Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Part 2 of 2

33, Maryland 

One of the things that benefited me the most was a summer program that I attended the summer before and after my senior year of high school that taught high school students with learning disabilities how to advocate for themselves in college. We would go on college tours and learn about their support services. We also learned about the various types of accommodations and practice how to have conversations with professors about what accommodations that we needed. Not only did I learn a lot, but I made a lot of friends, some of whom I’m still in touch with today. I wound up attending the community college that held the summer program, despite not living in the same county as the school.

My mom suggested that I try doing my first semester of college without any accommodations just to see how it would be for me. I wound up making it all the way through community college and earned my associate’s degree without any accommodations. Not only that, but I also went on to attend a four year college and earned my bachelor’s degree without any accommodations. I guess you could consider that my biggest accomplishment, but again, it was a long time ago.
While I was able to make it through college, I do feel that I could have benefited from extended time on tests. Most of my friends had that accommodation and were allowed to take all of their exams in our college testing center untimed at their own pace. One of my worst moments was when I was in the middle of an essay test and spent most of the exam answering what I thought was a well-informed response to a question, only to discover that I had misread the question and I was wrong. I only had fifteen minutes left on the test and still hadn’t answered the other questions, so I panicked and wrote a bunch of really half-assed responses, which resulted in me not doing well on the test.

While it’s been over twenty years since my diagnosis, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I fully discovered just how much it affected my life, thanks to a helpful and supportive online community. I still have daily struggles, one of which is my inability to make continuous eye contact. People, mainly potential romantic interests, have called me rude for this. I also have a tendency to scroll through my phone if I feel overwhelmed or I need to redirect my eyes somewhere else. This is also classified as rude behavior in everyday society.
I’m fortunate to have a lot of understanding neurotypical people in my life, people who understand my various quirks and behaviors. However, there are some out there who don’t understand me or autistic people in general. While there are some out there who are deliberately hurtful, the majority of them mean well and are just misinformed thanks to the media and certain statements (I’m looking at you, Jenny McCarthy.).

One of the main things that I would like to tell people is that autistic people are not on the same level as cancer patients. I read this book where the couple had an autistic child and they acted like his diagnosis was the end of the world. All of the supporting characters kept apologizing and saying, “Oh that’s terrible!” Some people don’t realize that receiving a diagnosis is actually a good thing. My life actually became a little easier once I fully understood what having autism entailed. It was a relief to pinpoint certain quirks and behaviors and not just have them dismissed as weird. Trust me, it’s better to receive a diagnosis than wander around aimlessly and wonder what’s going on.
Also, vaccines don’t cause autism. And even if they did, so what? People don’t realize just how hurtful that rhetoric is to autistic people. I have friends who actually believe that and it’s basically like they’re saying, “I’d rather have a kid who is really sick than one like you.”
Speaking of which, what are the odds of another autistic person acting exactly like me? Once you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met exactly one autistic person. Sure, we have some similarities, but we’re not direct clones of each other. There is so much misinformation floating around in the world written by people who have spent a few hours with one autistic person and have determined that the person is a representation of every single autistic person that has ever existed.
And finally, to my fellow autistic friends, hang in there. I know that it might feel like you’re alone, but you truly aren’t. I nearly burst into tears of joy when I joined my first online group of autistics and saw that it had over ten thousand members. I couldn’t believe that there were that people could possibly understand me. Ten thousand people who might not make eye contact, ten thousand people who would understand my anxiety about driving, ten thousand possible new friends……..such a comfort.

I truly do hope that my long-winded babbling has helped you feel less alone in this world.

No comments:

Post a Comment