I know there’s so much written about autism these days. But I’d like to put in my own personal perspective on what it means to be autistic.
First off, I do believe that we’re simply seeing many more people diagnosed with autism because we are better able to place people upon the autism spectrum now. I don’t believe, at all, that it’s due to the vaccines cause autism link. That is plain wrong and has been proven wrong by many studies.
When you are autistic your brain is wired differently than a neuro-typical person. Other’s emotions aren’t taken into account, we don’t look into people’s eyes, we can’t judge faces easily, we don’t read body language well. On top of that, some autistic people have sensory disabilities as well. Too strong scents or odors, tastes, or textures can all be overwhelming. Changes of routine can be upsetting for autistic people. We like patterns. We think in rows, like corn rows for instance, and don’t like drifting off course, or being pushed off course by change, especially suddenly. Sound can be very upsetting for some people who prefer quiet. Some autistic people find work in loud open office areas absolute nightmares as it is far too loud, bright and overwhelming. A quiet, subdued closed office would be ideal, for instance. I, myself, can’t stand loud outdoor areas for very long. Too much light, noise and stimulation.
Some people have trouble getting their words out of their head onto the paper. I know I’ve had that problem in school. Where I knew the answers but couldn’t properly get the words ordered to reproduce them onto paper. Therefore I got poor marks even though I was smart. It could also be a factor of having Attention Deficit Disorder at the same time, perhaps.
I’ve heard one girl describe why it takes her so long to come up with answers. It’s because she has to walk down the corridors of her mind, find the right filing cabinet and pull out that correct information to answer the question. This is a 8 year old girl who is seen as “different and perhaps disabled mentally”. She’s not disabled, just wired completely differently.
Quite honestly now, and you’ll go eww, I know. But the hygiene thing has to be aired. People with autism simply aren’t as caring as neuro-typical people about their hygiene. I’m going to air the dirty laundry, so to speak, and talk about it all. Students with autism have to be reminded about showers, hygiene, washing, and shown how to wash their hands. If you have a co-worker with bad body odor chances are that he’s likely on the autism spectrum and either a) does know it and doesn’t care, or b) doesn’t know it and still doesn’t care about his odor. Best way to address it? Be up front and just say “your body odor bothers me”. Done. We don’t mind simple up-fronted bluntness. At least I don’t. It’s like “oh, honest clear feedback that I’m doing something wrong. Let’s do something to clean that up.”
Chattering on and on. Have you ever had that person that wouldn’t shut up and kept on with the same topic at a party? Yeah, well that may have been me. I lack the “stop talking now, they’re getting bored Deb” cue that most neuro-typical people understand. Best way to deal with that? Just say bluntly “let’s change the subject”. Or politely excuse yourself and vacate the vicinity. Then we get it. Finally.
Absent minded professor types. That could be me in a nutshell. Or a female version of Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory, sort of. He’s written a bit over the top though and much more from a male autism perspective. I think it’s super exciting that they’ve written a Sesame Street character in with autism. It will only help to inform, educate and open peoples eyes that we’re wired differently.
Childish behaviour and actions. You know you’re wired differently when, as an adult 51 year old mother of two, you can fill out an online questionnaire that guesses your age and sex and it returns with “you’re a 26 year old male aren’t you?!”. Interests are different. Tastes are different. Sense of humour is different. You laugh at different things than other 55 year old mothers, for sure. Not many females in my age category are playing World of Warcraft likely, and those that are, are likely geeks and/or on the autism spectrum. Video games certainly hold an appeal for autistic people. Not only to play them but to watch Youtube videos of people playing them or Twitch streams of people playing them live. Anime holds a very wide appeal, as well, for autistic people, with its incredibly broad spectrum of subjects and tastes and genres. I, for instance, had no idea of the width and breadth of anime before being introduced to it by my daughter. It is one of the true great joys of her life to sit quietly in her room watching her favourite anime, wrapped up in their stories.