close-up of two people's shoes as they stand in front of one another, with fall leaves at their feet

When I was being evaluated for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at the age of 20, my doctor asked questions to make sure my diagnosis was ASD and not social anxiety disorder. But both social anxiety and ASD seemed to resonate so strongly with what I had experienced in my life.

Now I am seven months out from receiving my diagnosis. I am more self-aware than I ever thought I would be. I think I understand why I identify with both ASD and social anxiety. There are two ideas I have that differentiate ASD and social anxiety: for me, ASD can be too little social awareness, while social anxiety can be too much social awareness.

As a child, I never understood the social rules some others seem to take for granted, like why I was expected to hang out with the kids at parties and not the parents. This fits my ASD diagnosis, but as a child, I didn’t feel the anxiety that comes now. I was oblivious that I was breaking “rules.”

Now I am older and understand more of these rules and can fit in to my surroundings very well. I learned through being left out of groups. I learned through seeing people who were once great friends of mine maturing in these “weird” ways I could not seem to grasp and leaving me behind.

As an adult, I place that feeling I had with those kids growing up in the middle of all my social attempts. I am constantly worried I might lose one of the real friendships I am finally learning to manage successfully. This leads to anxiety, almost to a major effect at times.

The good news is this: I am learning how to manage both. Every day is like an adventure — I learn a new social rule and push through some social-related anxiety. It has definitely been a challenge, but I am learning how to accept myself… slowly, but surely.

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Thinkstock image by Everste


Sometimes people are caught off by my blog’s title, “Anonymously Autistic.” People ask me if I am Anonymously Autistic because I am ashamed of my autism. Please allow me to explain — I started my blog anonymously because I love my privacy, not out of a shame for my autism. In fact, I quickly realized I needed to share so others could see autism from my perspective. Some days suck, but overall I love my life and would never want to be “normal” or not autistic.

I generally keep to myself with personal things. Speaking about matters of the heart has never been easy for me, so I don’t. My blog became a place where I do something completely out of character: share my feelings.

For me, it is easier if the people around me don’t know my feelings or else they may ask me about them, and I would be forced into unwanted conversations. I enjoy talking about my passions and other matters, but my feelings and emotions have always been sacred to me in a way.

The more I write, the more confident I get in speaking about autism. Most of my problems come from whenever I choose to share face-to-face. I hide my emotions and keep things to myself. People don’t get to know me and don’t see my autism.

I’m always calm and composed (because I always run away and hide before I fall apart). It looks like I’ve got it in control. Nobody ever sees me struggle.

People say these things in the nicest ways; they have no idea how much their words hurt or how wrong they are.

You’re not really Autistic right? It’s a misdiagnosis?”

“Asperger’s? You are too nice, you definitely don’t have that! I can’t believe it.”

“Are you sure? Have you gotten a second opinion?”

“You are not Autistic.”

“There is nothing wrong with you. I think you are great!”

“We’re all a little different.”

Or when I ask for accommodations for sensory troubles:

“Everyone likes natural light. It’s not fair to give you special treatment.”

“You complain too much. Just relax.”

“I know you said you wanted to meet in a quiet space, but I think you will love this bar.”

“It’s not that bad. Look, everyone else is having fun.”

“You are overreacting.”

“I think you can do it, if you try harder.”

“Don’t make excuses.”

Worse is when they say nothing at all. When you say something, they give you a look. Doubt. I recognize it now that I’ve seen it over and over again.

The face people make when they think you are telling them a decelerate lie. It is a look that stops me cold in my tracks and is the reason I’ve stopped mentioning my autism in face-to-face conversations lately.

I have a theory that if people saw a unicorn in a field of horses, they would mistake it for a white horse because they do not believe unicorns exist.

I am feeling a bit like that unicorn. People can’t see me because they don’t know Aspies like me are out there.

A unicorn, something that challenges their beliefs. I am right in their faces and they can’t even see me.

Follow this journey on Anonymously Autistic.

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Thinkstock image by cerenatalay

A young boy writes a book called ‘The Autistic Turtle’ to help explain Autism to his friends.

