Monday, July 13, 2015

Autistic Enough

Hello Readers!
Thank you for continuing to join me on my journey! 
I want to continue to discuss Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and my experience with it, so if this appeals to you, keep reading!
I'd like to also take a moment to thank @petitpadthai for the blog post title idea! 

TRIGGER WARNING: mention of abuse 

Autism Spectrum Disorder. That second word is so crucial yet so few people (including loved ones, advocacy organizations, and health professionals) seem to acknowledge the existence of a spectrum of symptoms and presentations of the disorder. 

High Functioning Vs. Low Functioning

Currently, health care professionals characterize Autistics as either high-functioning or low-functioning with high-functioning meaning a person is able to be more independent and fit in more "appropriately" in neurotypical society and low functioning meaning a person may not be as independent and be less able to fit in "appropriately" in neurotypical society.
But here's the thing, the people who decide what is and isn't appropriate behavior aren't Autistic and the functioning labels are completely arbitrary, not to mention incredibly ableist. 
These labels pit Autistics against each other and devalue individuals' experiences. 

My Experience

When I'm doing well and functioning in a way that you deem appropriate, you erase my Autism and fail to accommodate my needs. You don't seek to understand how my brain works or how to make the world easier to navigate. You do not attempt to lessen the heavy burden you place on me with your assumptions...because I am not Autistic enough.

When I ask for an explanation because what you said doesn't make sense to me, or when I'm overwhelmed and overstimulated, or when I can't find something because the object doesn't look like what thought it should, or I don't want to spend time with people because it's exhausting to constantly monitor myself...suddenly I am too Autistic. 

I am always Autistic. My excess of neural connections will not suddenly disappear just because they make you uncomfortable. My Autism is not diminished, it will not be erased because I have made an incredible effort to fit into this hostile society that only values neurotypicality and literally abuses** Autistic people until we display your desired behavior.

Sometimes, you say I don't seem Autistic, and yet so often when I've been abused and bullied by my peers (and even adults) it has been for being Autistic.

I guess my question for you is...

#DidISeemAutisticWhen in 3rd grade, my teacher put my desk in a corner and mocked my accommodations in front of the class?

#DidISeemAutisticWhen I was in 4th grade and started pulling out my hair and eyelashes as a form of stimming? 

#DidISeemAutisticWhen in 6th grade when my teacher got sick of me and locked me in a dark closet for over 10 minutes?

#DidISeemAutisticWhen I couldn't read facial expressions or body language? 

#DidISeemAutisticWhen in 9th grade when my teacher planned with the rest of the class to mock my Autism? Allowing all of the students to come in late and imitate me? Falling out of their desks, dropping their pens, asking questions.

#DidISeemAutisticWhen in 11th grade students locked me in a cabinet as a prank? 

I am Autistic enough. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

My Journey With Autism

I had this blanket as a child that I called Woobie that had lace trim with satin ribbon running through it.  When I rubbed that satin ribbon between my forefinger and thumb, it was as if my whole existence shrunk down to a pinpoint. All the noise and chaos in my body was drowned out by that feeling.

When I was 8 years old I was diagnosed with Non-Verbal Learning Disability. When my mom asked the doctor what that meant, he replied that it was why I was such a freak. Over the course of my life I've been misdiagnosed with a lot of mental health and behavioral conditions but Non-Verbal Learning Disability, while wrong, was actually closer to the truth than most.

I was an extremely unusual child that didn't fit in in any social setting including my own home and school. I couldn't read body language at all so I missed those subtle clues that people were starting to get upset with me, or that posture that would have let me know that that person was annoyed and I shouldn't go up to them in such an upbeat and effusive manner. At that point of my life though, I didn't know that I was missing social skills. I just knew that I was being bullied and had no friends.
It wasn't until much later in life when I realized I had no social skills and I tried to teach myself body language that I started to put the pieces together.

You see, while there are books teaching people how to read body language, apparently that skill is inherent, or at least, it's supposed to be. But when I tried to find books to learn social skills as an adult? Almost impossible. And the more I looked, the more books I found for certain adults, so I finally checked out one of them, specifically "Be Different" by John Elder Robison. When I read that book everything made sense.

When I met with my psychiatrist the following week, I told her I thought I had Asperger's Syndrome. She asked me why I thought so and when I got half way through my reasoning, she stopped me and said, "yes." I asked her if I needed to take a test. She said there was no need and she didn't know why she hadn't seen it before.

I'm IsaJennie and I'm Autistic. I'm on the Autism spectrum. I don't want to be cured. Autism makes me who I am. My brain is different. It functions in a spectacularly complex way that neurotypical people cannot fathom and it is wonderful. What I want to "cure" is the way I am treated by neurotypical people. I want to make the world easier to live in for Autistic people.