Posted by: E (The Third Glance) | April 2, 2014

April Autism Acceptance Series #2: My Own Autism Acceptance

When I was little, I liked to spin in circles. I would spin in circles until I was too dizzy to stand, and then I would start spinning the other way instead. I could do this for hours, and I loved every minute of it. When I was a little older, I learned that it wasn’t ok to do that anymore. Big girls didn’t spin. We didn’t flap our hands. We didn’t obsessively read everything we could find. We didn’t squeal with joy when we did something we loved. We didn’t run away and hide under the chair when there were people around. We ate what was on the plate in front of us, even if it was so awful that we couldn’t chew and swallow it. We wore clothes that hurt us, and we had to look at people in the eyes, even though it made us completely unable to concentrate on the words they were saying or what we wanted to say. I learned that if I said anything or put up any fight to anything that hurt me, I would be punished. I learned that if I didn’t look at someone properly, I would be punished. I learned that if I talked wrong, said the wrong words, or at the wrong time, or said too much, or said too little, that people would get mad. I learned that no matter what I did, I was going to have done it wrong. When I a little older, I didn’t know that autism existed, but I did know that I wasn’t like the other children. And I knew that whatever made me different, made me wrong. And it was my sworn duty as a member of the human race, to hide any trace of it, so that I didn’t appear wrong. If I messed up, I knew, there were dire consequences.

It wasn’t until college that I found out what made me different had a name. By that time, I knew autism existed. I thought I knew what it was, in a vague sense. I hadn’t ever seen Rainman, but I had heard a bit abut autism, and I knew it was bad. There was a girl who was mainstreamed just for homeroom in my middle school, who everyone said had autism. That was all I knew about it, and I knew it was bad. So when I was first asked if I was autistic, my immediate answer was “no way!” For you see, I had spent the past 19 years of my life working with every ounce of my being, to hide it, with only marginal success. In a way, when I really learned about autism, I started to realize that it made sense as it applied to me. After all, autism was wrong, and so was I, so that was ok.

It took me a long time to realize that being autistic, it wasn’t all about being “wrong” and having a name for it. I thought “ok, now that I have a name, I can fix all the wrongs” – not that I hadn’t tried to fix everything for my entire life already. I started reading perspectives written by autistic people, and seeing how they viewed themselves and the world. I realized that the framework to interface with the world that I was forced to work within growing up just didn’t fit with the way that my brain processed information. It’s like trying to interact with a computer by writing in a programming language that doesn’t have a compiler. You can write all the code you want, but without the proper compiler, it is never going to run, and all you get is gibberish and frustration. Reading other autistic people’s writing helped me to realize that my fabled “fix”, wasn’t what I thought it was. I wasn’t buggy code, it was much different from that. I began building a new framework for interfacing with the world. I learned that I wasn’t wrong, just different, and I needed to learn a new programming language that worked better with my built in compiler. I started to accept that my quirks, my sensory issues, my passions, and my fears, they were just a part of me that needed to be respected and worked with.

In the 5 years that have passed since I learned that my quirks had a name, I have learned to accept myself. And I think, in all honesty, that the reason I am surrounded by such wonderful people, who accept me the way I am, is because I accept myself. If I lead, others will follow. Sure, I spend most of my day in my office not talking to people. I wear the same type of clothes every day. I eat very specific food. I jump at the slightest noises. I flap my hands and tap my feet and wring my fingers when I’m stressed. I curl up into a ball and rock when I need to. I have a great job, doing research that I love. I have wonderful friends who accept me with open arms. And I still love to spin in endless circles. That is me, autistic and happy, and on this journey of life just like everyone else. And that is what autism acceptance is.

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Responses

  1. I’m so happy that you’re happy now. Your future is very bright ❤️

  2. Wow, you rewrote a childhood full of being wrong. That is something most people can’t do, period. You did it while fully embracing what makes you unique. Kudos!

  3. Spin away my dear! You got this and you’re great!

  4. Beautiful.

  5. Thanks for sharing, great job

  6. It is not easy to write the facts the way you did. God bless.

  7. I always loved spinning when I was a kid, too! My favorite thing was, if there was a hill, to start at the top of the hill and run spinning down the hill until I collapsed in a dizzy, happy heap. I also love rides that spin, but I can never get anyone to go on them with me. My favorite is a ride at Six Flags that is like a pendulum that is swinging back and forth while also spinning!

  8. Reblogged this on TAG: The Autism Gathering and commented:
    Autism acceptance is more than a feeling, more than an action, more than a month, and much more than a day. It’s a story, it’s a lifetime. From The Third Glance:

  9. I love this so very much. I have been trying to figure out how to work some honesty about this aspect of myself into my blogging. This helps me understand that maybe the first step is to accept myself – thoroughly. I loved to spin as a kid too!!!!

  10. Thank you. For telling me that the first step is accepting myself. Just what I needed at this point on my journey.

    I loved spinning as a child too!!!

  11. Excellent post. Very insightful into the nature of autism acceptance and doing great in spreading Autism Acceptance Month. I think I sould perhaps talk about mine on my blog.

  12. I used to hang out in the basement where my Dad’s spinning chair was, my Mom used to tell me that if I kept spinning on it the top half of the chair would unscrew and pop off with me on it. Not that it ever stopped me

    I graduated to being that one kid on the berry go round that was laughing like a maniac while everybody else was pinned to the wall from the g-force. Oh and then there was that teacup ride in Disneyworld… my Mom could only stomach about 2 rides, I must’ve had 5, maybe 7, I honestly forget. It was magical!

  13. “I learned that if I talked wrong, said the wrong words, or at the wrong time, or said too much, or said too little, that people would get mad. I learned that no matter what I did, I was going to have done it wrong. … It took me a long time to realize that being autistic, it wasn’t all about being “wrong” and having a name for it. I thought “ok, now that I have a name, I can fix all the wrongs” – not that I hadn’t tried to fix everything for my entire life already.”
    Yes.

  14. I find i have a hard time being me after so much indoctrination. I am working to discard it It is hard work but good work. Such freedom. Like taking shoes off that are too tight worn for too long.

    Also i find my indoctrination has unfortunate side effects. Women especially do not not find it credible that i have ASD as i am a good actress. So when i fall apart ( return to my natural behavior) from stress they first look shocked and then disgusted. I must be doing this for attention ( I hate the attention) or some other drama queen stuff. It is hard being disbelieved.

  15. You write so beautifully about your experiences. I’m really enjoying your blog. I’m so pleased with how the world has changed in accepting diversity of all kinds. I was a miserable, bullied kid with no understanding of what made me different; my daughter is a happy aspie with great friends.

    BTW, my daughter & I have just discovered hammocks. There’s nothing like a swaying hammock for sensory integration.


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