Beth Hiatt, 13, is the co-editor of her school’s magazine, and she recently wrote an article called “Let’s Talk About Autism” for the publication explaining how autism affects her daily life — and how she hopes to change the public’s perception of people on the spectrum.
After the piece was published, her mother, Beccy Hiatt, shared the unedited article with the popular Facebook community page and website, Autistic Not Weird, where it was reposted on Monday.
“If a friend/relative has autism, I really hope this article makes others understand things from their perspective,” Beth, from Cornwall, England, told the The Mighty.
In the article, Beth explains what sensory overload is like for her, and how she often feels misunderstood by others. Take a look:
Let’s Talk About Autism
I have autism. And I’m not ashamed to admit that.
It may come as a bit of a surprise to you, as the only autism you may know of being exposed to have is the low-functioning, severe, non-verbal kind.
I do not have low-functioning autism. I am a high-functioning autistic. There’s a whole spectrum of autism, (that’s why its full name is autism spectrum disorder) and no two people with autism are the same. Those with high-functioning autism/mild autism/Asperger’s syndrome do indeed face extremely different issues to those with low functioning autism, but there are similar issues affecting the majority of the spectrum that most people do not know.
Imagine having all five senses multiplied by one hundred. Many people with autism, myself included, have never experienced complete silence. We always hear the humming of the lights, or a bird outside, or even the sound of our own breath. We always hear this loud and clear, even in noise-filled crowded room. We feel labels in our clothes for the entirety of the day if they are not cut out, some smells and tastes make us literally unable to breathe. After this all gets too much (trust me, this usually doesn’t take too long for most) we can experience something called sensory overload. If visible to others, it probably looks like a tantrum (If you were wondering, I haven’t experienced full-blown sensory overload in years, but it still stands. You just learn how to repress it). However, we are not waiting to see if others respond. We want to get out of there as quick as possible, and we certainly don’t need judgement from others. I know our behaviours may seem self-injurious to those around us and it may seem funny to see a child who is not two kicking off and screaming, but who are you to judge? You have absolutely no idea what it is like.
Imagine being seen as rude when you do not get the gist of social norms. Most people are born with a general understanding but just need to be reminded to mind their P’s and Q’s from time to time. Usually, they are well-mannered by the age of four or so. Well… we are all still learning, whether we are eight or eighty. We do try our hardest to think before we speak, but we slip up quite a lot. Sure, it’s funny and cute when a three year old says something they shouldn’t, but when a nine year old accidently starts an argument between their family after they repeat something their parents muttered under their breath (Guess who did that, kids!), you’re seen as rude and inconsiderate…
Imagine struggling to catch a ball, hold a pen or do anything that involves fine or gross motor skills. We are the children that run with a gait, who are always picked last for the team, whose handwriting ranges from scruffy to illegible. The worst thing is, we are not often given help for this. As autism is known as an invisible disability, people think we are not trying hard enough, children laugh at our mishaps, we feel left out and like a failure on many occasions.
Although after reading this article autism may seem like a terrible thing to have that will ruin your entire life, don’t be fooled! All of the best scientists (Einstein, Edison, etc.) that changed our world and way of thinking drastically were rumored to have autism, along with such famous faces as Daryl Hannah, Tim Burton and the legendary Temple Grandin. We can go on to do the most amazing things if our self-esteem isn’t shattered.
Autism has no known cause and no known cure, but there is somebody who can make life easier for those who are diagnosed.
Autism Awareness Day is coming up on April 2nd, and you will probably be told to wear blue to make people more aware, but I want you to do more than that. Make every day autism awareness day. Try to make a safe space if somebody with autism is on edge at a party. Gently nudge them if they say something wrong. Pick them for your team if playing sports. Even smiling and saying hello in the corridor. Small gestures matter. Often, they can speak louder than words ever could. Please, be autism aware.
“I did not expect the extensive amount of likes and shares my piece would get, along with comments such as ‘enlightening,’ ‘insightful,’ ‘I have learnt so much from this’ and ‘this needs to be posted in all school magazines,’” Beth told The Mighty. “Of course I didn’t think this was going to happen!”
Chris Bonnello, founder of Autistic Not Weird (and a Mighty contributor), said about a month ago he began collecting “Awesome Stories” to counterbalance the negativity that’s so often associated with autism. Once a day, he features a post from a follower who is proud of something they or an autistic relative has done.
“When I read Beth’s piece I was amazed at how eloquently and confidently she wrote – much more so than me at 13,” he told The Mighty, “and I knew beyond doubt it would have a positive impact on autism awareness.”
Lead image via ThinkStock