Digital Tip Jar: @olivia_murphy123
I was diagnosed autistic at age 24, after suspecting I might be autistic for years. I've had cerebral palsy my whole life, but I felt different, more than physically disabled. I couldn't figure out why. However, the more I saw accurate representation of autistic characters with low support needs, the more I realized I related to them. Now having an official diagnosis, looking back, there are many specific characteristics and situations that are now clicking.
Fact: Vikram K. Jaswal and Nameera Akhtar state in their study published in Cambridge University Press called Being versus appearing socially uninterested: Challenging assumptions about social motivation in autism, “We argue that understanding and supporting autistic individuals will require interrogating this assumption, taking autistic testimony seriously, considering alternative explanations for unusual behaviors, and investigating unconventional even idiosyncratic ways in which autistic individuals may express their social interest. These steps are crucial, we believe, for creating a more accurate, humane, and useful science of autism”.
My Experience: When I was younger, I struggled with social skills. I always wanted to be social, but warming up to people took me a little longer.
What I wish others knew: We have social needs just like everyone else
Fact: According to the Cerebral Palsy Guide, it is estimated that 7% of children with cerebral palsy have concurrent autism, Although the degree to which they are affected can range.
My Experience: Growing up, whenever my parents asked whether I could be autistic, this was dismissed. The professionals assumed all of my differences were due to my physical disability and my learning disabilities. I was a very awkward child and sometimes had trouble relating to people. It took me an exceedingly long time to get comfortable with people. I avoided eye contact and liked to be hugged by anyone outside my immediate family.
What I wish others knew: Having cerebral palsy and autism doesn't make me any less valid ,
Fact: According to Harvard Health publishing, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is associated with differences in communication, learning, and behavior, though it can look different from person to person. People with ASD may have a wide range of strengths, abilities, needs, and challenges.
My Experience: I'm considered a level one autistic, which means I have lower support needs than others. For example, I went off to college; I was able to live on my own with the help of a personal care attendant who helped me with my physical needs.
What I wish others knew: Not everyone with autism is the same. What used to be classified as high functioning or low functioning is now referred to as high support needs versus low support needs. Where a person lands on the spectrum does not mean they are more or less autistic.
- There was a reason that I felt uncomfortable at my brother’s basketball games, and it wasn’t just that I wasn’t an athlete.
Fact: According to Psychcentral, nearly 90% of autistic people experience hypersensitivity. This is not exclusive to sound; it can also be from smell or touch.
My Experience: When I was younger, going to my brother's basketball games always made me uncomfortable. I had sensory issues associated with the sound of squeaky sneakers on the floor and the buzzer. I remember it getting so bad that I had to plug my ears by putting my fingers or a small piece of rolled-up tissue in them.
What I wish others knew: Every autistic person has different sensitivities and triggers and may deal with them differently.
Fact: According to VerywellHealth, many autistic people experience alexithymia, characterized by the inability to label emotions.
My Experience: There is a misconception that all autistic people are not in tune with their emotions and cannot express them. Before being diagnosed, I was guilty of believing that misconception. That could not be farther from the truth, but it took years of therapy to be in tune with my emotions, anxieties, and triggers.
What I wish others knew: The severity in which autistic individual struggles with their emotions can vary.
Fact: According to a study published in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders in 2013, 41% of autistic children report an unusual fear.
My Experience: For as long as I could remember, I would say I didn’t like dolls and was extremely creeped out by them. Especially dolls that looked more human than others. I remember being terrified of American Girl dolls because their eyes opened and closed. Little did I know that fearing dolls was a fear that many girls with autism have or have at some point in life.
What I wish others knew: Having uncommon fears is typical for autistic people.
- Special interests can evolve or stay the same.
Fact: According to The Autism Group, special interests can last weeks, months, or even years. Autistic individuals often use their special interests to start conversations with people, reduce stress, or help them calm down.
My Experience: When I was younger, my special interests tended to be dogs and horses; now, they are concerts, music, and celebrities. I only recently understood special interests. Don't get me started on Taylor Swift, Hunter Hayes, and Ed Sheeran. If asked about my favorite shows, I will tell you every random fact I know about them.
What I wish others knew: Special interests are different from obsessions or hobbies.
Autistic people often want to know everything about their special interest, and have little to no interest in topics that are not within their special interest. Typically the intensity of a special interest versus hobby or obsession is different.
- There was a reason that when people said certain things, it went over my head.
Fact: According to research, Social and communication impairments are essential diagnostic criteria for defining Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Difficulties in appreciating non-literal speech, such as irony in ASDs, have been explained as impairments in social understanding and in recognizing the speaker's communicative intention.
My Experience: Even though I have a good sense of humor, sometimes friends or family would say something here, and the meaning of what they said would go over my head, and I would take it.
What I wish others knew: I love sarcasm and use it often, but sometimes I can't tell when someone else is sarcastic.
- Autism has made me driven.
Fact: According to an article written by Amanda Morin, an Educational and Neurodiversity Consultant, "perseverance" describes a person who cannot let go of a subject or an idea. You may have heard it in reference to autism, but it can affect anyone. Repeatedly saying the same thing or acting the same way is a sign of perseverance. However, they can become stuck in their emotions, actions, and thoughts.
My Experience: Growing up, there were times when people would say that they didn't think I could do certain things because I was disabled and would struggle and give up. it was more about proving to myself that they are wrong rather than proving them wrong. Those people who have low expectations of me, made me a driven person.
What I wish others knew: Autistic people can be successful and use society underestimating them as a driving force to succeed and whatever they put their mind to. Being autistic doesn't stop people from going to college or having a full-time job.
- Autism looks different in women and girls.
Fact: According to the National Autistic Society, women don't fit the typical profile of autism, and we typically tend to mask more than men. Women also tend to be misdiagnosed. Additionally, according to Psychology Today, women often display an intense interest in a broader range of subjects, including how the mind works and people (especially romantic partners, "crushes," and celebrities). Autism often causes women to gravitate towards careers and hobbies requiring high levels of intense focus, such as research. Additionally, according to a 2022 study autistic woman have more emotional empathy than males do.
My Experience: Growing up, I would come off rude or blunt; I would tell it like it was without sugarcoating. I am an empath, making me anxious and emotional. Often, I am told to stop overreacting, leading to lower self-esteem. I always felt I was wrong.
What I wish others knew: Being autistic does not automatically mean we are never aware of the impact of my words on other people. While sometimes, we may not recognize how my direct words may impact someone, if I ever think that I said or did something wrong or hurtful, we feel terrible. Autistic individuals can be hypersensitive to others' emotions and sometimes feel responsible even when we are not.