In honor of Autistics Speaking Day, I would like to share with the public a few of my experiences as an individual on the Autistic Spectrum.
I first was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2006, when I was 26 years old. Before this, the only professional explanations for my differences were “severe social phobia” and “selective mutism.”
Being on the spectrum, I have some sensory issues. They have been with me all of my life, and have created many challenges for me. Typically, bright lights and strong perfumes irritate me, and I often suffer from headaches due to them. I feel very uncomfortably self-aware of my skin, and sometimes feel trapped in my body. Because of this, I unwittingly engage in certain stereotypies – often pacing, shaking my leg in place, flapping my hands, swinging my arms, and rocking back and forth, without even realizing it. I am unable to withstand most fabrics, and almost always wear cotton, avoiding anything frilly or lacy. Tight-fitting shoes and pants are completely unbearable, along with bras with seams in the cups, and cheap socks with seams that pucker at the edges. I’m intolerant of many flavors and textures, and typically eating the same few foods over and over, for weeks, months or years at a time, with little deviation.
As an Autistic individual, socialization does not come naturally for me. I am typically stiff and ackward in new social settings. I have difficulty maintaining eye-contact and engaging in small-talk with others. I also have trouble starting and ending conversations, and am very literal at times. I am unable to create a “social mask,” and don’t have a good understanding of what is “appropriate” in conversation, so I often divulge too much personal information about myself. I often communicate thoughts that are considered offensive to others, and display emotions that are considered “inappropriate.”
Like many on the Autistic spectrum, I also have many talents due to my condition. I am hyperlexic, and also have a very good memory. Besides this, I also also hold strong technical skills with absolutely no formal training. I am self-taught in the following: computer building and repair, website design and mastering, digital illustration and design, music production, engineering and recording, and even some HTML/CSS coding! As long as I am interested, I can learn ANYTHING that I put my mind to!
As an Aspergian, I am a proponent of SELF-ADVOCACY, and strongly embrace NEURODIVERSITY. I know that my condition isn’t a “disease,” nor a “disorder,” but a functional, natural and necessary difference, worthy of celebration, and respect! I believe that those of us on the Autistic spectrum must learn to advocate for ourselves, as well as each other, because neurotypical individuals simply cannot voice our thoughts and concerns as well as we can! With all of this in mind, I founded “Aspergian Women United,” a non-profit organization created with the intention of developing a strong network of Aspergian women, so that we may encourage each other’s unique gifts and talents, while also supporting one another through the individual challenges of living as Aspergians within a neurotypical world!