Finding My Own 'Planet' After Receiving My Autism Diagnosis

102
102

Who am I?

That book “Tuesday,” how could it be called Tuesday when it was in fact Monday? It really annoyed me because it wasn’t accurate. The pictures in the book were equally annoying as they showed pictures of frogs flying. Frogs don’t fly, right?

I was having an autism assessment to try to finally get a diagnosis as an adult. It wasn’t just the book that annoyed me; it was also the picture on the wall of different colored houses. Not only were they different colors, but they weren’t even made of bricks. How could that be so? Of course I pointed it out to the doctor I was seeing.

How to answer his questions posed a challenge as I didn’t always understand what he was asking, and some questions I couldn’t answer at all. What is friendship? I don’t know, haven’t a clue. Is this something I am supposed to know? Do others who are not autistic know the answers to this question? Friendships are a complete mystery to me as I’m always on my own. If I’m in a social situation, I just stand around alone, feeling awkward, not knowing what to say or how to approach anyone. I don’t know how to make conversation. It seems strange to me that everyone is doing it, seemingly without any difficulty. How do they know how to do it and I don’t? Even children seem to know how to make conversation. I obviously don’t belong on the same planet, but which planet is my home? I’m different to others; that seems obvious straight away.

Being asked to make a cup of tea was also a challenge as there was nothing to use to make it. Apparently I was supposed to imagine everything I needed was there, but this posed another problem. If there isn’t anything there, how can I make it? It’s another impossibility.

It was a few weeks later that I had to go back for the feedback. I learned straightaway that I do indeed have autism spectrum disorder. It seems I have found my planet — the autism planet. I do belong somewhere after all. No longer a misfit or an outcast, I have found my home.

Does having a diagnosis really make a difference? Yes, for me it does. I can now understand myself better and why I am the way I am. I am vindicated; misunderstandings of the past are finally over. It wasn’t my fault I had no friends at school, and it’s not my fault that I am not getting to know others at church. I am special, unique.

Please don’t think I am weird if I do not interact like everyone else. Don’t ignore me. I would love to have friends who are willing and take the time to get to know me and accept my differences. I am still me, even if I am someone on the autism spectrum.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock Images

102
102
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Illustration of two women holding a boy's hands as they walk

When My Mom Had the Best Response to My Son’s Autism Diagnosis

2k
2k

When you tell someone your child has autism, the reaction can sometimes make things awkward. The response might be, “Oh yeah, my sister’s best friend’s little sister does, too.” Or it might include a story about autism that is full of stereotypes. Or my even less preferred reaction, a look of profound anxiety with no clue what to say.

The best response I ever received after telling someone my son was on the spectrum was from my mom. I called her as soon as we heard his diagnosis and was still coming to terms with it. She said, “I’m sorry you’re upset, but I’m not sorry he has autism.” There was nothing more comforting than to know someone accepted my child for exactly who he is. Honestly, we always knew he had quirks, and that is a large part of why we love him so much. Why should she be sorry because we had a reason for all those quirks now?

It’s been two months since my son received his diagnosis and I finally understood my son is still my son. Receiving confirmation of something we had long suspected did not change who he is or who he will become.

If I tell you my son is autistic, you don’t need to overshare or be anxious. I am OK, my son is OK, and if I share my son’s diagnosis with you, all you need to say is, “OK.”

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock Images

2k
2k

RELATED VIDEOS

TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Toys "R" Us to Offer Quiet Holiday Shopping Hour for Customers on Autism Spectrum

666k
666k

Toys “R” Us locations throughout the U.K. will be hosting a quiet hour on Sunday, November 6, for those with autism and their families. Stores will be opening an hour earlier with special accommodations meant to make holiday shopping easier for individuals on the spectrum.

As part of the shopping experience, lights will be dimmed and fluorescent lighting will be limited. In-store music will also be muted, and no announcements will be made. Stores will be offering quiet-zones for shoppers.

“Holding such events has given our teams extreme pride in reaching out to autism groups within the community,” Toys “R” Us marketing director Mike Coogan, said in a statement. “Making slight adjustments to stores and creating a quiet shopping period allows children and young adults to experience the fun in a toy shop, regardless of their disability.”

