April 14, 2017

It’s Autism Awareness Month, so here are some things I didn’t know a year ago.

1. I’m autistic myself! I’ve always been so, but found out last summer and was diagnosed this year.

2. Autism is a superpower, because it means perceiving an abundance of sensory details and patterns. Some things are overwhelmingly beautiful.

3. Autism is a disability, because it means struggling to process all that information. Some things are just plain overwhelming.

4. Autism is a spectrum (“Autism Spectrum Disorder”), because it includes a wide range of possible symptoms. There are many different ways to “look autistic.”

5. Autism can be particularly hard to detect in females. It took another autistic woman to recognize it in me.

6. There is no consensus on what causes autism, or what (if anything) should be done to prevent it.

7. There is no consensus on what it means to be “high-functioning” or “low-functioning,” so what used to be called Asperger Syndrome (a.k.a. “high-functioning autism”) is now just called autism.

8. There is no consensus on how common autism is. Now that I understand it better, I see autistic traits in many people.

9. There is no consensus on whether this should be “Autism Awareness Month,” with a focus on addressing the challenges of autism, or “Autism Acceptance Month,” with a focus on celebrating the “neurodiversity” of people who perceive the world in a variety of ways.

10. Awareness & acceptance can be life-changing. Autism explains nearly every problem I’ve had in life, as well as most of my quirks – and talents, too! By understanding my limits, I can find strategies to work within them – and by understanding my unique abilities, I can make the most of them. I always felt like an enigma, but now everything makes sense… and I couldn’t be happier about it. 🙂

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.