Ten Ways Autism Makes Me Different

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.

9 thoughts on “Ten Ways Autism Makes Me Different

  1. I admire your writing style very much. I doubt I had anywhere near the amount of insight you have when I was your age.

    • I was a college junior when I first saw the diagnostic criteria for autism and didn’t even stop to think about them. I had absolutely no insight to see that they applied… no understanding that I had challenges with socializing or sensory issues, which is pretty shocking. In fact, the ONLY word I could even use to describe myself would have been “smart,” because that’s what I’d been told as a child… and I wasn’t really told anything else, so I didn’t know anything else. It’s been a lot of time, typing, love and support from others, reading, praying… and I think I do have a good bit of insight at this point, but since my body doesn’t always obey my brain, I still look clueless a lot of the time. People misunderstand a LOT. And I don’t have the verbal ability to explain in the moment. But knowing i can come back and type to get an understanding for myself and to share the truth with others is enough for me.

  2. Thank you for this list. You sound just like my daughter, who just turned 13. Your writing has provided a lot of understanding for helping our family understand her better. You sound like a wonderful, insightful person – just like she is!

  3. Great list! Thank you very much for sharing.
    As a father of an 8 year old on the spectrum, I’m always trying to get a better understanding…a view from his perspective. It’s hard for me to know or understand when something is bothering or upsetting him… until there is an outburst. Do you have any suggestions on questions I can ask him or descriptions I can give him, to relate to what he is feeling? For example, when he is being bothered by a sound or something. I rarely get to understand the source of his trigger… or maybe only the final thing that set him off.

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