I used to have such a problem making eye contact. I think it’s because I would be listening with such intensity that I had to focus my gaze at a point in the distance. It’s like with the words, I couldn’t have the intensity of the eye contact too. I’ve gotten so much better at looking at people’s faces that now I can maintain a gaze for several seconds. I have to admit that it’s incredibly intimate to look at someone’s face for so long and not be intimidated or creeped out. Why? Because I think that one’s eyes truly are the mirror to their soul.
Having a great memory system has also been somewhat of a burden. It doesn’t happen often, but I do get sudden flashbacks, and they can be very overwhelming.
One recent flashback I had was from school and the first grade. The teacher was very nice, but all her instructions were sung because it was a Montessori school. I was reminded of this at school when someone sang a little song in the same sort of way. It took me back there immediately, and I can’t say that it was pleasant. Thankfully, not all flashbacks are negative, and I get to enjoy lots of wonderful memories.
Right now I feel great about myself, but there are so many times when I feel like crap because I’ve done something wrong, and I’m getting yelled at for it. When it’s something any other 16 year old would get in trouble for, no biggie. But so often, it’s related to my autism. For example, when I repeat the word “Okay” over and over, and everyone is yelling at me to stop repeating, or when I cut an important piece of paper. These are times when I feel terrible about being autistic. I wish I could control these better and not piss everyone off.
It’s been explained to me that this where my anxiety/OCD and stims overlap, and that’s why they are trying to get me to stop; to lift the needle off the record, if you will, and form a different response to stress. But it’s so hard, and it also hurts my self-confidence. Very often, I want to yell back at people, “Is there anything I do right?” I am loved, but like all relationships, that love can be complicated. I hope that as I make my way in the world, I can get a better handle on my anxiety and allow myself a break from feeling crappy.
I have all of these so-called “symptoms.” Rather, I think of them as gifts. My interactions with my environment involve every waking cell of my body. This is why I shut down from time to time, and especially when I was a kid, I couldn’t handle all the connections and signals I was receiving from all the stuff around me. Over time, I learned how to turn some of those signals so I could focus like a neurotypical person. But I love it when I am home and can relax as an autistic.
I often don’t hear when someone says hi to me. It’s not that I’m ignoring them, but I simply have a delay in responding. People might think that I don’t know much or have rude manners, but I want to engage with them so much.
I get caught up and what’s going on all around me, and get distracted. Having sensory streams coming at me from all directions means I have to differentiate between a single person’s voice and all the background noises. It’s one of my biggest challenges still. I hope to get better at this so I can answer questions at work when it gets busy.
As someone who has had every sort of treatment thrown at them, I say don’t do any of these things! No child should be in 40 hours of therapy like I was. The most effective thing my parents did was to join me in cutting paper and the things I loved to do. It was the only way I knew to connect with the outside world. All the rest of it was irrelevant. Understanding that your child experiences the world very differently from you is the first step towards acceptance.
Sometimes I wonder what my childhood would have been like had I just been allowed to be able to do my own thing. Stopping my behaviors was the wrong way to go. Fortunately, I’m a pretty patient guy.