This train of thought dawned on me when I once again mentally toyed with the idea of explaining what Autism really is. As it stands, the only working explanations are cold and hard definitions. But we'd be fools to think that this gives a correct representation of the emotional experience (and hardship) that lies within.
I've come to the conclusion that even a man like me, who spends hours
every day pondering upon the truths of the world we live in, can't even
come to a solid representative conclusion that perfectly embodies and
visualizes this handicap. A handicap that I, myself, am suffering from.
Truly I, being a man who has his way with words AND suffers the
condition first hand, must be the most well equipped person to perfectly
convey this perspective?
Actually, no. Not really. Not at all, in fact.
You see, all I can really explain is how life as an autistic person has
been like for ME. Especially in manners of my limitations and the direct
consequence of my handicap where my disabilities stem from. I can not
explain to you how my autism is like. I can only explain you how my
concentration issues, which is the specific handicap I suffer (not in
the ADD trend. Completely different, in fact. Ill address that later),
has affected me and continues to do so.
There is but one smaller, but still equally important part where pooled
knowledge may return similar results for some. And that is how the
'outside world' views and treats us.
We've slowly crawled past the phase in society (some may argue we are
still in with our legs and feet) where misunderstanding has lead to us
physically and mentally suffer for it.
If I were to name these Milestones, the one we'd be in now would be
where society is treating us as a strange creature that "we" do not
understand. We are afraid to interact, fearing we would do something
wrong and cause harm. I understand that this disposition, deep down, is
based on good intent.
Is it the right thing to do though? Ah... I want to say no, but I don't
want to come across as though there has been no progress and people are
doing more harm than they did if they would just abuse us. That is not
true. Caution and respect is always good, but sometimes treating us as
strange creatures means that we are not treated as what we all are:
I am not going to pretend that I have the solutions for these problems.
Maybe my vision on these problems is skewed, inappropriate or just
wrong. But hey, I'm just a guy writing this shit. Not some big time
Another, more unified experience is the road to a professional career.
There are some people who have gotten really shafted by their handicap,
that they are incapable of pursuing their dream because of this. My
heart is with them, and I hope they find something else in life that
makes them feel accomplished or fulfilled.
But for a lot of Autistic people who, like me, experience almost no
physical limitations and no mental limitation in the branches that only
require my strengths, there is another problem.
Just to paint a picture, people like me are actually capable of pursuing
a fulfilling career in the branch that they desire. They have the
skills required and their handicaps are not a factor.
For example, my concentration handicap means that I can not filter
sounds (not even in conversation) meaning that everything audible is
being processed by my brain. Coincidentally, I have a widened field of
view because my brain never learned that certain extents of my viewing
angle are not that useful. Meaning that I see a lot more but, again, and
processing more in a day. This often causes mental exhaustion at the
end of the day.
But my expertise lies in IT, computers and stuff. I wear headphones
where all the sounds contextually make sense and only play when
important for me. At the same time, being able to concentrate on one
screen instead of a moving world around me means that I can better
focus. In short, I may be a very capable IT employee.
But when you wear the stamp as an Autistic person, the companies will
always have a preconception. And don't try and hide that you are
autistic, because over here, that's a possible grounds of being fired.
Especially because the first three years that a company hires an
Autistic person, they get part of the salary paid back by the state.
So you are fighting a battle where you try to become the best you can
be, but are limited by the stamp that you can not hide without serious
repercussions on the long term. IF you already can hide it. It's
frustrating, and often results in perfectly capable Autistic people
having to work in Sheltered Workspaces simply because these exist on the
basis of employing handicapped people. But these companies rarely have a
branch in the expertise you spent your childhood and teenage years
getting good at.
If you'd ask me who the real authorities are on Autism... the closest I
can think of are Therapists and people who closely work with Autistic
people on a very regular basis. Maybe even some teachers in dedicated
schools. Simply put, people who's sole professional purpose is to
understand and guide people like us.
Because it's those kinds of people who have helped me become a social
creature, despite there being a chance I was going to become a reclused
and socially awkward hermit.
So when you ask us what it's like to be Austistic... We, or at least I,
won't hate you for it. But there may be a facepalm happening... Because
deep inside we feel like we know nothing of the grand scheme of things
on this topic. Just our own experience. And it feels inappropriate to
treat us as if we somehow know all the wisdom surrounding us, simply
because we are experiencing it.
Which is an interesting thing. Because we have learned where the
limitation of our knowledge lies. Yet people on a daily basis base their
presumptions on rumors and media outlets that by no means have a
guarantee to be reputable.
The sheer idea that we acknowledge that the information we have is not
representative of the whole picture, could further our collective
intelligence drastically as it leaves a desire to learn.
But instead, many people deem whatever amount of knowledge they have,
sufficient to form an opinion on it and base their actions on it.
The smartest thing I have learned to say in a conversation is:
"I am not equipped to confidently form or express an opinion about this, yet."