Autism is life long neurological developmental condition, or in simpler terms, it’s a condition that developed at birth and continues to develop as we continue to age. Autism effects everybody differently, some more than others; some can manage with little or no support and others will need full time care depending on the severity of their Autism and where they are along the spectrum.Everybody with a diagnosis of Autism is placed somewhere amongst a spectrum, or was before the DSM-5 Criteria cam into play, hence it being a spectrum disorder, which means nobody with Autism is the same, so you never can compare one Autistic person to another. Instead of imagining the spectrum as a linear line, picture it as a wheel with all your own Autistic traits dotted in various places depending on their severity; the more severe traits you display, the more likely you’ll be diagnosed further along the spectrum, to be diagnosed with Autism, you have to meet the DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria which I speak about below; for some this can be an easier process than others, as Autism is one of those ‘hidden disabilities’ and the less severe it is, the more masked Autism can appear to be, especially in girls; it’s known for females to mask Autism better than males which is more than likely why there is a higher percentage of males diagnosed in comparison to females, it’s important to get a diagnosis when you first notice symptoms, as the process can be often a very lengthly one for most and having a diagnosis early, means that life can potentially be made easier for when you reach adulthood, as access to help is more open and available. Autism can be linked with other conditions, like various learning disabilities, mental health issues and other conditions, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, pathological demand avoidance, sensory processing disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, emotional unstable personality disorder etc. so support for every person with Autism differentiates from person to person depending on specific needs. Autism is actually a very common condition also, around 7000,000 people in the UK alone are diagnosed with the condition, so you are never really alone even if it may feel like you are.
People diagnosed with Autism have three main area’s of impairments, difficulty with social interaction, communication and imaginative play. Often those who are diagnosed with Autism struggle with knowing or being aware of what is or isn’t socially appropriate, like often coming across as rude for example, as we have the tendency to speak before we think, this is linked with the way our body’s process information, generally our processing speeds are slower than average and therefore it takes us more time to comprehend and make sense of something, to help, allowing more time for a response or reminding us to think carefully before hand can lead to less upset for the other person and ourselves. Making conversation is the second main difficulty that those with Autism have, they may come across as shy or even quite the opposite, this is usually depending on factors such as, who we’re with, what situation we’re in or how well or how comfortable we are with the person, another reason why communication and making conversation can be a struggle, is because we often like things to be certain, we’re never quite sure in how the other person will respond to what we say, and so prefer to be approached first rather than ourselves having to be the conversation starter, not to mention also, we like what’s being said to be short and simple because comprehension can be a great difficulty with many on the spectrum, some, even go through SALT (speech and language therapy) for it; last and not least, imaginative play, for those with Autism like myself, picturing something in our heads is a very difficult thing to do as our mind has the tendency to be very black and white with very little grey area in between, this is partly why we also think in the way that we do, literate, and are very certain or rigid with our believes and what’s right or wrong and so on. Other Autistic traits or characteristics that a person with Autism will often display are intense or obsessive interests, otherwise known as having the ability to become hyper-focused on something we’re passionate and have a high level of interest in, rigid routines; dislike for change or spontaneous occurrences – it’s a good idea if change is going to happen to prepare the person timely in advance, difficulties responding or recognising emotions, reading facial expressions, repetitive behaviours or the need to stim, such as rocking, hand flapping or making high pitched noises due to over or under stimulation or even a mixture of the two, as it’s more than common for those with Autism to have sensory processing disorder. Things that can help with this is purchasing various sensory items like fidget toys, weighted blankets, fairy lights, noise cancelling headphones etc. A person with Autism may also be non-verbal, be very organised, be impatient, give little eye contact, have high or low tolerability towards feeling pain, be very literal, struggle with decision making, and struggle with personal hygiene and personal space.
A person with Autism pictures the world very differently to someone without, often it can be quite an overwhelming experience and they see the world as being against them as it appears like a massively scary place, even the littlest of things can cause anxiety for a person who’s Autistic, such as going out somewhere new, change, meeting someone whether that person is known to them or not etc.
Getting a diagnosis doesn’t mean you’re automatically placing a lable on yourself, labels are found on text books or food packaging, they explain and define very little, where as a diagnosis does not. A formal diagnosis can be a way forward for you or your child to being one step closer to receiving help, that can make life become so much more easier than what it may well be without, it allows you to access things you may’ve not be able too without the condition formally diagnosed, not to mention having a diagnosis explains to you and others around yourself the reasons why you think, say and do the things you do; having a diagnosis doesn’t define you, it’s merely just an explanation to help people understand you better and to help you understand and make sense of yourself too, it’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed of, and although it may automatically feel like you’ve suddenly become different from the rest of your friends and peers, the reality is, we’re all different anyway so what’s it matter?
Having Autism isn’t a bad thing, in fact there’s quite a few perks and positives to having the condition that could quite easily outweigh it’s struggles, for example, most people with Autism are very clever individuals and excel academically, there’s also the well known fact that people with Autism can be very talented and excel exceedingly in one or more of the following areas, mathematics, music, art and computing this is often down to our great ability to focus intensively on an area of interest, I also believe that it’s easier to express ourselves through these interests rather than through role play or by other means, which as I’ve said previously is a thing we have difficulty doing. Another fantastic thing about Autism is our memory capacity, for the most of us who have Autism, you’ll always be wanting to watch what you say due to our sensitive ears and our ability to hone in and remember conversation word for word, that’s if, we’re not in selective hearing mode; we can retain large amounts of information more so than a person without the condition, and remember things that others would easily forget, though, this doesn’t apply for everyone, and it can differ between short term and long term, some have extradorinaiy short term memory but poor long term and others it’s the complete opposite; some of us are very organised too, which is partly down to of our love for routine, it means we’re never or rarely late, and have everything and more that we need in preparation prior to what ever could be or is happening, making us very efficient individuals, which is something employers later in life will want you to be, and is expected from your teachers and lecturers during your years of education too don’t forget. We’re also often very straight forward and don’t really have any hidden agendas, though sometimes that does mean we can come across as a little rude or insensitive. We don’t really live on expectations, nor follow stereotypically that’s expected or demanded of us for our particular age range and generally live life at our own pace, a lot of the time’s in our own bubble; overall I believe that we are very unique and special individuals and should embrace the fact that we have Autism rather than to deny it, to not just the people around us but to ourselves too and I think having Autism isn’t all that bad if I’m to be truthful.
Just because you have Autism, it doesn’t make you any less of a person than a person who’s not neurodiverse like yourself. It doesn’t stop from being able to achieve any less and it doesn’t disable you from doing what the rest of the people can do even though it is classed as a disability, but that’s besides the point, all having Autism means is that you may find that things take a little longer to grasp and you may have to find different ways of doing them in order to succeed at the same or higher rate as everybody else – that’s another thing though, a lot of people who have Autism have an amazing work ethic, that often will keep us ahead of the workload anyway even with the struggles standing. The quicker you learn to understand and accept yourself, the easier it’ll be for others to do the same. Just be happy with who you are, it’s apart of you and you may as well embrace it rather than waste excess energy on fighting something that won’t ever disappear. You were born this way for a reason, you can find ways to help, and you can find ways to make life easier, but don’t simply deny the condition just because you don’t want it, either way it’ll still be there and it’ll only cause more hard work for not only the people around you but yourself too. I’m proud to be Autistic, I have Autism and it’s apart of who I am and I wouldn’t change it for the world, so why aren’t you?