To the Teen on the Autism Spectrum Worried About Your Future

Dear younger me,

I have so much to tell you about the future. I know that now your life is difficult. You feel you cannot share your feelings with anyone; you think nobody would understand. I know how you view yourself — filled with self-hate and judgment — and how you are victim to so many people: bullies, abusers and those who apparently hate you for no reason at all. I know these things because I have endured them, seen them through your eyes. But now I can see you through 30 more years of experience. I know who you become as an adult, and it will surprise you.

At 42 years old you are the same person but also quite different.

All those horrors you endured and continue to endure lead to wisdom, a strong will and enough resilience to deal with almost anything. You will come to embrace your qualities for the gift they are. You feel hated because of perceived differences. And you are correct in thinking it is unfair and cruel. You don’t deserve it. Nobody deserves that kind of abuse and discrimination. I have a saying I sometimes use — the most amazing adults I know were often not considered cool in school.

You have become an exceptionally cool adult. You are an author of three published books, you have an amazing job and you travel all over the country speaking about your experiences — people pay you to do this. The reason you write and speak is that you and I have a thing called Asperger’s syndrome. It is on the autism spectrum. Don’t be horrified though. Autistic people are often incredible.

I know how you feel like you have no friends and nobody to understand you, but now you have many friends — mostly autistic women like you. You and your friends get each other. Your social life now is everything you could have wished for at your age.

Another thing to know about autism is that there is a huge autistic community and groups of like-minded people who you will meet and interact with when you are older. This autistic community is where you will feel safest and where you will belong.

When you know about autism you will know the kinds of thoughts and behaviors you have are not “weird” or wrong. I know you are incredibly interested in politics at this time in your life and nobody wants to talk about it with you despite the fact it is the only thing which makes you happy. Most autistic people have these sorts of passionate interests. They are nothing to be ashamed of. In fact many autistic people make a career out of their passionate interests. A number of professors at university are on the autism spectrum, and their passionate interest is their area of academic expertise.

And I know you see yourself as “wrong” or “broken.” You are neither of those things. You are your own unique, perfect, autistic self, and that is a good thing to be. You do need additional help with some things. and there are things you won’t be able to do. but actually your autistic characteristics tend to be more of a positive than a negative.

School bullies are not such an accurate source of information about yourself. Often their behavior is in response to jealousy or their own feelings of inadequacy. Please don’t listen to them, and don’t let their attitudes about you determine how you see yourself.

You really are one of a kind. Your difference is part of what makes you amazing. And you are a great, strong, kind person, and you will learn to know that. Go well as I know you shall.

Yours in the promise of a better world,

The future you

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to your teenaged self when you were struggling to accept your differences. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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