Tuesday, May 26, 2015

10 Things an Autistic Adult Wants You to Know

 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. 

2. 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 some time. 

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.

4. 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 for me.

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.

6. 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 fuller.