To gain a better understanding of what it’s like to be autistic, in most cases you’re better off talking to those who are autistic themselves. You would think this is obvious but when you look up autism online the majority is either from a parent’s perspective or from a medical point of view.
So where are all the pages written by autistic people?
Well they’re definitely around *raises hand* but unfortunately our opinions seem to be at the back of the line when it’s our voices that need to be listened to! Which is why I went to Twitter to ask what you wanted to know about autism from an autistic person and I’m here to answer them and share my experience.
When did you know you were autistic?
My parents first spoke to me about it when I was around 5/6 years old; they were always very honest with me about being autistic and never made me feel like it was a bad thing. They would say that my brain was wired differently to other people’s and that I needed extra help in school so that I could learn better. At the time that was all I needed to know as I was still too young to properly understand. I think I always knew that I was different anyway.
What was it like for you when you were growing up and what was the biggest struggle?
In a weird kind of way I see myself as lucky as I was diagnosed with Aspergers at 3 years old which even nowadays is classed as young but for me getting that diagnosis was so important! I was struggling to deal with my difficulties and I wasn’t learning in the environment that I was in which was why I ended up moving to a new infant school with special needs support so that I could catch up and get the help I needed. From then on I always had support in school including having a teaching assistant with me in all my lessons and getting extra time in exams.
The main issue for me was making sure I was processing the information given to me in lessons; it was like I was hearing what they were saying but it wasn’t staying in my head long enough to understand. I learnt that I had to write things down so that I could give myself that extra time to go through it all and not fall behind.
Aside from school I struggled a lot with social events and being anywhere that wasn’t home or school. I didn’t like trying new things or visiting new places because I loved routine (I still do) so any time that changed I would get upset. I can’t explain why, it just felt wrong. Even little things like a change in my sleeping pattern or going out of my comfortable zone with food would knock me back if I wasn’t careful.
I had to establish what difficulties I could learn to work through and what ones I couldn’t change.
Adapting to any lifestyle changes can be hard but as long as I give myself time to recuperate and be honest with those around me when I’m burning out I can normally get myself back on track.
Do you think it has any effects on meeting new people?
Definitely. I know I’m one of many autistic people who finds it challenging to socialise with new people. Each autistic person is different so in my case I struggle with eye contact and I take words literally which means I can’t detect sarcasm. This has got me into trouble before as I come across as rude when really I’m only trying to understand.
I will be honest and say that I do enjoy my own company and there are days when I need to be by myself. It can be mentally exhausting at times. This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to meet new people, I just have my own way of doing it.
Can friends/new people make things easier in social situations?
Yes and here’s how:
- Don’t be offended when I don’t make eye contact with you – it’s not personal I promise.
- If you’ve made a joke or been sarcastic and I don’t react I’ve most likely not been able to tell. Carry on and I’ll get there in the end.
- If I tell you that I’m autistic and you’re surprised that’s okay as long as you don’t reply with “Oh you don’t look autistic” otherwise it’s game over.
- Feel free to ask me anything about my condition if you’re unsure. Just don’t be a prick about it!
- You don’t need to pussyfoot around me. Treat me like you would any other new person with the above advice in mind.
Are there any common misconceptions?
Unfortunately there are still many misconceptions about autism. The most commons ones that I’ve come across which are all total rubbish are autistic people are all the same, we don’t feel certain emotions and don’t even get me started on the whole “vaccine causes autism” fiasco! I could maybe forgive the first two if you didn’t know much about autism beforehand but the last one is a definite no-no!
Do you think it’s more difficult being female and autistic?
It can be but not for the reason that people may think. Because women and girls are seen as being better at socialising and hiding their difficulties, it’s often that they’re diagnosed at a more later age or even misdiagnosed with another condition. Also it doesn’t help that medical professionals are still stating that autism is more common with men when what they really mean to say is more men are diagnosed with an autistic disorder compared to women because of their own misleading information. Sigh.
Does being autistic have any benefits?
Of course it does! I’m able to see the world in a completely different way to everyone else and I can look past information that put in front of me and see the bigger picture! Being autistic is who I am and I wouldn’t be me without it.
I hope that reading my experience has given you a better insight into what it’s like being autistic and not just about autism itself. If you have any more questions about being autistic feel free to leave a comment below!