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Autism – can you at least try to..

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Well meaning people tell me to exercise my brain

I know I’m not alone being told that maybe I should try without some adjustments. To kind of exercise my brain and maybe get a little better at certain things. Increasing my tolerance for noise, for example, by not always using my headphones. Some well meaning people have told me I need to build up tolerance. Otherwise I will end up not tolerating any sounds at all. I get the idea that exposure can be a strategy if there is anxiety for certain sounds involved.

Autism and sensory sensitivity is not something you can train to go away or to tolerate better

But my sensory sensitivity is not something I can expose myself to to make it go away. It’s always there and aids like headphones prevents my brain from being easily overloaded. Maybe I could have done without headphones for a while in a noisy sound environment. But at what price? Using up a lot of energy to filter out disturbing sounds can result in not being able to do more that day. Or, to end up in meltdown or shutdown later. But you don’t see that. All you see is a person who seems to function well without headphones.

Autism is not social phobia

I sometimes get told that I should be out a little more around people, for example, go shopping etc so that I don’t become completely isolated or shy. Again, I understand the idea of exposure when it comes to anxiety in eg social phobia. But I don’t have social phobia. Not as described in the DSM. I am not afraid of social situations. They just take a lot of energy from me because I don’t read the social game the way neurotypicals do. My brain gets completely exhausted trying to interpret different codes, signals and emotions that people send out. Possibly that in turn gives me anxiety. But it’s not anxiety in the first place that dictates that I prefer not to meet so many people.T

How to help autistic people

The best way to help an autistic person, imo, is to encourage them to learn to identify their needs, to express them and to ask for help dealing with them in a way that is best for them. You wouldn’t ask someone who uses a wheelchair to come up to practice the 100m sprint without their weelchair. Why is it so hard to accept differences when it comes to the brain and things that are not immediately visible? Why so many opinions instead of asking how and why certain aids such as headphones for example, are helpful for an autistic person? Don’t assume that an autistic person can handle something well just because you don’t see an immediate reaction. The reaction may come when you are not looking.

More nuanced knowledge about autism needed

Better and more nuanced knowledge of autism is needed to prevent others to push themselves into a template they don’t fit into and the consequences of that. If my experience can contribute to that, well I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was worth my suffering, because I think that would just sound cheesy, but it does give it a new meaning. For me, that meaningfulness has to coexist with sadness and anger over what could have been. But perhaps mostly over what could have been avoided.

Do you want to see what other autistic people have to say about this subject, click here where I first posted this text –>

Thank you for reading.

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Autistic Burnout

The jeans and the patch in the t-shirt itch. Hair feels electric. My whole being feels like a great itchy discomfort. The humming noise of the bus threatens to burst my eardrums. The air is so stuffy. All scents seem amplified. Damp wool, breaths, rubber, perfume. A wall that pushes me into a corner.

The memory of Friday’s disco goes on endless repeat in my head. The guy I’m in love with who chose another girl and tap danced right in front of my eyes. The lump in the throat. A funny feeling of having been cheated without understanding how and why. The music that rang in the ears and everyone talking around. The body that screamed escape but was forced to stay. How I pretended to be interested in terms like mini, midi and long skirt.

The memory is mixed with all the impressions from this morning. My family’s sounds and smells they give off just by existing. Sounds of sticky feet against plastic mats. Scent of eggs, hairspray and dads aftershave. The heat steam from a curling iron. I hate the feeling inside me, just wanting them all to disappear and leave me alone and in peace.

Once at school, I am greeted by a sea of ​​stares. They feel like laser beams. I have no shield. Even though it should be impossible, since there are so many voices, I still make out nuances, whispers, giggles. It’s like I have an extremely sharp camera in my head that insists on documenting every detail even though all I want to do is curl up in a little ball and scream. (Although that, to be honest, is an after-the-fact construction by the adult who writes this text.) Now and then I can’t think like that, I’m busy with all the impressions.

“You have a real Colgate smile”, Grandma says, “that will get you far.” So I smile. The body tenses like a shield. In the classroom; clearing of throats, sneezing, chairs being moved and people coughing and breathing loudly. Pencils scrape, erasers squeak. I look around. Don’t understand why no one reacts. All sounds are amplified. As if someone turned up the volume.

It’s an English test. I steel myself. Biting my cheek and doing my best to shut out all sounds. Squinting through bright fluorescent lights that make the eyes water and translate the Swedish words into English. The test is corrected there and then on the spot and I I score 100%.

The next day I can’t get out of bed. I feel sick. But I’m not sick. Not physically. No fever. No sore throat. It’s inside me. Like a chafing and an endless fatigue that makes me barely able to move. I just know that if everything doesn’t just go black and quiet soon, something inside is going to explode.

What I don’t understand then, is that everything already had exploded. Several times. All the time. That the explosion was inside me. An implosion. That the fatigue I experienced was a result of everything being too much for too long. That all impressions, demands and my constant attempt to fit in had itś price. That Colgate smile, as grandma called it, together with the unbroken facade made me periodically end up in autistic burnout not understanding why. No one understood. Since no one knew I was autistic.

But that’s how it is. When things are too much for too long, it doesn’t work anymore. Thatś the case for all people, autistic or allistic. But for autistic people, just existing in a neurotypical world is too much to begin with. Itś like you start off with minus fifty points in a game where everyone else starts at zero. Then add the extra layer of navigating and trying to perform with everyday life as well and you get the perfect formula for a burnout.

If you want to hear other autistics experiences of this you find it here where I first posted this text

Thank you for reading.

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You dont ‘t look autistic

Is often one of the first things someone says when I tell them I’m autistic. Surprising and annoying often said with a positive undertone. As if it were a compliment.

I’m used to similar comments. When I first fell in love with a girl when I was eighteen, people often said “But you don’t look gay”. And that undertone of something positive in that statement. As if I could at least take comfort in the fact that I didn’t look gay .

All people use stereotypes to some extent to navigate. It is easier for the brain if certain things can be placed in compartments. Farmers are one way, hipsters another etc. When we do that, prejudices are also automatically formed. There is nothing strange about it. We all have prejudices. For a hipster, it may not do much to stand for certain features because they are not a vulnerable group. On the contrary, they represent high status in society.

This is not the case for autistics or LGBTQ+ people. It is still negative in the eyes of many to belong to any of these groups, not to mention being both autistic and LGBTQ+. When you say “you don’t look autistic or gay” with that underlying positive tone you’re not only undermining who I am. You also make me understand that it is something negative.Maybe you think you’re comforting me, making me feel included. But the result is the opposite. Why wouldn’t I want to look autistic or gay? Like it’s something bad?I

f you’re going to necessarily conflate my appearance with being autistic or queer, then say “congratulations, you really do look autistic/queer”. Like that’s a good thing. Like that’s the best thing in the world. Because it is . For me. Because that’s who I am.

If you want to hear what other autistics have to say about this, you find a lot of comments about that here where I first posted this text

Thank you for reading.