This is my contribution to Autistics Speaking Day 2012. Because this is a day centered around autistics speaking for and about themselves, I’d like to also link to a short post I wrote a month ago that contains links to many other blogs and websites by autistic people: See. Understand. Experience. Autism. You can also find many more contributions at the Autistics Speaking Day website.
I’ve been autistic all my life, but I’ve only been aware of my autism for nine months.
That’s nearly four decades of knowing I was different, nine months of knowing why.
As a kid, I didn’t realize I was different until people told me.
Sometimes other kids told me in words: nerd, tomboy, babytalk, weirdo.
Sometimes they told me in actions: laughter, rejection, intimidation, bullying.
Sometimes their parents told me for them: We know you’re just using Leah because you don’t have any other friends. She’s not allowed to have you over until you learn how to be a true friend.
Sometimes my own parents told me: quit bellyaching, you need to make more friends, all that crying isn’t normal, it’s time to grow up and be like other girls.
I got the message: you’re broken; fix yourself.
I had a lot of determination but few resources.
Eventually, I gave up trying to fit in and embraced my weirdness. I found friends who were equally weird.
Being defiantly different became my thing; sometimes it still is.
But much of the time now, I forget that I’m different. When I’m alone, I forget. When I’m with the people who love and accept me unconditionally, I forget.
Until someone else reminds me–with a puzzled expression or a sarcastic remark–I forget that my brain functions differently from the other 99% of the human race.
I’m not just different on the outside–shy, quiet, awkward, odd.
I’m different on the inside. My wiring is nonstandard.
I’m not broken. I don’t need to be fixed.
What I do need is a little support here and there. Patience, humor, understanding.
Not pity or sympathy.
Not to be made normal.
People say things like:
You’d feel better if you got out of the house more.
You’d feel better if you stimmed less.
You’d feel better if you paid more attention to your looks.
To the people who think this is helpful advice I want to say:
No. Those are the things that would make you feel better, make you feel less uncomfortable around me. Doing those things would make me more tolerable to you.
Because until you said that, I felt fine.
This is my normal. It’s not like most people’s normal, but it’s the only one I’ve ever known and I’m content with it.
I like myself.
I forget that I’m different until you remind me.