We are not suffering. I cannot say that enough, I cannot count the times I have heard someone refer to people whom are Autistic as suffering. I have even sometimes on occasion heard someone whom is Autistic refer to themselves as suffering. We are not suffering from anything except from the rest of the world’s ignorance towards the Autistic community. Though we may act differently and operate on Windows whilst the rest of the world is running on Mac. We do not “suffer” from Autism. We are Autism; we are what we make it.
Difficulties with social imagination are a thing, but that does not translate into a lack of imagination generally. We are a very creative bunch. The ability to see patterns one of my favourite things about being autistic; I see patterns and connections in everything and I use this to strengthen my creativity. I may have troubles with applying a creative social story to some green dots on a screen, but I’m great at imagining the connections that run through us all in every aspect of our lives.
What is imagination anyway? Some people think with words, others with pictures, and others with a mixture of both. Is imagination simply thinking about something as it is not?
I start to get twitchy if a few days go by and I haven’t made or created something new. The what form it takes doesn’t matter, it could be writing, origami, woodwork, design, DIY, sewing, spread sheets or gardening; creativity is a drive that has imagination at its roots.
Okay, so this one is a tricky one; I am definitely a black and white thinker, I definitely have rigid behaviour patterns and I definitely hate change, but my black and white thinking is built on a foundation of research and analysis.
When someone says, “But have you considered..?” Yes. Yes I have. I’ve thought of every possible scenario I could come up with. Nothing I do is unplanned or without reason. But (this where I argue that my black and white thinking is different) if someone showed me enough reasonable evidence to try to change my mind, I would.
One thing that often strikes me is how averse to change many non-autistics are when it comes to how or why things are done, and yet despite this people who are Autistic are the ones who are rigid and set in their ways.
About a third of autistic people have a learning difficulty on top of being Autistic. Autism in it self is not a learning disorder, but rather a neurological condition.
One way the rest of us can help is by sharing how autism affects us, so that we can all better understand the triggers for stress behaviours in those who cannot express the problem. When it comes to needs we will all need different things. I like to think of myself as not needing much support, but I do have a family, who takes on things like going to the shops sometimes (which I find a nightmare due to sensory overload, the number of variables involved, and the possibility of unscripted social interactions with anyone I have ever met) and providing me with information about change in the day and taking me to new places that may scare/worry me. My needs vary day to day, but I don’t have a learning difficulty, it is not the same thing as autism and it does create additional difficulties that need understanding.
I am an honest person. Lies make me uncomfortable and I am terrible at spotting when I’m being lied to (even when the lie is outrageous). I don’t like lying, it doesn’t come naturally to me.
Autistic people are generally honest and like clarity in communication. This can be seen negatively as blunt and rude, or positively as clear and honest, depending on your viewpoint. Social lies are something I am still working on– when someone is asking if you like what they’re wearing and it’s too late to change, they are looking for affirmation, not a critique of their choice (though I’m unlikely to remember this and am known for specking about what ever it is that comes to my head).
Autistic people tend to be better at seeing things as they are, rather than seeing how we are socially expected to, and this comes down to the advantage of not processing social communication automatically – we don’t soak things in unconsciously, we make a choice to engage or not based on our previous experiences with similar situations.
There are also some autistic people who do lie as a matter of trying to fit in. This is often down to trying to avoid social confrontation and wanting to give someone exactly what they (the Autistic person) thinks that person wants to hear in order to fit in. It can be a real difficulty for some autistic people, especially because it often ends up distancing them from the people they are trying to get close to.
A tricky one for me, because I’m good at maths. I have a mind that loves logic puzzles and finding patterns, and numbers bring me great joy, but I am not all autistic people. Many autistic people don’t have that form of pattern thinking, they don’t find numbers easy, they are not logic-minded.
Extremely few autistic people are savants of any kind, even fewer are maths savants – we don’t get all knowingness in academia as a trade off for finding social communication hard. I’m good at maths, that doesn’t mean I can calculate pi to a hundred decimal places in my head, nor calculate vast sums without a calculator. There is huge variation between autistic people, if in doubt ask us about our interests, most of us would be happy to share!
Most autistic people are adults. Some of us will require support throughout our lives. Many Autistic people are parents, we work, we socialise, we are valuable members of our communities, we care deeply about fairness, and equality and we are not constrained by a fear of long-term social change.
You’ll find us waiting at the school gates, in the office, in the art world, singing on a stage, dancing (badly but enthusiastically if you’re like me), paying bills, walking the dog, we’ve infiltrated everywhere.
