I’m just in the radio and was asked by Shirley to write a little piece for World Autism Awareness Day which is on 2nd of April. Shirley said to write it now so that we can record it. OMG, I thought, I’ve just been put on the spot.
‘But I need to think about how it will make people feel. I need two afternoons for that’. Shirley however insisted spontaneous is always best as it comes from the heart. We shall see.
The questions that I was asked were: do I think autism awareness day is important and what I think should come out of that?
Obviously I think it is important. It’s to raise awareness. But, as the awarness of autism is already growing, I think we should use this day to discuss the condition from another angle – we should say something that is not usually being discussed when we think ‘autism’.
And I think the problem is still with recognition of people who present in neurotypical ways. Maybe slightly shy or a bit awkward at times, but still considered ‘normal’. I am one of those people. If I didn’t meet my boyfriend who was diagnosed in 2015, I still wouldn’t know that I’m autistic. There are articles online obviously that I’d probably see but I wouldn’t think that’s me because those articles discuss cases of people with some extreme problems. A musician with multiple psychiatric diagnoses before she was finally told she has autism, or women who are suspectible to sexual predators because they can’t recognise real intentions of men they’re trying to date.
Neither of that is me. I had no involvement from mental health services before I received diagnosis of autism and, although I may not be very good at judging other people characters, I know that men who hide their real intentions have very low tolerance to frustration, so that is what I was using while dating.
People may sometimes say ‘mild autism’ to describe people like me. And although I don’t have learning disability, I really wouldn’t say my autism is mild. I believe I’m a properly autistic person who’s special interest is people and their behaviour, and that’s why I appear as ‘mild’, because I can adjust my actions to what is needed better than other autistics, but I make loads of effort to do that. Neurotypical people spend time on hobbies or really work on their careers – I spend the same time to work out what someone meant and how I should have reacted and my results with people are average. So I’m using loads of time and planning to appear as an average neurotypical.
What for, you may ask? Why don’t I find myself a hobby? Well, I have one – my digital art based on patterns, but that’s not the point. The point is that I can’t stop trying to work people out, they fascinate me like nothing else in the world. And what can I do with that? Whatever career I pick that is about working with people I’d be average and will need loads of time to recharge because the workplace politics will tire me off. And if I try technical career, I’d still be spending loads of time trying to work out what people meant when they said something instead of focusing on my real project.
That is a real disability, I think. And I’m sure there are many more autistics like me in the world. But no one talks about this problem because we appear ‘average’.
And what about the recognition for our efforts? When I come up with an explanation for somebody unusual behaviour, I really feel like I achieved something. But no one ever praise me for that because it’s something that everyone else already knows, and more over, people are oftenl unwilling to openly discuss.