Autism: A message to my younger self

Autism: A message to my younger self

I’ve just received a diagnosis that I’m on the autism spectrum (with some inattentive ADHD thrown in for good measure). When I think about the difficulties I experienced when I was young, I want to go back and give that confused, sad little girl a big hug. Here’s what I might say.

Hey kiddo, I know sometimes things are pretty rough. You think a lot about how you’re not like the other kids. You spend a lot of energy trying to work out what you’re doing wrong, and how you can fix it. Or even worse, trying to understand what’s wrong with you. But here’s the thing. This isn’t about ‘wrong’. It’s just about different.

You see, the majority of people are ‘neurotypical’. Their brains work in a particular way, and because they’re the majority, that way is accepted as normal. Then there are people like you, whose brain works differently. There are a lot less of these ‘neurodiverse’ people. And when a group of people are in the minority, they are often pushed to the outside.

Not everyone is mean…

Some people don’t understand anyone who doesn’t think and act like them, which can sometimes make them act mean. I know you’ve experienced this. You have been labeled ‘bossy’ and ‘boring’, too ‘serious’ or ‘sensitive’. People have said awful things or played tricks on you. But you know what? The only thing ‘wrong’ is that you’re not like them. And you can’t ‘fix’ that. If they don’t accept who you are, that’s actually their problem, not yours.

Image: Hand with rainbow painted on the palm and heart outlined in black. 
Purpose: Accept and love diversity.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

There are people out there who do think like you. When you find them, they will be good friends, because they will understand you – and you will understand them. There are also neurotypical people out there who are not afraid of different. They will appreciate who you are. You will make good friends there too.

Is autism a disability?

The world is not set up for the neurodiverse. This can dis-able you, making it harder to do things. Being out there can be overwhelming. You’ll struggle to find clothes you feel comfortable in. Many places you go to may make you wish you could go straight home because of the pounding music or bright lights or crowds that make it hard to think. And most people think adults shouldn’t wear or be fixated by sparkly things. Which is pretty sad.

Some of your communication skills are different to neurotypical communication. Not everyone wants to talk endlessly about musical theatre or golden era Hollywood. Not everyone has your passion for making the world a fairer place. And a lot of people are fixated on small talk. It’s a thing. This means sometimes conversations don’t work out how you expect. The discussions where you dive deep into topics you care about will be pretty few and far between. And don’t bother joining committees – they will never work for you because you’ll find the lack of logic and over-abundance of self-interest frustrating! (But that’s advice for a long way down the track…)

Or is autism a superpower?

So being neurodiverse can involve difficulties in dealing with the world. But you have a lot to contribute. You care very, very deeply about making the world a better place for outsiders because you understand what it’s like. (Don’t believe anyone who says people with autism don’t have empathy – the problem is you have SO much it can be overwhelming!) You have an amazing imagination. One day you’ll create worlds other people can immerse themselves in. And thinking differently is awesome. It makes you very creative.

So there you go – there’s nothing wrong with you kiddo. Ignore anyone who tries to tell you there is. You’ll find your place in the world, and friends who love and appreciate you for exactly who you are. The world won’t magically be fixed so it’s suitable for neurodiverse people, but you’re smart – you’ll work out ways to deal with it. The most important thing you can do is accept yourself. And one final thing: wear whatever sparkly things you want to wear. The world needs more sparkle.

Image: Outstretched hand with sparkling stars on the palm. 
Purpose: Let yourself sparkle.
Photo by Mink Mingle on Unsplash
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