This will be the third year Toys “R” Us is offering a holiday shopping quiet hour. No comparable events have been held at U.S. Toys “R” Us stores as of yet.

Update: A quiet shopping event has been planned for those on the spectrum in the U.S.  A representative for Toys “R” Us told The Mighty, “We’re working on a plan to test these types of opportunities on a local level – pairing our stores with local organizations to create an event for kids with special needs and their families, and will also assess opportunities to scale it nationally.”

Photo Credit: Albert Herring

666k
666k
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

How Flo Rida and His Concert Staff Made a Wish Come True for My Son With Autism

302
302

young boy smiling at the camera

My son is a huge Flo Rida fan. He loves him so much he created a video dedicated to Flo Rida. In his video he told Flo, “I love your song ‘My House,’ but I want you to come to my house, Flo Rida.” He then proceeded to dance to a song featuring Flo Rida. His video ended up getting over 200,000 views and made it onto Ellen DeGeneres’ blog. Every day, my little guy would ask if Flo had seen his video. This is just a small depiction of how much my son loves Flo Rida. My son stated early on it was his dream to give Flo Rida a fist bump. He really hoped Flo Rida would see his video and he would end up getting the opportunity to give him a fist bump in person.

Last week, Flo Rida had a concert at the Washington State Fair. My mom surprised my little guy with tickets to the concert. I reposted my son’s video in hopes it would get to Flo Rida. The day of the concert, I heard from Flo Rida’s bodyguard’s girlfriend. She had seen the video and she loved it so much she told me she would do everything in her power to connect my son with Flo Rida. It was extremely last minute and Flo Rida was on an airplane, so she couldn’t make any promises, but she told me she would do her best.

female security guard posing with young boy at concert

My son was overcome with joy when he arrived at the concert. He is on the autism spectrum, and he often listens to Flo Rida’s music to help himself mellow out. As soon as the music began to play at the concert, you could see the amazement and pure joy in his eyes. We were seated on the floor in row 17. These were great seats, but not close enough where we could get close-ups of Flo Rida. In the middle of the concert, Flo Rida came off the stage. I immediately took my little guy and ran towards Flo in the hope he could get a fist bump from his hero. Unfortunately, the crowd got out of hand and we just missed him, but this is where things changed in our favor. In the hustle, we ended up getting ushered into the third row. My little guy and I got to finish the concert extremely close to the stage. If you could have seen my child’s face, you would have been in awe. His face could have lit up a room!

flo rida taking a selfie with fans at the washington state fair At the end of the concert, Flo announced he would take selfies with the audience. I knew this would be my son’s chance to get his fist bump, but the problem was security was only letting the front row get selfies with Flo. I pleaded my case with a wonderful security lady, who happened to also be a grandma. I think she could tell just how much this meant to both me and my son. She told me to go through and she hoped my son would get his wish. I ended up having to try and get through another security guard, who was not as generous and absolutely refused to let us through. The original security guard could see what was happening, and she went out of her way to come towards us to tell the security guard she had given us clearance to get through. This lady was my son’s angel. She made his wish come true! My son ended up getting his fist bump from Flo Rida, and he also got a selfie. I just cannot express how grateful I am to the security guard at the Washington State Fair. She helped make a little boy’s wish come true!

musical artist flo rida

My son’s night of excitement did not end there. Flo Rida’s bodyguard called us just as we were leaving the fair. He told me his girlfriend had just got a hold of him and told him about my son. He ended up sending a picture from Flo Rida to my little guy and he promised Flo would personally watch my son’s video. In addition, he told me he would send a package from Flo Rida to my little guy. Flo Rida’s bodyguard and his girlfriend did not have to do this, but they did. They are busy people, but they took time out of their schedules to try and make a little boy’s dream come true.

I love my son more than words can say. He has come so far in his short life. My son is resilient, and he hasn’t let a diagnosis define who he is. This is why I wanted his dream to come true. From a special needs mom, thank you to the security guard at the Washington State Fair from the bottom of my heart! To Flo Rida’s bodyguard and his girlfriend, I am beyond grateful to you both for making my son’s wish come true! In the words of my son, “Flo Rida now knows who I am and I got my fist bump!”

