January 14, 2019

There were a lot of things I didn’t realize as a teenager.

It wasn’t anyone’s fault. There simply wasn’t enough awareness about autism – true awareness from actual autistics. There’s more now, but still not enough, and I’m trying to help change that.

As a teenager, I didn’t realize how large the gap was between how I thought and how others thought. Maybe I could have learned social “rules” better if I’d asked more questions. Maybe others could have understood my preferences better, including why I sometimes broke social rules, if I’d recognized my differences and explained them.

I also didn’t realize how my sensory experiences affect every aspect of my life. Maybe I could have guarded myself better from overload if I hadn’t assumed my sensitivity was unreasonable. Maybe I could have used stimming more strategically for self-calming if I’d recognized the functional value of things that feel nice.

On top of all that, I didn’t realize how weak my “executive functioning” skills were, and I burned out trying to compensate with willpower. Maybe I could have learned methods to stay on track with basic daily habits, and handled other responsibilities better, if I’d recognized my need for external systems.

I sometimes wonder how my life would have been different if I’d realized these things. There weren’t as many opportunities to connect with other autistics online at the time, so the label of “autism” may not have helped me then. But it does today, and I think it would if I were a teenager today.

This post was inspired by a question on my “ask me anything” thread: facebook.com/534206893738169

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.