Monday, April 25, 2016

Learning You're On The Spectrum

At some point in every autistic's journey, okay, maybe not those who were diagnosed from a very young age, but rather those who flew under the radar for a long time, we have certain "light bulb" moments that lead us to presume we're on the spectrum. Maybe it's the fact we've always been a little bit "different." Perhaps we have become more aware of social struggles as time goes on. Whatever the case, I'd like to talk about my personal experience.

I didn't first hear of Asperger's until I was 22 and in my second to last year of college, when I'd learned of student's kids who had it. Other than the fact it sounded an awful lot like "asparagus" to me, I didn't give it much thought. I knew it was a form of autism, but that was about all I knew. I had the common misconception that it meant one was "in their own world" as that's what I had been fed by the world.

Fast forward about 4 years. I was working as a Supported Housing Specialist for the same agency I currently work for. I had always known I was different, but had attributed it to the fact that I was diagnosed with ADHD at 25. Something still seemed to set me apart from others, though. My literal thinking. The fact I couldn't read between the lines. I had this genuineness and innocence about me. Jokes often went right over my head.

I don't recall how it happened, but I somehow stumbled upon a blog by a girl with Asperger's. As I read her story, I had that "light bulb" moment and thought, "wow, I could have written this!" The author talked about her sensory experiences. I had always had sensory sensitivities for as long as I could remember. She talked about other things which I could totally relate to as well.

Taking what I now knew, I began to research Asperger's. After taking online quizzes, and looking at lists of female traits, I was convinced that I too, was an Aspie! I spent the next 5 years involved in the community and made several friends in Facebook communities. Though nothing was set in stone, I learned that it was okay to self-identify until I got the answers I was looking for.

When it finally became official, on March 19, 2014, the first thing I felt appropriate to do was to share my story with the world! The pieces of the puzzle finally fit together, hence the name of my blog, "The Pieces Fit!" I had validation. My suspicions were confirmed.

Whether you have been suspecting for a long time that something is a little different about you, or you learn something later on that gives you an "aha!" moment, we all take different paths down the road to self-discovery. It truly is one of the most rewarding experiences one can live!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Traits, Traits, Traits.

You may wonder, what exactly is it that makes one autistic? The answer is, there are several traits which place one on the spectrum! Here, I'll outline the traits, or features, which I attribute to autism.

- Literal thinking: I interpret what people say word for word, in black and white.
- Not reading between the lines: I take what people say at face value and don't pick up on "hidden" messages.
- Genuineness: I am who I am, and don't know how to be any other way.
- Naivety: I am overly trusting and look for the good in others.
- Sensory sensitivities: I have strong aversions to certain tastes and textures.
- Logical thinking: I think about things in a methodological way.
- Misinterpretation: I sometimes take what others tell me the wrong way, and vice versa.
- Using humor: jokes often go over my head, and people tend to think I'm serious when trying to crack a joke.
- Youthfulness: I'm younger than most of my peers developmentally and mentally.
- Innocence: I have always had a sense of this, as I look at the world through rose-colored glasses.
- Attention to detail: I notice the little things; I stop and smell the roses.
- Gift for gadgets: I can figure out how things work just by taking them into my own hands.
- Zest for life: I live each day to the fullest and have fun every moment I can!

In a nutshell, that's the majority of the traits which make up my own unique autistic experience! What are some of your traits?

Saturday, April 2, 2016

What's It Like To Be Autistic?

A lot of people might ask, "what's it like to be autistic?" Well, I'll tell you about it! :)

While most people see the big picture, I take it in bit by bit, detail by detail. If I look at a picture of the beach, for example, the sparkling water might catch my attention first. Maybe it's the dog running after the frisbee its owner just threw. Perhaps it's the grainy sand. I notice the little things, and appreciate them.

I take things very literally. When I was 13, a girl told me that her friend stabbed her in the back. My response: "what did she stab you with?" Figures of speech, unless I've become familiar with them, will often mean to me how they sound word for word.

I'm honest to a fault, and often assume everyone else is the same way. While this is usually a good thing, it has gotten me taken advantage of. I've learned how to be more careful so that I don't run into the same problem in the future. I take things at face value, and am transparently, unapologetically me.

I have my special interests: Sonic the Hedgehog and Android. I've been a die-hard Sonic fan since I was 9, and my interest hasn't wavered over the past 24 years. You can often find me rooting my newest devices and flashing the latest ROMs. I'm a flashaholic (for those of you scratching your head, that means someone who likes to install the latest operating system, in excess) XD

So there you have it: a little glimpse into what it's like to see the world through autistic eyes. I wouldn't want to be any other way, as I wouldn't be me! Autism is ausome :)

Friday, April 1, 2016

Happy Autism Acceptance Month!

April 1st has come around once again! Yes, it's that day where we try to pull one over on our family and friends for some laughs, but that's not what I'm talking about. It's the start of another Autism Acceptance month!

Even though it's often referred to as "Autism Awareness" month, I'd like to start calling it "Acceptance" instead. Why is this? Well, we already have plenty of awareness, and while we could definitely still use some more on that note, I like to focus on the fact that even more importantly than awareness, us autistics need acceptance.

It's one thing to recognize that someone is autistic, whether it be the child having a meltdown at the grocery store, or the person who is socially a little uncomfortable. It's another thing to offer to lend a hand, or to include someone! Autism acceptance begins when the world celebrates autistics for the people we are.

When autistics are accepted, we feel like we're part of a team. We don't feel alienated, or like we don't belong, but rather like we can still be ourselves with no shame in our game. We have a sense of belonging; that we are appreciated. Isn't that what every human being wants?

My method of celebrating Autism Acceptance month is to write blogs like this one, to shout out about how the world can accept our neurodiversity! I wish to advocate and educate others on how they can show their friends on the spectrum that they appreciate them. What will you do to raise Autism Acceptance?