodie that has a little weight to it, so when I’m scared, it feels like a weighted blanket on me, and when I put the hood on over my head, it gives me a sense of safety and privacy so I can block out whatever’s going on.
I hope that this gives people more insight on the diversity of autistic persons.🖤