Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Autism Is Different... for everyone!

Autism Awareness It's okay to be different
AwarenessBeyondArt on deviantART
My blog post today is with thanks to my young blogging friend, William, from William's World Of Wonder. He is a very smart and kind 9-year-old (or he might be 10 by now...) who invented a device to protect sea turtle eggs from predators for a science project, and even corresponded with the Sea Turtle Conservancy about it. The other day he watched a video that is supposed to portray what it is like to have high functioning autism. Then, in his blog entry, he responded with his own comments about whether or not the ideas in the video described him very well. I thought I would do the same. The point is to show you that no two people with autism are exactly the same. A video cannot tell you what it is like to be William, or what it is like to be me, or what it is like to be anyone else. It is still good to watch this type of video, though, to give you a general idea of what autism is!

After you read this, I think you should go read what William had to say about the video! 

First, here is the video.

And now, for my own comments...

"Imagine walking into a building where the buzzing of florescent lighting is almost deafening." 
The sound of florescent lights doesn't bother me. I can hear it, but it isn't deafening. It can definitely be distracting, though, if you're supposed to be taking a test in a silent room and you can hear this loud buzzing. Another weird thing about me is, I can see the lines on the carpet moving. Sometimes it makes me a little nauseous.

"Imagine not being able to read the facial expressions of others, and as a result, you have no idea what they might be thinking or feeling."
Sometimes this describes me, but not always. I can definitely tell basic emotions from facial expressions, For instance if someone is smiling, I know they're happy. But the problem is more if someone is smiling but not really happy, or sometimes people make odd expressions that don't mean anything to me. If they just have a blank look on their face, I tend to overthink about what people might be feeling, like, "Are they mad? Did I say something wrong?"

"Imagine that someone is trying to talk to you in a noisy store, but you cannot focus on what that person is saying, because all of the voices blend together."

This does happen to me a lot. This is also related to ADHD though. What I really, really hate is at family gatherings or work meetings, if you are listening to some people have a conversation, and then another person starts up a conversation with you. So then you are trying hard to focus on what the one person is saying to you, but it gets mixed up with what the other people are saying a few feet away. It is also hard for me to focus on my own voice when that happens, and I get confused about what I am saying. In general, I don't like crowded places, because of the noise and also because I just get claustrophobic

"Imagine taking a shower, but the water hurts. In fact, it feels like getting caught in a hail storm."
It doesn't hurt me at all. I love showers. But I do remember being afraid to take showers when I was a kid, because of the noise. I took baths for a long time. I'm also really sensitive to the temperature of water and other things. I'm more sensitive to heat. I will swim in an ice cold river and it doesn't bother me. But if I make the shower water too hot, or try to drink a hot liquid, it hurts a lot.

"Imagine that all your friends have learned to ride their bicycles, but for you it just seems too difficult." 
I learned to ride my bike when I was 7, which was later than any kids I knew. I just couldn't coordinate my balance and all the parts of my body. I finally taught myself to do it by sitting on my bike and running with my legs until the bike was going fast enough to stay up, and then I'd start pedaling. Anything that requires physical coordination is really hard for me. I can sometimes memorize one repetitive motion (like kicking a ball really far, or keeping a hula hoop going) but if I try to take it further, like trying to actually play sports or do hula hoop tricks, I'm a tangled mess.

"Imagine that you are constantly in trouble at school, because your teachers don't understand high functioning autism, and don't understand the difference between misbehavior and a meltdown." 
This one is kind of tough. I was shy and anxious, and in my family it was a huge thing with my parents that we weren't supposed to make any trouble in public. I had enough self-control to stay quiet and obedient at school. But I had a lot of melt-downs at home. I still do. I can avoid it in public, but when I am at home, I can really lose it.

"Imagine being the only child in your grade who doesn't have any friends."
Yes, I definitely understand that! I would always bring a book outside to recess because otherwise I'd be so bored, just standing there alone. I also got bullied a lot, and being alone on the playground made me an easy target. After a while I started playing with the kids from the special education class. They were younger than me and had more obvious special needs, such as Down syndrome. I sort of looked after them like a babysitter, but they were also the only people at school who truly liked and accepted me. When I moved on to junior high, I didn't have them anymore, because they went to a different school. I was alone a lot. I really wanted to be homeschooled, but my mom had to work!

"Imagine not being able to understand jokes, figures of speech, or sarcasm."

I understand sarcasm better than jokes. I used to memorize a lot of jokes I heard other people tell, and then I'd repeat them, but I had no idea what I was saying. I probably learned sarcasm from watching a lot of TV. People on TV are very sarcastic

"Imagine living every day feeling like you are trapped in a strange, chaotic, and hostile world." 
Yes, definitely sometimes. That's why I am Angel the Alien. I often feel like an alien. I try really hard to understand other people, but it often feels like a lot of people don't try to understand me. You're expected to fit into the "norm." When you go to get a job, you're expected to be what people expect you to be. If you act in ways that  they don't expect, people feel uncomfortable. I talked before about understanding facial expressions. One expression I definitely do understand is when people kind of wrinkle their faces and squint their eyes, and sometimes look at each other while they're doing it. That means, you just did something weird. Some people say that if you truly have autism, you won't feel that way, because you won't care what others think about you. But many people with autism do care. They'll talk about "passing," which means "passing for normal, where you basically learn how to act like everyone else while you are at work. But I can only do that for short amounts of time,

It is interesting to me that William answered this question by saying that he doesn't find the world hostile at all... the only hostile person he knows is his sister! I think that is good... it maybe means that the world is changing. Kids with autism are now finding the world more welcoming to them. Maybe this new generation won't feel so much like aliens.

If you have autism, or your kids do, it would be cool to hear your responses to this video!


  1. I love how people tend to think that everyone who falls into the spectrum of a given diagnosis is supposed to be the same. I don't have autism, but comparably, everyone thinks that all people with bipolar disorder are the same. I've even had other people with bipolar say to me that I should be on more meds, just because they're on a lot of meds. None of us are one size fits all! I enjoyed reading your perspective.

  2. Anything that requires this fast paced, self absorbed world to slow down and offer some compassion is bound to need some educating for the masses. Autism is "new." Posts like yours will increase understanding, and hopefully, tolerance.

  3. I agree with you! We're all different, which makes us kind of the same! I am surprised and a bit happy that you mentioned my last post! Thanks for being my friend! :-) William

  4. Angel, I love your blog. I am Master William's aunt and I read his posts all the time and I am intrigued by him and his outlook. I would love to read your posts too. By the way I call William Master William just because he is a little Master of himself and I love him to pieces...I will send you love and hugs too. God bless....Master William's Aunt Donna!!


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