Aimlessly scrolling through Facebook as you do, there was a post that stopped me in my tracks. It was written by a 14 (nearly 15) year old girl called Grace who has autism, the same diagnosis as my little boy. It was an amazing piece of writing & I am so proud to be able to share it with you, I hope you read and share the hell out of this as she deserves every piece of credit. So I’ll hand straight over to her.
Hello. Bonjour. Hola. Halló. How are you?
I wrote this essay-y thingymabob about me and my autism a few months ago when I was diagnosed, in order to explain it to family and friends that were less aware, or only had a stereotypical view of it. There isn’t one list of ‘characteristics’ that fit everyone that is autistic. Yes we may share some, but it is not something to be piled under one umbrella. It’s a spectrum. You’re on it, somewhere. Whether right at the bottom or higher up than you first thought. I hope my words can open your eyes, or maybe even find the words for you – if you yourself are autistic and struggling to describe it.
So, I would like to talk about ASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder (however I dislike referring to it as a disorder as to me it is not). I’m autistic. I know, I don’t ‘look’ like what is probably your mental imagey thing of what someone with autism may look like, but I am.
Autism is diverse. Like a shark and a gold fish are both ‘fish’ yet both very different. They both have gills, they both dwell in the water and they both have fins. However a shark’s skeleton is made from cartilage whereas a fish’s is of bone, a shark is of course a lot bigger, and sharks can only swim forward whereas fish can swim in any direction.
This, to my mind at least, perfectly illustrates autism. There are certain characteristics that are found in most (but not all) autistic people, and some that only a few have. For example, I find eye contact with most people difficult, and although this is a well known autistic trait, not every autistic person will.
For me, a social occasion is a big source of anxiety and worry, as it will mean interaction with people which for me does not come as easily as it may for you and also leaves me exhausted from trying to remember social rules/etiquette and what to do/say. I may be talking to you and just randomly change the subject because in my mind it’s made the 3022028 and something connections from what we were talking about to what I changed it to in a split second.
You may tell me a joke and it may well take me a bit to catch on, or I just don’t laugh as for me I cannot see why it would be funny.
I see the world in colours and sounds and numbers. Where you may just see the number ‘1’, i see a colour, a tune, even a name.
Sometimes, although to be completely honest this is most of the time, I just need to be left alone. Alone in my thoughts because my mind is loud enough with ideas and words and colours that other people talking can often overwhelm me.
Another reason for me liking silence and peace and my own company is that I have over-sensitive senses. A class of people talking at normal volume is interpreted by my brain as a pandemonium of parrots yelling and squawking at a much louder volume than they actually are. This leaves me tired and often with a headache.
Another ‘part’ of my autism is the fairly common one of disliking physical contact. If you were to hug me it feels like when Rose touched the Dalek in the episode of Dr Who named, appropriately, ‘Dalek’. And if you have no idea of what I am denoting by mentioning said episode imagine the sound of a hot, oily pan meeting cold water. That hissing sound is what it is like for me when someone touches me.
There are many more aspects to autism that I have, and also some that I don’t. I don’t want to bore you by just listing. I wanted to tell you so that if you were to talk to me and I was just staring at a picture on the wall you would know that I’m not being rude. I’m not ignoring you. I am listening. Only for me I find that listening with just my ears works perfectly fine without staring straight at your eyeballs.
Maybe this post had made you realise just how diverse and sometimes unnoticeable Autism/Aspergers is. If not then at least you’ll know why I’d much rather be up a tree or with my head stuck in a book than at parties or ‘hanging out’ with friends. And, dear friends, if ever I sit in the corner alone it is because I need to be, not because I dislike you or do not desire you company any longer.
Thank you for reading these words. Um, I don’t know how to finish this. I’m not very good at that either. I’ll maybe sometimes just walk away from you when the conversation is still going as I read the situation wrong and thought it had finished. Anyway, to attempt to finish this I’ll leave you with the interesting fact that Scotland has 421 words for snow, and I also like cats.