What Autism Means for Me

Since some ladies have expressed interest in what Autism is like for me, or how I knew to seek a diagnosis for it, I thought I’d share with everyone.

The tricky part of the Autism spectrum are the perimeters used to define it. In order for it to be a “Disorder” or “Syndrome” the psychologists/psychiatrists/neurologists have to come up with the deficits that impair human beings from daily living which also has to be defined. The same holds true for many other psychological diagnoses. What I have found with Autsim, both living with it and learning from others, is that both definitions are suddenly made fluid.

Autism is a neuro-biological developmental disorder. That is what the professionals say. In Classic Autism, the visible impairments include lack of verbal development, repetitive behaviors or self-injurious actions, perceived lack of empathy, little or no eye contact, and other biological delays. This is what most people think of, if they have any idea of what Autism is like. I would like to emphasize that these symptoms are what others perceive and are not ends in and of themselves. The reasons for these behaviors are hypersensitivity to stimuli and a “mis-wiring” in how to communicate with other human beings.

Let me expand on that last point.Β  Most Autistics have what is called “Face-blindness” or the inability to recognize individuals or emotions through facial expressions. I’ve read that our brains perceive faces like objects. We have to consciously learn what a happy face is like or what anger is like. Then again, facial expressions are highly influenced through culture and societal expectations, so it can be hard to make a mental encyclopedia of all the possible variations. You can see how this can be exhausting!

Apserger’s Syndrome is also along the Autistic specturm, though with some differentiation. The psychologists rate a child with Asperger’s normally through their developmental level (how impaired they are) and their intelligence (how high it is).Β  There are several other characteristics: repetitive behaviors (stimming), very focused interests, clumsiness, and the social impairments I named above. I’m breezing through all this so you can get a handle on what I will describe in my life.

When I said that the Autistic spectrum and what is normal or “Neurotypical” is fluid, I mean that what it boils down to (for me) is a difference in perceptions and expectations. [If you are an Autistic reading this…please give me some slack!] Since each Autistic has a unique set of symptoms, their perceptions are also unique. They often complain of being a “zoo exhibit” by listing all their sensitivities or behaviors to others because they are so different. Yet, Neurotypical folks have their own sets of oddities that Autistics find weird. Autistics and Neurotypicals are human, just differing in the ways they perceive and interact with the world. Each needs to give room and accommodations to the other.

Okay, off my soap box and onto the subject of me. πŸ™‚

Here is how Autism added up for me:

  • Inability to make and keep live friends: This is the biggest “distress” for me. I would like to make friends, especially lady friends in person (like dear long-suffering Cathy) but find it difficult to manage all the social “rules.” Also, unless I share many strong interests with the person, its hard for me to maintain contact with them. What do I talk about? How do I properly open up emotionally to them? Do they think I weird? Do I make them feel uncomfortable? How can I tell they like me? And on and on….Typical female events are also tedious for me, like Women’s Ministry. Sigh and Shudder. Bridal and Baby showers are ok, for a while. Did I mention I don’t like make-up and hair and other female stuff? πŸ˜‰
  • Fear and Anxiety as a Child: Most everything new freaked me out. Thunderstorms were a biggie.
  • Strong interests: Blogging about modest dress and headcoverings, pretty narrow interest field, huh? πŸ™‚ I have many others that I’ve maintained or let go of over the years. Thats enough for many other blog posts.
  • Clumsiness: This is something that my parents inadvertently helped me with as a child through ballet classes. The problem is, I can be graceful in ballet, but the rest of normal life, its a free-for-all on my poor body!
  • Jokes: Especially the kind where a person is appearing to be serious but are saying something funny. I cannot interpret it as funny. They have to apologize when I take it seriously. Puns are borderline. I have to think them out. I love irony or sarcasm, in print or on the movie screen. This gives me time to think it over. I used to think I was just gullible. It has been persistent, no matter how many times I try to overcome it!
  • Staring off into space: I need time to think and stare, sometimes out the window or at the ceiling.
  • Low-Energy: Real Life is exhausting. Naps Rule!
  • Auditory Difficulties: My hearing is fine, but the perception of what people are saying is difficult. Sometimes I can be looking straight at a person and focused completely on them, but then the sound cuts out for a few words in the middle of sentences. Restaurants are usually too busy and loud for me to have any meaningful conversation. Appleby’s is a nightmare! My husband is convinced I have near perfect pitch. I help him tune his guitar.
  • Attention Issues: This is because details fascinate me. I feel like a mouse in a maze for most of my daily life. To get the cheese, I memorize details of everything. Jeff calls this “Fly Paper Brain.” It all sticks! Of course, for Normals, they screen out most of this stuff. Hence why I get so tired…
  • There are many other small things that add up, too. Light sleeper at night. Insomnia as a child. Likes technology.

Well, if you made it this far, you deserve a gold star! Feel free to ask questions.

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13 Responses to “What Autism Means for Me”


  1. 1 Cathy August 30, 2007 at 8:08 am

    WOW! Reading your explanation and symptoms makes me wonder if I’m autistic! And I’m not making fun…I have trouble with all but about two of those things. Actually, I dread most social settings and large gatherings; maybe we should just meet for some one-on-one knitting? Getting ready to head out the door for groceries, but I want to reread that in-depth later.

