Autism Spectrum. Stigmas? Smash Them.

10 things you should know about my Autism Spectrum Disorder.

There are so many stigmas and stereotypes surrounding disability and mental health knocking around within society today, especially Autism.

I got my official diagnosis after dealing with many mental health difficulties and a stay in a psychiatric hospital. I received the diagnosis of having a High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder condition, formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome…

…And I’ve found a really captivating way of describing my Asperger’s’ is using what the National Autistic Society say, and they say that: “People with Asperger syndrome see, hear and feel the world differently to other people”.

So, on that note; and in response to Autism Awareness Week 2019; here’s just 10 of the things that I’d like to clear up about my specific disorder.

(Just for a bit of background, a little while back; I conducted a survey where I asked the general public about some of the things that first come to their mind when they think of the word Autism- and this has formed the basis for some of the points I’ll be making in this blog.)

(1) It’s not a disorder, it’s just a reordering of my life

My Autism means that I process things in a diferrent way, and we all have our own individual ways of doing things. My order of doing things means that sometimes it can be really difficult to adapt to new environments and situations if I already have a routine or a process thought out in my head, and this can be a challenge, but it also makes each day exciting and diferrent to the last.

(2) Just because I am verbal, doesn’t mean I am not Autistic.

There has been a lot in the media with portrayals of those on the Autism Spectrum as being non-verbal and using hand gestures or vocal ticks to communicate. Although there are many people on the spectrum who are not verbal, I see myself as extremely lucky to be able to communicate through words. It can be difficult at times to find the words to express myself and communicate, but I find using an online thesaurus or a word chart of which there’s some amazing ones out there can really help me to pinpoint how I am feeling and make it easier for me to say what I need to say.

(3) I don’t have a special talent, but that doesn’t mean I am not Autistic.

You know, a lot of stigmas have been circulating around those with Autism as having an acute ability or special talent but for a lot of those with Autism, including me; we don’t have a hidden talent. We are just like you, and want to feel that way.

(4) I don’t have a sixth sense, but that doesn’t mean I’m not Autistic.

At times I would love to be able to see through walls or have super accurate hearing, I don’t, and I never will. I have the same amount of senses as the regular person. My senses just work differently. Some people on the Autism Spectrum also have a condition called Synaesthesia, and for me this means that I see sound visually as pictures, colours and shapes. With so much stimulus in the fast paced and bustling world, especially living in a big city where its constantly go-go-go 24/7; it can be tricky to cope at times. One way I’ve learnt to manage this is by conducting my brain to block and filter out what’s not important by prioritising and focussing my attention on what I need to do.

(5) I don’t want any special treatment because I have Autism.

We all need support no matter if you have Autism or not, and it can sometimes be quite tricky to work out how much support each individual requires. My support I think comes in the form of sharing my story and being open about the difficulties I face. Also, for me, I tend to focus on what I can achieve as oppose to what I maybe cannot or will never be able to achieve. I don’t want to feel like a sob-story that people feel sorry for me, or see me any differently, and many people with Autism also feel like this. People say a lot of the time all over the world that those with learning disabilities should be integrated into society and accepted. I believe one of the best ways of doing this is to treat those with Autism such as myself just like anyone else you come into contact with, as an average human being.

(6) I do feel emotions, and I do have Autism

People with Autism express their feelings in diferrent ways, and for me personally; it can sometimes be a challenge, but it’s so important I believe for people to remember that those with Autism do have feelings- we just need to be given the time to find methods of exploring our emotions that work for us. For some people with Autism they let their emotions out through creative methods such as music, art and movement; and for others they do so by talking. For me, I use a mixture of blogging, podcasting, multimedia design and public speaking. But every person is diferrent, and no way is wrong.

(7) I can’t be cured of my Autism

Autism is an example of a neurodivergent disability, and it cannot be cured no matter what experts say. However, it can be managed. I can condition my thinking and massage my brain into surviving in society, but it won’t magically disappear overnight. For some people medication can help to soothe the situation many with Autism face, and for others a mixture of therapy and intervention from support workers can help to aid their reconditioning. For me currently, after having a mixture of these in the past, I currently find that what helps me is sharing my story with others and inspiring the world to embrace Autism as oppose to disregarding those who have the disability.

(8) I can live an independent and fulfilling life if I am Autistic

This is something I actually hear quite a lot of the time, and i think it stems back to what is portrayed through various media platforms; where everybody with Autism either needs round the clock care or may be uncapable of living independently. Whilst a large number of those who do have an Autism Spectrum Condition do need this kind of support and are dependent on others to live and thrive; to put it bluntly, this simply isn’t the case for everybody. I see myself as an example of how a person who has Autism can thrive and live independently, I go to University, I cook and clean for myself, travel all over the place by myself, and you know, the list can go on and on and on. And a lot of people are very similar to me. I think it’s really important to remember that even though I am able to live independently and cope as well as I can; everybody with or without Autism needs a support system in place for if and when they may struggle.

(9) If I am Autistic, I must be an introvert and a loner

For the most part, I am an introvert and like spending time by myself; but so do a lot of people who maybe have or don’t have Autism too. I love being surrounded by people and have friends I can chill and meet up with, and I love getting out into the world sitting in coffee shops doing work. You know getting out into nature taking photos, going swimming and cycling and creating art in remote locations. Getting involved and networking with some amazing Motivational Speakers and Mental Health Advocates is also really important for me, and it helps me to get out into the world and make an attempt to thrive in my surroundings.

(10) If I am Autistic, I just cause problems

Honestly when I hear this, and I hear it a lot more often than you might expect, it really doesn’t surprise me anymore, because I believe that those who think like this and who have this mentality are the real problem, not those us with Autism. One of the causes of their thinking I believe is a lack of awareness and understanding. And maybe one of the ways we can break the stigmas surrounding Autism could mean having direct conversations with those who have these opinions; is to give them the opportunity to ask the questions and for them to receive open and honest and direct answers from those the condition affects. There will always be people who feel like this though; but maybe by stepping up more and doing this; people will think twice and feel more comfortable with understanding and accepting Autism, for what it is, and not what it is not. I think that this goes for any kind of issue in society today you know, Mental Health, Disability, Race, Religion, Gender and Identity, and it’s important to create these open spaces whether virtual within the media or face to face places to show that it’s okay to talk and share.

So… there’s my 10.

To wrap up this blog; I think it’s really important to remember that when it comes to Autism, each person has their own relationship with their condition, and the support they require will inherently vary.

For more information on Autism, there are some great websites out there such as

www.autismspeaks.org

www.autism.org.uk

I hope this blog has been a little bit of an insight into my Autism; and how you may be able to support those who have Autistic Spectrum Disorders.

Claudia Van-Nimwegen

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