Connecticut, USAMy accomplishments? I display my art in galleries, and I found a fulfilling job finding bugs in software. I wrote a book about how I was a caregiver to my late husband for five years, before he died at age 42.I wish neurotypicals knew that our way of being is a different, but not superior, normal, or morecorrect than the other. I am my own normal. I want those who are also autistic to know that together, we are strong.I didn’t get resources until in my late thirties, but I had an advocate to come with me to my son’s school meetings. I got nothing beneficial from social skills group except a like-minded friend that I’m still in touch with today. Because of the Autism Pilot project in my state I got to meet so many people like me. They helped me literally get my art of a closet and sell it, and they got me paid mural work. If autism was known when I was in school, I could have benefit from understanding. I thought I was the only one like me anywhere.As soon as I read page one of Donna William’s first book, I knew FINALLY I know what made me different. I would never ever have thought it was autism. I had an answer at last. She and I became pen pals, we met and we collaborated on projects. She was my mentor and supporter, and she once called me her favorite writer, said I was like a sister. Knowing her has truly been one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given in life.The autistic groups I belonged to had autism radar. If a member said they were self-diagnosed which I was for a while, they received the same support as those formally diagnosed. We could tell who was in our tribe whether on paper or not.As a child, I rarely spoke. Quiet was my natural state of being. I didn’t ‘get’ why others did things, especially when I became a preteen. I read encyclopedias for fun like novels and needed to be alone. I was highly creative and easily overwhelmed. I melted down. Social things made me feel setback and drain. I didn’t express emotion through gestures or face expressions. I knew I appeared emotionless, yet I knew I wasn’t. People took advantage of my naivete. Certain smells or textures I COMPLETELY boycotted, refusing to ever touch or be around them. My food was limited. I ate the same thing every day for years. I did not do well with change or sudden movement or loud people or small talk niceties or oral reports or yelling. I had certain interests. Rocks. Bugs. Dust. Secretly planning every detail of a fake party down to creating placards and favors but with no interest in having an actual party. No friends. Isolation. In my own head. Constantly trying to figure out everything. Feeling like an alien. When I got my diagnosis, I felt revelation, validation, and giddiness. I have never doubted the diagnosis. I have always felt it true 100%, same as today.