Lead image via Eva Rinaldi / Wikimedia Commons

Follow this journey on Diary of an Autism Mom.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

302
302
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

What May Be Happening When an Autistic Person Appears to ‘Go Somewhere Else'

380
380

Here’s a riddle to solve: I am not an island, and yet I am surrounded by water on all sides. What am I? I am just a person, swimming through this vast ocean that we call the universe. Einstein himself describes the passing of our lives as a river, and an ocean current keeps the features of that metaphor. G.W. Swain says that autistic people can be considered the birds in an ocean life system, holding their breath before returning to the surface for air, then diving back down again.

I want to use the premise of “no man is an island” and the ocean analogy to explain something that very few people have been able to shed light on from an outside perspective – the detached, unemotional-appearing nature of autism that often features in autism awareness films to dramatize the condition. Dramatizing is perfectly fine of course, but one should consider its limitations.

The apparent lack of emotion and detachment is not who we are. It is just an image that is projected on the outside. Rose King spoke at a TED event and famously said that there is a second, private world for autistic people, separate from the one we all share. It is here that emotion, attachment and most processing takes place.

We form attachments like everyone else. Imagine a boat on the surface, connected to the sea floor by an anchor. This connection is a hand guiding us into the shared world, but it connects people and places to our inner world as well. And that world is often not shown on the outside. For nearly everyone across the spectrum, there tends to be a difference between the world we perceive and the world we are able to respond to.

Please remember, we have feelings just like everyone else, and we want to express them. What value does any emotion, positive or negative, have if it remains inert in the mind? If anything, the stigma surrounding autism makes it more difficult to express emotions. We all create a reality together by letting emotions from our minds into the wider world beyond. But how can we be expected to add our emotions to that reality if we are regarded with suspicion and fear when we process them in the way that works for us?

When we in the autistic community appear to “go somewhere else,” that’s often what we’re doing. We’re going to a quiet place within to listen to the emotions and process them. So don’t be afraid of us if we look distant and removed. We just have to go somewhere a little further out to truly experience that which makes this world, this ocean, worth sharing: intimacy.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

380
380
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Why I Love Traveling the World as Someone on the Autism Spectrum

107
107

I am on the autism spectrum and have always loved traveling. When I was a little boy, my first time on a plane was flying to Disney World with my father.

Traveling on the autism spectrum may be easy for some individuals with autism and difficult for others. Some may be scared of traveling, flying, bus rides, trains, etc. For me, traveling at such a young age gave me the experience I needed in case I ever wanted or needed to travel when I got older. Now that I’m in my 20’s and have extra money to do it, I love to travel.

I’ve been everywhere. I went to Disney World a few times, including a visit there with my buddy in 2015. I’ve taken bus trips to New York City. I went to Las Vegas, where I saw Shania Twain, which was the greatest moment of my life. I hope to visit many more places as I get older, including a few visits to California, back to Vegas a few more times, and many more states in the US. I’d even like to take a trip to Canada, as a lot of people I admire in the entertainment business are from Canada. I’m proud of how many places I’ve been to in only 25 years — including one trip overseas.

To all of you on the autism spectrum who are afraid of traveling or want to travel, don’t be afraid. Sometimes it’s hard because of the sensory overload, but I take deep breaths, stay calm, and don’t panic when under pressure. I go to bed at my usual time and make sure to have downtime when needed.

I recommend picking destinations based on your interests. My choices are based on pop culture, sports, Disney parks and other major tourist attractions. I pick places to eat where I know I will like something they have on the menu.

I’m so glad I was able to start traveling at such a young age. I can even travel without the support of someone. When I went to Vegas, I navigated my mom and I through the airport because she didn’t know how to do it. That made me proud.

Traveling to other places is a privilege, and really exciting to do. I believe it’s important to get out there and travel the world while you can. I’m grateful to travel any chance I get.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

107
107
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

7,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.