Originally published in the Wall Street Journal May 12, 2015 by Lydia Wayman
1. I remember conversations from when I was two and phone numbers I
haven’t seen in two years. But I need direct support in the grocery
store and when crossing the street. The first sounds impossible and the
second ridiculous to most people, but it’s the only normal I know.
Just because I have the words to type it doesn’t mean I have the words
to say it, and when I do say it, it’s rarely as I wish I could.
Sometimes, I can explain my quirks; other times, I need a keyboard and
3. I never like being too loud or interrupting or
getting upset at a noise, especially in public. It takes a lot of effort
to manage my interactions and reactions—and sometimes I still fail.
If I ask a question or say I don’t get it, it means I’m confused.
Please don’t make me feel worse. I don’t laugh when others flop at
recalling a date or the spelling of a word—things that are effortless
5. What may be slightly bothersome to you, like the
waistband on a pair of pants, can ruin my day. A sensory issue occupies
every bit of my brain and body until it’s remedied, and it isn’t always
easy to say what’s bothering me.
I try to treat others as I want to be treated, but since my wants are
often different, I look rude or careless when I’m doing my best to show
the same kindness I like to receive.
7. I am extremely sensitive
to sensory input. The world is almost always too much, so I have to
regulate my body as I react to every passing car, beeping machine,
barking dog, siren, and so much more. It’s very hard for me to remember
that I can ask for a break. Sometimes I walk away, pull out my phone to
type or look over favorite cat pictures, or disappear to the bathroom
(if there are no hand dryers!). I’m not being rude—I’m doing what I need
to do to be able to be there at all.
8. I’m not a child with a
precocious vocabulary. I’m not an adult who refuses to grow up. The
boxes built for typical society won’t work on me. I’ll break them every
time. Save those judgments until you know me.
9. I’m not missing
out on normal; I’m happy with uncommon. I’m more isolated with another
person than my cat. A keyboard brings me closer to a long-distance
friend than a lunch date ever does.
10. I’m different, not
broken. Sometimes my needs make it look like I’m not capable… but I
don’t know how most people function with such forgetful memories and
lack of focus. Everyone’s brain has strengths and weaknesses. I am
blessed to be surrounded by people who give me the support I need to be
successful. But I have gifts, too… just the right ones to help families
understand kids like the one I was so—hopefully—all their lives are