I often rely on routine to overcome my difficulties keeping on top of day to day necessities. I use familiarity to keep me feeling safe, and I use my pattern thinking to predict what will happen and when, so that I do not get overwhelmed. I have noise cancelling headphones for when it gets too loud, sun glasses for when it gets too bright, and down time to recover when it all gets too much. As with all adulting, it’s about finding a balance that works, and joining in the biggest lie of all; that all adults know what they are doing.
Autism isn’t this strange alien thing, it’s just a different way of thinking and experiencing the world. Some of us will find ourselves more or less compatible with modern living than others, we will all have different needs (and those may vary day to day), but autism is not terrifying or awful, it is marvellous and fabulous, it just is.
It’s how I know and I wouldn’t be who I am without it
I from time to time ask myself if I would want to get rid of my Autism. In the end I always come to the same conclusion, NO! I’m a logical person, I love writing list and weighing up pros and cons. If you told me I could replace my feet with wheels, I’d definitely weigh up the option, stairs would be a pain, but I’d really like the feeling of whizzing along, thinking things through (sometimes too much) is what I do.
When coming to the diction of wether to get rid of my Autism or not I always have to first think, what part of me would count.
Some of my greatest joys and happiest moments are found in the patterns I see all around me. In the way a butterfly flutters, or the wind blows against the trees; in the way the sunlight reflects off the water. I have seen how non-Autistics see those things, they can appreciate prettiness, but I’ve never seen them show an expression of true joy. I’ve never seen those things, those pure moments of joy nourish them, the way they nourish me.
Is that the autism?
Or is it the exhaustion I get from small talk? Is it the headache that builds and pulses whilst I focus on responding correctly to someone’s statement? Is it the terrible combination of needing to concentrate on something that I find both boring and difficult?
What would I be replacing my processes with? It would be nice to enjoy small talk I suppose, but it would be equally as nice if I just didn’t have to do it.
Should I pull myself apart, just to be able to participate in something that has no value in itself. Small talk is just a means to an end, it’s is a social norm, it’s a way to build relationships on multiple small, inoffensive interactions. It’s societies way of seeing if two people click without giving way for the chance to offend the other party.
What would I cure if I could? I’d cure small talk.
Or I could just learn to be tolerant, and accept that some people really like small talk, and that’s ok. But I would have to learn to be tolerant about their small talk why could they not be tolerant of my big talk.
From my point of view, I am not the disordered one. There is structure to my needs. There is logic in the way I like to communicate. I am happy with fewer, but more meaningful, interactions. Many people need constant, but smaller, human contact, to keep them happy. They socialise like a herd of sheep, slowly and contently grazing at socialising, whilst I swallow mine whole, in one sitting, and then curl up like a koala, sleep and digest until I feel hungry again.
Would I cure my autism? Would you cure your addiction to interaction? Should anyone change how he or she does things, just because they need to do things a little differently? Or because that is how society views is the proper course of action.
I have a secret, it’s not big or important or mind-blowing, but I’ll share it anyway. I like me.
It took me a long time to choose to do that, and honestly I am still working on it. But I like me for me, all of me. I like my need for a mid day nap sometimes. I live the way I can hear thinks other can’t, I love the way I see the world in a different way, my way.
Curing me of how I interact, see and process the world would mean not just changing who I am, but changing how I interact with everything. I would have to rebuild from the ground up. I would have to unlearn everything I have ever learned, I would not be the person my family and friends like to laugh and have fun with. Would I suddenly think socialising was important? Would I find that all my best qualities could blossom, or would they wilt away?
Honestly I would not like to be anyone else. I like being me, and all the challenges that come along with it. I love my Autism and I love making it my own.
So every morning when the sun starts to rise I will wake up and marvel at the swirls in the sky, and the shadows on the ceiling, and the way the light reflects off my favourite stuffed bear. All my senses would flood back, from the ever present hum of the refrigerator to the cold sensation of my cotton sheets.
I would be me.
Some people, describe and act as though Autism is a disease with no cures and dread to hear the words mentioned about them or their child. In fact it’s not that at all it is a neurological developmental disorder, which you are born with, and there is little evidence proving the cause and exact reason why some of us are born with it.
I do want to make one thing clear though we do not need a cure and we do not have a disease. We are just different; we are our own breed of humans.
The communication problems often arise when the NTs (Neuro-typicals) and Autistic people try to communicate to one another. Autistic people tend to be more direct, honest (which sometimes can appears as rude to NTs) and efficient, however, those without Autism tend to rely on body language, complicated social dances and unspoken rules which can be very hard for people on the spectrum.
Imagine being told to play a brand new game or build a piece of furniture without being given a manual, that’s what it can be like for people with Autism to live around others.
There are people with Autism who do not communicate via the standardized use of voice, they may still understand and be able to communicate in other ways that are more comfortable for them.