What Is Autism To Me?

 

Google definition of autism that reads “a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.”

The Google definition of autism is as follows (paraphrased): “A mental condition characterized by difficulty in communicating, and forming relationships, and in using abstract language and concepts.” This is true, but it’s very basic. For me, autism goes much deeper because it’s a large part of my identity that affects me daily.

Autism has many characteristics that are left out in this definition such as: repetition of behaviors and echolalia (repetition of another person’s words) and sensitivity to stimuli. Autism manifests differently for different people and means different things to different people.

The ways it affects me* vary day-to-day, depending on if I’ve had my medicine* or how my mood is. Things that don’t change, though, include the following: stimming, sensitivity to lights and sounds, having an adverse response to physical affection, social awkwardness, and difficulty with abstract concepts.Some of them are worsened on bad days, but they are always present for me, personally.  The main thing that affects me is my poor diet.

If I’ve had my medicine and have had a good day, I stim and am usually nonverbal. I’ll also definitely be talking about my special interests and spouting random facts about them. I find that I have a hard time remaining seated, and I can be very clumsy due to my excited nature when I’m happy. One major thing for me that can affect the type of mood I’m in is if my routine is disrupted. Having both ASD and OCD, routine is an important part of my life, regardless of if it’s personal or for school.

For bad days, I tend to have meltdown(s) or shutdown(s), which I’ll write an article about next to explain the difference. My sensitivity is often magnified, so most of the time I end up wearing a hoodie and sunglasses indoors, along with headphones, to calm it down. The headphones help cancel out noises. During these days, I’m semi-verbal. This means that I don’t speak much and often prefer avoiding it altogether. Being touched without being asked on these days can push me into a sensory overload and can cause a tantrum. These tantrums can include self-injurious behavior such as hitting, pinching, and/or hair pulling. I find myself having an odd attachment to my stim objects, needing specific ones for different situations. Outside stimuli affects which one I need, though, I usually go for a puff-ball I have. 

Those are examples of how I experience autism, but what it means to me is that I just think differently. I simply function in a different way than other people and have different needs. I don’t always understand or perceive things the way non-autistics (allistics) do.

Someone once asked me,  “If you could change anything about your autism, would you, and what would it be?” My answer to that is nothing. If I absolutely had to choose something, I would like to be better at making friends, but even so, I can work on that. I understand that I am far from what is considered neurotypical and that I struggle because of that, but it will only help me grow as a human being, and it will also help me be more compassionate towards other human beings. I accept my autism, and I accept myself how I am.

*This is only how it affects me. Like I mentioned, autism affects and manifests differently for different persons.

*There are no medicines specifically for autism as of now, but I take adderall which helps with my focus and helps me be calmer. Autism is not something that can or should be “cured,” and wanting it to be is an ableist concept that is harmful to autistic people.

 

Sick of This Story

The picture I use for the blog and the FB group The Outcast Army for minority activists representing feelings of minorities after Trump with anger rising out of despair (merch here). However, the first time I had this image in mind was after an autistic child was killed by his mother, one in a far too long list

The picture I use for the blog and the FB group The Outcast Army for minority activists representing feelings of minorities after Trump with anger rising out of despair. However, the first time I had this image in mind was after an autistic child was killed by his mother, one in a far too long list

“And how many lives have been wasted?
How many bodies laid to rest?
Sick of the lies, the same old story
All over and over and over and over
Over and over and over and over again”

How Many Walls, Rise Against

A couple days ago, the worst month of the year for autistics began. Autism Awareness Month, the global hatefest where people support the eugenicist hate group known as Autism $peaks. I’ve already written an autism acceptance #RedInstead article, (well, technically two but the older one was too nice), made a masterpost of articles from different sources and perspectives, written an essay for class and a poem about the puzzle piece, and created this toolkit to help people debunk talking points they might encounter (that includes all those 5 things) and a guide on how to take action to get people to not support them (that has the toolkit linked).

After writing seven things on them of different forms and purposes, I want to make clear that in reality…they aren’t the real problem.

They’re a symptom of something that is larger and more pervasive and has existed since autism was first diagnosed in the US when it was said autism was caused by “refrigerator parents”. (though the effects of hating us for how we appear differently could arguably be considered to have had signs in faerie tales.

The reality is, people have always hated us, and will long after A$ is gone. They’re a juggernaut that perpetuates and profits off of it, but I could name ten other people/organizations that do the same thing (though not as successfully), and there will always be more (a rather horrifying [because it revealed just how much people hated us] example of hatred becoming far too popular was the New York Times bestselling book To Siri With Love, ableist screed where she talks about sterilizing her son, misgenders and insults an autistic activist and other horrible things, here’s a chapter-by-chapter analysis, review, and screenshots of an engagement between the author and the nonbinary activist who she called a “manic pixie dream girl” in the book).

That’s because this fight isn’t against a corporation but against a narrative that is ingrained in society, the narrative of autism being a tragedy.

The effects of this narrative go beyond just the ads and propaganda (though A$ ads like Autism Every Day and I Am Autism [don’t read these if you’re autistic the first one made me cry and ask why they hate us so much] definitely have a huge effect); they hurt and kill us.

The main therapy in the US is ABA, (here’s a masterpost of links), a “therapy” that has the goal to train us out of looking like autistics. Therapy is in quotes because it’s abuse, as these accounts from someone who went through it and someone who used to do it should make clear. This idea of autism being a disease needing a cure like A$ says leads to horrible “cures” like MMS which is bleach that parents are forcing kids to swallow. It’s the real reason for anti-vaxxers because it’s much less about being anti-science than trying to find a cause for the damage to their kids (one of them wrote a book called “I Wish My Kids Had Cancer: A Family Surviving the Autism Epidemic”). It’s the justification for shocking people at the Judge Rotenberg Center which is still happening even after it killed someone. It’s also the fuel for the endless cycle of parents killing their autistic kids, with the sympathy and justification for the murderer leading to yet another death.

This hatred is everywhere, all the time, but most of the time I’m allowed to ignore it. This month is like a magnifying glass taking the hatred and focusing it into a single blue beam that pierces like a spear in my skull.

I’m sick of this story that leads to so much death and suffering. How many bodies of innocent children need to be laid to rest for people to stop believing this lie. We’re human just like you, but nobody would justify shocking/poisoning/murdering allistic kids as often as it’s done to us.

If A$ disappeared, all of this would still be here year-round. Don’t let your fight alongside us be any less when May 1st comes around just because it’s returned to where you aren’t forced to think about it.

I don’t have that luxury.

-Laoch Onórach