  2. 2 Kim August 30, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    Thanks for the explanation. Sometimes I get lost in the medical jargon, so it’s nice to have someone explain about autism in everyday english! πŸ˜€

  3. 3 Christine August 30, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    Very interesting. Thank you for explaining this. I feel like I am reading about myself actually. But I suffer from anxiety and depression (that’s been what doctors have said for years). It’s amazing how many of your issues are exactly what I deal with on a day to day basis. It must be so challenging for you.

    thank you again for sharing
    Christine

  4. 4 Amy August 31, 2007 at 2:19 am

    I was nearly diagonsed with Aspergers, Instead it was bi-polar but so many things are similar. Making friends, groups, insommnia, sensory (particuarly sounds!)

    Thank you for sharing
    Amy

  5. 5 cbrunette August 31, 2007 at 7:52 am

    Bi-polar, depression, and anxiety can all be “co-morbidities” with Autism. I think all of those side-effects may be especially prevalent in women because we are wired and conditioned to live in a web of relationships. If our brains are not functioning properly in social cognition, then the distress exhibited in anxiety or depression may be more acute in our case. That is my unprofessional opinion. πŸ™‚

    You have to find and sit down with a professional who has a good track-record with Autism for them to pick apart the various pieces of your history and choose the right tests. I encourage you all to read more about it, even if you just think someone else you may know might have Autistic traits.

    ~Anna

  6. 6 Cathy August 31, 2007 at 7:59 am

    What are the treatment options for this? Other than counseling (which I already receive for depression/anxiety issues), I mean.

  7. 7 cbrunette August 31, 2007 at 9:08 am

    Ahhh…treatments….

    The way I view Autism is that it is not an illness to be cured. It would be like re-wiring my brain and changing who I am and have become. Yes, there are some difficulties or side-symptoms like depression that may need medication from time to time. But for the majority of what constitutes Autism, there is a strong need for accommodation instead of remediation.

    I view it much like blindness or deafness, where there are certain aids for folks who have these conditions but little way to fix it. [I’ll write about the deaf community and the new choices they face with implants…very fascinating!] They have developed a “culture” of their own. Many Autistics are doing the same thing online.

    There is a long, long way to go before Autism is accepted as a certain state of being/living within the broader culture. There are days where I wish I were more “normal” but then I think about how much I would have to give up. My vantage point is this: God wired me differently as a way to give a unique gift to the world. If I decided that was unacceptable, how could I do away with something valuable He has given me?

    ~Anna

  8. 8 Cathy August 31, 2007 at 9:55 am

    I guess I was just wondering if it would be worth my time to pursue if this might be at the root of some of my problems…if that won’t make a change I’m not sure that, for me, it would be worthwhile to go to all that effort. I’m okay with being “different” from others, but there are areas in which my hang-ups do cause actual difficulties in life, such as trying to keep up with housework and such.

  9. 9 cbrunette August 31, 2007 at 10:11 am

    Housework frustrates me, too! πŸ˜‰

    Some folks can “self-identify” as having Autistic tendencies and live rather well without an official diagnosis.

    For me, I wanted to have the “stamp” to have some credibility when sharing with others.

    ~Anna

  10. 10 Cathy August 31, 2007 at 11:11 am

    I can definitely understand wanting the credibility aspect. It was like that for me with the lupus until the “official” diagnosis.

  11. 11 Mitzi August 31, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    I was a teacher for several years, and was fascinated by my autistic students. I felt like I had things in common with them (difficulty socializing, wierd sense of humor, intense interests). I did not date until age 26, and I studied male psychology and physiology before I started! I’m glad being strange was not “pathologized” (made into a disease) when I was a kid. I just call myself “socially developmentally delayed”. It isn’t bad- fanatic focus is great in lots of professional fields- it is just different. If you find things to do that use the strengths of the syndrome, you may just find it God’s gift to you in an odd sort of way.

  12. 12 Nicole September 3, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    Thanks for the great posts! I felt like I was reading about myself too. And I agree with you that this is just a way of being. I’m not sure if I ever want to know… I’ve lived this long with it just fine and I like who I am, and manage to find people who put up with me and who are probably autistic too, lol.
    Thanks for the great blog. πŸ™‚

  13. 13 Kristie Morales September 4, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    I have found the posts on Aspergers very interesting! like some other have said, I feel as if I were reading about myself, and my oldest son. I have heard of it briefly before, but not into detail. My son has been in and out of counseling, because of various behaviors, and one dr diagnosed him with depression and ADHD, but when I took him back to his old dr, the dr said no,there are some other issues going on. (he was also tested for auditory comprehension probs, but the testing found nothing wrong..) I won’t go into detail here, its a long long story with the struggles. But anyway, the only person who has brought up anything with Autism is my husband who has been around people with it. I would love to figure out what is wrong, just so I will know what approach to take with him, and help him embrace who God made him to be. But that can take sooo much time and sooo much money (even with insurance)

    Anyway, thanks again for writing about all this!

    Love and Prayers,
    Kristie Morales


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