Wednesday, March 6, 2019

I am 22 and I am from Dayton, Oregon.

My biggest accomplishment so far is being the first person in my immediate family to obtain a Bachelor's degree when I graduate from Western Oregon University this summer.

Something I wish neurotypicals knew about autistic people is that we are more than a puzzle piece. We are not diseased, and we don't need a cure. A large majority of funding for autism goes into cure research, early interventions and treatments to "cure" or "combat" Autism Spectrum Disorder, and not enough funding is going towards issues that directly affect autistic children and adults such as housing, employment, healthcare, and education. In 2019, many people are already aware of what Autism Spectrum Disorder is, but not enough people are accepting of autistic people.

Resources that benefited me and helped me to learn how to talk were engaging with others with my special interests of writing, drawing, playing, and singing. When others actually interacted with me and sought to understand me, I would attempt to communicate in the ways I knew how. Now that I can communicate better, resources that help me now are those that help accommodate my sensory processing issues, such as tinted glasses I wear in college for my light sensitivity issues.

I want those who are also autistic to know: Believe in yourself. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something. Don't let anyone stop you from stimming or pursuing what you are passionate about. Your dreams, goals, hobbies, and special interests are important. You are important, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

I was diagnosed with autism when I was young, at about four years old. It was a blessing that I was diagnosed so young, because it is generally more difficult for autistic adults to be diagnosed than children. Part of this is due to social camouflaging, or learning how to suppress stimming and act more neurotypical due to fear of stigma or bullying. It is especially difficult for autistic females to be properly diagnosed, as the ratio of males to females being diagnosed with autism is four to one, and women generally present autism differently than males do, and the current diagnostic criteria does not always reflect the various ways in which females present autism.

My parents suspected I was autistic when I was not reaching milestones at certain ages, such as not talking much, walking on my tiptoes, and having a very limited diet and refusing to try a lot of new foods with "bad" textures and tastes. I was evaluated at three years old, and officially diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at four years old.

Because I was only four, I do not remember what I felt like when I was diagnosed with autism. My parents had a neutral reaction, because at the time, they did not know a lot about autism or what it was. I only became aware of my autism when I was in elementary school, and was being treated differently by other classmates. I felt isolated from the rest of my peers, because I sat in front of a special education teacher and ate lunch by myself, and was taken out of class constantly for special skills classes, which taught me motor skills such as how to use scissors and hold a pencil right. When I recognized for the first time that I was different than everybody else, I started to suspect that something was "odd" about me, which was when my parents told me that I was autistic.

Due to other people's fears about autistic people and the lack of knowledge about autism and neurodiversity that existed, for a while I believed that I was in need of a "cure" for my autism. I did not like myself and wanted to change. I wanted to make more friends and do things the "right" way, or the socially acceptable way, to avoid bullying. I did not like myself and had a very low self esteem, partly due to my knowledge of being different from most of my peers. But now, I am twenty-two years old, and I am proud to be autistic and I celebrate who I am, including my differences. I am proud to be neurodivergent and hope that soon, others will celebrate neurodiversity of the human condition and will work to better accommodate autistic people like myself.

No comments:

Post a Comment