I was diagnosed with Autism when i was 29 years old. So less than 2 years ago. The first time it was brought up was from a discussion i had with a friend of mine. Her sister had just been diagnosed with Autism, and the reasoning for this was her parents caught her stimming, the same way i do.
This caught my attention, because i knew what i do, is not normal. So to hear of someone else doing the same thing, was intriguing. I started to do a bit of research into Autism, and point for point, i was starting to make a lot of sense, with the various quirks i have, or used to have from what i was younger, that set me apart from all my peers. Not just some…all!
I had already been picked up by a youth worker that i was behind in my social skills, for my age. So was allowed to join a youth group, and as predicted, i had no problems fitting and settling in. I felt it easier to relate to these people who were younger than me. It helped greatly in learning and improving my social skills, and helped me expand my boundaries.
When i first broached the topic of Autism with people, for the most part it was met by a lot of negativity. Because i’m seem to function very well, people then tell me they don’t see it. They don’t notice it.
The thing with Autism though, is that it effects everyone differently. You can’t compare one autistic person with enough and expect them to be the same. Such is the case with a friend of mine, who is also on the spectrum. In some ways we are very alike, but then in some other ways we’re the polar opposites, by how Autism effects us.
But because i come across as ‘normal’, it does make it exceedingly difficult in telling or talking to people about it, and the challenges it poses in my daily life.
When i do tell people, its either met by people saying they don’t notice it in me. That i seem normal, and then proceed to ask me the worst question to ask an autistic person
‘So how does it effect you?’
How can i answer this, when i have no way of knowing what it is like to – not be me?! Autism isn’t something that people contract. It’s not like they go from being a normal, regular person, to then something else. We’re born this way. We have nothing to compare it to.
It’s a bit like saying to a woman, what’s it like being female?
Encourage discussion, but think about what you’re saying or asking. Don’t grill us.
Another common reaction is people changing how they treat me. They start to be overly cautious, or start treating with kid gloves or like a child.
Firstly, research Autism yourself. If there’s some parts that you’re curious on, then do ask. Secondly, don’t treat us as any less of a person than we are. If we seem unsure or hesitant with something, stressed out or upset, talk to us. Don’t just assume that we’re going to have trouble with something, because it’s seen as being stereo-typically autistic.
The most damaging part, is the media, the way it stereotypes autistic people. We’re either seen as being child like, dumb, unable to take care of ourselves, can’t look at people, rocking back and forth, non-verbal and/or screaming and having tantrums, especially if they get touched by someone.
Or, we get seen as someone rude, eccentric and somewhat of a mad genius. Really good at math, and a walking encyclopedia of facts. We’re depicted as being loners, outcasts, unpopular, constantly bullied and anti-social.
Both stereotypes are very damaging. Pretty much due to that most people will form an opinion on what autism and an autistic person is like, based on these stereotypes from the media.
The spectrum is actually more broader and varied, in how autism affects people and what we are like as people. What i hope to see one day, is for this to be portrayed more in films, books and on television.
Another annoying attitude is that, people read/hear that the rate of autistic diagnosis is on the increase, and this is because more people think they’re on the spectrum. That it’s some ‘in thing’, fashionable and ‘kool’.
The real reason the rate of diagnosis is on the up, is actually better awareness and detection of it. The varied ways it can display itself.
I’m not ashamed about being autistic, but i do find it challenging. Mostly due to the above mentioned reactions i and others have receive and do receive on a regular basis. If this could change, then perhaps life can get a little bit better for autistic people like myself.