One thing I feel you should learn about me is the fact that I have autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), or autism as it is better known. I’d imagine you’ll have one of the following reactions:
- “What’s autism?”
- “Oh, I’ve seen Rain Man. I know all about autism!”
- “Oh, I know someone who has that!”
- “What? No way! Me too!”
- “Oh cool.”
No matter how you reacted, I have a feeling that some of you may find it hard to understand. If that’s the case, don’t worry, I’m here to help you learn.
Autism is a mental condition or disability that makes it difficult for one to navigate different life situations that other people will find easy. These include interacting in social groups, forming personal relationships, simple communication and language, and understanding abstract concepts. In this post, I will try and explore different aspects of autism and explain them as best I can.
The Autistic Spectrum
Perhaps the most important thing to know about autism is that it’s on a spectrum. No two people with ASD are the same. Of course, everyone has a unique personality and appearance but I’m talking about the disorder itself. The two ends of the spectrum are as follows:
- High-functioning autism: Those with extreme ability in some areas such as maths and trivia (otherwise known as savant syndrome)
- Classic autism: Those with severe learning difficulties
I myself am at the higher end of the spectrum. I found learning easy and I pride myself on how good I am at subjects I have taken in the past and present such as English and Film Studies.
Symptoms of Autism
Most people with autism usually fit in between each extreme of the spectrum, and as such, there’s no ‘definitive’ autistic person. This makes it difficult to define a set list of symptoms because each person with autism exhibits different symptoms. However, there are a few symptoms that commonly appear. Some (but not all) of these include:
- Lack of eye contact
- Repetitive behaviours – i.e. watching the same thing over and over again
- Lack of or too much empathy
- Adversity to physical contact i.e. hugs, kisses etc.
- An attachment to unusual objects i.e. cars, teddy bears etc.
- Not initiating conversation
- A need for sameness or routine
- A difficulty with informal language i.e. idioms, sarcasm etc.
- An obsessive passion on a specific topic e.g. penguins, Doctor Who, plants etc.
- An attachment to animals
Of course, like I said, not everyone with autism has these symptoms and these are not all the symptoms of autism. For instance, whilst my behaviour is repetitive, I don’t have an adversity to physical contact. This is what makes us unique, not only from neurotypicals (non-autistic people) but from other people with autism as well.
The Struggles of Autism
I should go on record to say that I am proud to have autism. It’s shaped a lot of who I am and getting rid of it will be like getting rid of my soul. I like how knowledgeable of movie trivia it has made me, I like that it’s the reason behind my passion for Doctor Who (which has led me to pursue a career in Scriptwriting) and I like being unique and quirky.
However, I will say that it has its fair share of annoyances. A major example of this is that I don’t react well to social situations. I’m shy when I meet new people, I can’t stand large crowds, I’m struggling to navigate the dating scene, and I feel like I need to escape a social gathering after a while. I’m not saying I don’t like social situations, in fact, I hate loneliness even more, but I do find them difficult to navigate because I don’t always what to do.
I’m sorry to make that personal, but as I’ve said, it’s hard to generalize when the experience is different for everyone with autism. However, just because I and possibly many others like me find social situations difficult to understand or navigate, it’s not impossible for us to learn which leads me nicely to:
How to Deal with Someone with Autism
You have to understand that when someone with autism has said something rude, they probably didn’t mean it. However, you have to tell them that what they said was wrong and that they cannot be said again. We can learn how to navigate in social situations but we need to be told how. We need you to help us because trust me, life is difficult.
But you also need you to let us help you understand what we’re going through so you can see what’s going on and tell us that everything will be okay. We need support just as much as we need guidance, if not more.
I need to reiterate that I love that I have autism. I think of it as a blessing and even its problems can be helped. I shall encourage you all to think the same. Because we’re awesome and unique and yeah we’re socially awkward but other than that, we’re no different than everyone else. We have feelings, morals, dreams and fears. We should be treated like people but we should also be taught what’s right and what’s wrong and we need to be told that the world isn’t as scary as we think.
Like word autism could suggest, we are Always Unique, Totally Intelligent and Sometimes Mysterious.
What did you guys think of this guide? Did you find it useful? I have to say that these are only the basics and there is plenty more to teach you but sadly, I cannot fit them all into one blog. If you have any questions about autism, leave them in the comments below and I will answer them for you.
I will see you all soon! Until then, fare thee well my fellow students!