My name is Justin. I’m 21 years old, a full time college student training to be a counselor. I like video games, swing dancing, watching standup comedy, and flying, whether at my simulator at home, or in real life.
I found about the news that I was diagnosed with ASD when I was in 7th grade, but my parents knew when I was in 5th grade due to a psychological assessment recommended by the child psychologist.
My particular diagnosis of autism is interesting, I live between being very neurotypical (normal) and being autistic. So essentially, I am the bridge between being your typical average person and being autistic. And here I will give you a small glimpse into what it’s like being in my shoes.
The benefits of living with this diagnosis are actually quite a bit. Not only has this help me to see an alternative perspective but be able to see both sides of the argument. When everyone is agreeing on one thing, I’m always somehow able to find the devil’s advocate and see how both sides could be right or wrong.
I’m also very determined. Living with autism has given me the focus needed to be determined enough to be able to succeed, or to at least survive whatever I’m going through. Living with this also helped me to be a lot more empathetic. When someone says that they have an emotional issue, I’m always able to stoop down and be able to feel what they are feeling and be able to be with them in their hurt, offering them guidance and counseling as well as a bit of wisdom to help them to see where they need to go to next.
Also, I’m more than excel in my desire for learning at whatever I am looking at, especially the topics that interest me the most. Sometimes I surprise my peers with how much I know in my fields of interest.
Problems, and what I personally struggle with.
Like many people, people on the spectrum also have problems. From the most minor of hassles, to the very serious ones like suicide and depression. I fortunately have had the privilege of living with family members that love me and are loving enough to love me as I am.
Now before I continue, please let me remind you that every single person’s problems are different. No one problem is too great or too easy to bear. For some on the spectrum, one of their very serious problems may include being able to socialize at will. Others could have more day-to-day stress, like finding a job, going to college, or even just trying to get approval from the parents. (I fit more into the latter half.)
Living with this diagnosis does not come without its challenges. More often than not I find myself very awkward in social situations, always missing the body language, talking over people or steamroll in the conversation in my favor. Eye contact was a learned skill instead of a more natural instinct. I also have my version of stimming sometimes.
My words are very inaudible. Sometimes, my train of thought does not make sense and people like my mom has to constantly ask questions to figure out what I am saying. Also, what seems like deep and intimate conversations or gatherings to me will be someone else’s surface level or acquaintance level talk. Sometimes, I do things without thinking, leaving the situation very intense and hard to deal with.
Living with ASD also means that I have to live with the things that it’s comorbid with, and for me, one big thing that I live with is anxiety. There were a lot of cases where anxiety was annoying in fact with how I go about my day to day business. For example, when I first found out I had a panic attack, I lived in constant fear and worry that this anxiety could affect me for the rest of my life. That was not the last time either, more panic attacks followed following my first one before my beginning of college year. They felt fatal, like someone was about to suffocate me. I thought I was going to live with this for the rest of my life. Little did I know, I was wrong. Support from family and friends reminded me that this is short-term.
Supports from Parents and School
So, growing up with problems, I’ve got most of my advice for my mother. My mum has taught me social cues, to have eye contacts and understand body languages. She spent much time in role-playing different situations with me in dealing with awkward and tensed situations. In fact, almost all of my advice came from my parents, due to the fact that they know me too well. And when I was struggling in school, my parents would encourage me and gave me full support. They had a sense that I was already trying my best and have exhausted all energy in school.
My father on the other hand, provided very big sense of financial support. He has been constantly working, so that every single problem that I faced could also be taken care of financially. My brother was still a little too young at the times when I needed support, and he didn’t quite understand that his older brother is not the perfect brother that he envisioned. Looking back on it now, I appreciated that he assisted greatly during the times of conflict.
Sadly, I did not get quite the same support from my schoolmates or my teachers at school.
Support during my academic school life was limited, teachers did not really comprehend the situation that I was in. I was raised in two local schools before arriving at the school that I would officially graduate from. Both of those schools left a lot to be desired. No one really gave me advice, and worst off I was not really a person that people were willing to support.
And sadly I was also a victim of bullying. Actually I didn’t know I was being bullied until a couple years later when a teacher of mine revealed it to me. I was very shocked and sad at that time. My classmates thought I was not “normal”, since I would say or do things out of the ordinary, have a hard time understanding jokes/sarcasm (which I still struggle with to this day) and some of those things I did were considered “different” from everyone else.
While I did have a lot of love and support to get where I am today, I will admit living with this symptom is actually a joy and a curse at the same time. As stated above, I have listed my good and bad experiences living with hints of autism, and to be honest, I wouldn’t mind living with this for the rest of my life.
My two cents for parents with child with ASD
So, the advice I would give for parents who have children with ASD going through similar situations is to work extra hard as a couple. Realize that you both are in this together taking care of your children (not just one person taking care of everything). Also, be aware of the possibility of spending a little more in the interest of the health for your child.
While it is amazing to go into this with an open mind, do realize that this open mindedness is key to being able to help your child who may have these issues. Also, realize that the problems your children are facing, great and small, will drain your energy. However, play it right and the child may help in the problems.
For those on the spectrum, no problem can be fixed with just money or fear. That would make them more resistant to whatever you propose to fix them. So I recommend a lot of empathy and understanding in helping them. Like most problems, this is a 2 sided problem and would require all sides to be on board with it.
Also, talk to the school and work out how to best accept the child with ASD. if the school refuses, find another one.
I wanted to share the experience of living with this condition not so you can force your kids to live in my shoes and be just close to being “typical”. Rather, this is to let you know that not all autistics are the same. Autism Spectrum Disorder is well…. A Spectrum. We have everyone ranging from very mild and high functioning, to severe and low functioning. I am here to give you a glimpse into what’s it like being on the higher end of the spectrum. But even then, I am only one of 4,000,000 autistics out there, and I highly recommend that my experience can give some hope.
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