This came in my email inbox this morning and I felt the need to share:
For those who are not aware, my 12 yr. old son is autistic. I point that out because it wasn’t until the process of addressing issues he was having and came to get this diagnosis, that I realized I could be autistic, as well. My childhood was not a particularly happy one, though it was not “horrible” by yesteryear’s standards. By today’s standards, it might be, but if I was a typical kid, it would have been a good childhood.
I was born in the year 1961. If I was diagnosed back then, I probably have been a label of Retardation. Back then, there was no internet, only the pediatrician. I was the first-born child of parents in their very early twenties. A Doctor Spock paperback was my mother’s only resource, not including her mother. I grew up wearing the label of “the weird one of the family,” and I reveled in being unique. It was not until relatively recently did I ever view or question that part of myself as being anything negative, or being impacted negatively by being different. I am unique! Something was said to me that hit me differently and caused me to look at myself from what this person said and momentarily caused me to feel embarrassed, and not valuable, but that did not last long… but I felt sad that someone else, anyone else saw me differently than how I saw myself and that it was less than positive though I’m sure they don’t see it that way.
As I read through the points in the article, or rather a question posed on Quora, I saw myself all too vividly in the descriptions of symptoms and behaviors. (Please note that my post is responding more to the answers on Quora than the Forbes article because I found that the Forbes’ piece omits some of the original material on Quora. Some of these points do not apply to me because I was never a “girly” girl, so I did not have the same interests as other girls nor mimic the behavior of other girls; but I did adapt, or mask my differences in an attempt to blend into the mainstream. What really got me needing to write is this:
Autistic females who want to connect obsess about what they are missing and are tormented by their loneliness.
Yeah. More about that later….. and then, this:
Girls with autism are indeed different from other girls in how their brain analyzes social information. But they are not like boys with autism. Each girl’s brain instead looks like that of a typical boy of the same age, with reduced activity in regions normally associated with socializing. “They’re still reduced relative to typically developing girls,”
Please note that this article contains some typographical errors, or what I perceive them to be from what was written and what I know to be the case with me; so not sure if I should point them out but here is one such instance:
- These girls still often show the social interaction impairments refusing to talk about anything else or take expected conversational turns.
I would think that “expected”conversational turns would and should be “unexpected” conversational turns; and that is how it was with me. I never contributed to conversations for a couple of reasons. One was that I had nothing to say, so I listened most of the time. Two, I had a terrible, painful stutter and when I did have something to say, I could never interject it because of not knowing how to break into the conversation, especially one with a gaggle of girls talking non-stop. Eventually, I developed the habit of talking loudly and talking over people to get my thought out. Though I don’t like this about myself, and trying to change this, I still talk over people at times. My mother also had a loud voice and so I probably got that from her, but I feel it more in conversations with people.
I’ve always characterized myself as a Tomboy and now I see that studies show that a developing autistic girl’s brain is similar to a typical boy of the same age. Growing up I hated and refused to participate in any Girl activity. Although I did have a PJ doll, best friend of Barbie, I did not gravitate to girly tea parties, conversations or girly gossip… or any gossip at all. When my sister got married, I was her maid of honor. She and our mother would sit at the kitchen table, going through magazines and I remember talk of curtains. I was totally uninterested in such talk and avoided it like the plague. I just could not bring myself to go and sit there and I remember feeling that I had nothing to contribute to those conversations anyway. I did not get interested in makeup until after high school and it was minimal applications. Now I love makeup, but still stay minimal and have gotten my application time down to 5 minutes. Yes, I’m proud of that!
Referring back to the sense of acute loneliness I experienced as a child, I was tormented by it; and in my teenaged years, while I didn’t think about suicide, per se, I did think extensively about wanting to be dead. I just wanted out from the pain. I think the only thought that kept me from going up the suicide road was my Catholic upbringing. I believed that I would go to hell if I killed myself and so, that was not an option for me. A couple of other things kept me going and one was Barry Manilow’s music. His music touched me to the core. At that time he was all over the radio and I also had some of his record albums. The neighbor across the alleyway was an amateur singer with gigs here and there and he would sing, “I Write the Songs,” over and over. I sang his songs over and over. I still know all of the lyrics to his music and have guessed one of his songs in TWO notes while watching Name That Tune on tv. My voice got trained on his music and so I can sing that low range, as well as a higher range… though I have no idea what those ranges are. Another way I escaped mortal life was in my art. Once I got started on a drawing or painting, I disappeared into it.
I thank God for being myself and feel affirmed in my decision NOT to subject my son to any drugs or so-called cures for autism that may be suggested to us. Through my life experience I believe that the autism is as much a part of my son as his arms and legs. He will adapt just as I have and he will benefit from it. It’s a long, slow process, but isn’t Life also a lifelong journey? We never stop learning. Drugs are totally out of the question and I’m grateful that we were not put into that position of having to assert what would be most definitely perceived as a bad parenting decision by the “professionals.”
So in closing, I just want to say that there are other links at the bottom of each link’s article. I’ve not gotten to them yet because I usually read later in the day and now I have my day’s reading ready at hand. I want everyone to know that I am fine now. I have adapted as well as I can without losing myself. I actually like some of my, or what I believe to be my autistic traits. They have served me well and I value them as much as anyone could value a talent or developed skill. What I have chosen to speak about here is not the end of it, or the most important or profound; but I realize that any more would just serve to confuse things. I have that tendency to talk about 5 million things at once and not everyone is up to it, nor do I have the capability of sustaining order in my thoughts.