“Change is good”, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, “Why change a good thing?”, “How times have changed…”. I’m sure you’ve heard any of these phrases at one time or another. They may ring true at times, but they can be very cliché. However, if you don’t know already, the process of change and evolution proves to be even more of a challenge to people on the Autism Spectrum.
Let me ask you this: what kind of monumental changes have you seen in your life? Were they good, bad, or indifferent? Can you imagine what it feels like to be taken away from everything you know, knowing that you could never go back? Can you imagine living in fear of this happening on a daily basis?
This fear is felt by children on the Autism Spectrum, as well as their families. Sadly, the overwhelming amount of uncertainty for parents of spectrum children can often lead to divorce, or at the very least, separation. For parents, a diagnosis of Autism may open up a world of uncertainty; it may be the death of the dreams they had for their children.
As you may or may not know, children born on the Autism Spectrum need predictability, routine, and structure in their lives in order to achieve some sense of normalcy. If anything causes disruption, the Spectrum child can suffer agitation, temper tantrums, and even severe emotional meltdowns. When I was little, I was not immune. My own experiences have been difficult; I’d be lying if I said they weren’t.
The first major change in my life was my parents’ divorce. I was 5 going on 6 when this occurred. I used to dwell on what could have been or should have been done because I was desperate for answers as only a child and later a teenager would be.
The second major change was finding out just how flawed my relatives are. Not everyone brings a positive vibe to meet-ups and gatherings. Now, this was an internal change on my part, based on my own perception. It didn’t come to me all at once, but as it came, it was another growing pain that I had no way of avoiding.
While I was accepting the human frailties of my relatives, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as a teenager. This was an important event, because I no longer lived in doubt about what was wrong with me; at last, my mother and I had some answers.
I used to live in fear of the label of Asperger’s before I found the courage to turn my diagnosis into a positive circumstance after going to several conferences. Knowing about the tools that were finally available was a huge relief for Mom, and a reassurance for me, realizing that I had ways to ensure that there would always be a way to advocate for myself in the neuro-typical world.
The next great life-changing event that occurred was the first time I ever went to the San Diego Comic-Con in 2001. I spoke of this in one of my early posts in great detail. The reason this was so significant was that I had never gone to such a large event and felt like I belonged. I was washed over with the uplifting feeling of being in a place that felt like home. For an Aspie, feelings of belonging can be few and far between. Because it was so life-changing for me, I had to get the feeling back again, so that was the beginning of embracing my geekdom.
Some very bittersweet moments for me were the days that I ended the only two serious relationships I’ve ever been in. I mean, to have experienced what it was like to be loved by a woman is something that a lot of male aspies just die inside from every day they don’t have it. Even though they didn’t work out in the end, I made a conscious decision to take what I had learned from those experiences and become even more open to love.
Lately, I’ve had an uplifting of my inner being in a way I haven’t felt since I was exposed to the world of Autism Advocacy. In a nutshell, I am finally “getting it”. What does that mean? Well, for me, it means that all the advice that I picked up from school teachers, college professors, spiritual leaders, humanists, and my family has begun to resonate with me like never before.
Now, I don’t know if this is an Aspie thing or just a human habit, but I’ve been feeling like I didn’t completely understand all the ideas I’ve learned in my life. However, thanks to an insightful connection I made between mind, body, soul, and action, I had a moment of brilliant clarity.
As of this month, it has been one year since I graduated college. After a couple of false starts and a heart-to-heart talk with each of my parents, I feel like I have gained insight that has enabled me to do a lot of what I couldn’t do before. Long story short, I am consistent with my fitness regimen, I continue to eat very well, I’ve become more consistent and thoughtful with my blog, and I am reaching out to meet people with confidence and pride.
As I’ve said before, I don’t claim to speak for all people on the Spectrum, I’m merely telling the story of my own experiences growing up with Asperger’s Syndrome. There is no guarantee that what happened in my life will happen in another Spectrum child’s life, but I hope that with this story, I can inspire hope that negative feelings will pass, lessons will be learned, and how you chose to view a change in your life is entirely up to you. I’m proud to be where I am now, and I hope that other aspies learn to feel the same way in their own lives.