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As an Autistic person and autism advocate, my biggest dream is that someday Autistic people will be accepted for who they are. Some people try to “normalize” us. No stimming, make eye contact, ignore the sensory stimuli, no meltdowns or shutdowns, push through things, etc. It can be hard for some neurotypicals to understand Autistic people. Our stimming might seem “weird” to them.

I myself struggle at times when people do not understand or accept me being Autistic. I have had times where I have been frustrated with my friends and family members. Sometimes I even get sad because I feel so alone.

So why is autism acceptance important? Autism acceptance is important because Autistic people often struggle with social skills, sensory issues, meltdowns/shutdowns, energy levels, anxiety, flexibility, and other things. We might suppress our stimming to “look” neurotypical; we might suppress flapping and rocking that could help us calm ourselves down or express ourselves.

It’s important for people to understand that eye contact can be hard, and that we experience sensory stimuli in a different way. It’s important for people to understand that meltdowns are not “tantrums,” and that when an Autistic person is experiencing a meltdown or shutdown, often the best thing for the individual is to have love and support during and after the meltdown or shutdown. It’s important for people to know we often need routines, and some of us experience a lot of anxiety. It’s important for people to understand that nonverbal Autistic people can have a lot to say, and just because they are nonverbal doesn’t mean they don’t understand things or want to communicate.

By suppressing all of our difficulties, we end up not being our “true” selves because of the fear of being judged or misunderstood. I wear a “mask” out in public places all the time because I fear being judged. If only I could take off my mask, so I can be my true Autistic self.

My biggest dream is for Autistic people to be accepted. One day I want to be able to stim freely and be myself. One day I want to be able to take off the mask. Let’s promote autism acceptance. We don’t just need autism awareness— we need acceptance. Let the Autistic voices be heard!

Follow this journey on Ausomely Autistic.

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I always try to understand my son Griffin and the unique and beautiful ways he views the world. I admire his passion and caring heart. He likes to collect things, like yogurt tops. He was starting to get quite a collection recently. He would rinse them and then put them in a cup, telling us he was going to use them for an art project. He’s also big on recycling, so I suggested that he start putting the tops in the recycling bin so they could be recycled into new tops. But I couldn’t help but wonder where the idea for his unique collection came from.

And then an idea hit me…

One night when we had some friends over, I looked up and saw this: my own unique collection of coffee canisters.

Collection of empty Folgers plastic coffee canisters on top of refrigerator

I had to laugh and realized that I had my own reasons for this collection. I wanted to share some of the ways I use these lovely canisters. As you will see I prefer Folgers Half-Caf canisters, but — you be you! — and use whatever canisters you like.

We recently had a leak in a sink. What to do? Use one of our nice bowls? Oh, hell no! Canister please!

Plastic Folgers coffee can underneath sink

What about a unique way to store toilet paper and keep thieves away. Canister please!

plastic Folgers coffee canister filled with toilet paper roll

A spoonful of sugar? How about a canister full of spoons! Canister please!

plastic Folgers coffee can filled with plastic spoons

Oh where, oh where do I put my wet umbrella? On the wood floor? No way! Canister please!

Umbrellas in a plastic Folgers coffee canister

Normally I wouldn’t put salt in my coffee but where does one put their sidewalk salt? Canister please!

plastic Folgers coffee canister filled with sidewalk salt

Well, I think this helps me understand where Griffin might get his unique collection ideas. Hopefully it gave you some ideas, too.

Follow this journey on What Will This Day Bring?

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On Wednesday, at a National Press Club Meeting, vaccine skeptic and chairman of the World Mercury Foundation Robert F. Kennedy Jr., announced he would give $100,000 to the first person who can prove vaccines are safe for children and pregnant women.

According to a statement from the World Mercury Project, Kennedy “will pay $100,000 to the first journalist, or other individual, who can find a peer-reviewed scientific study demonstrating that thimerosal is safe in the amounts contained in vaccines currently being administered to American children and pregnant women.”

In his book “Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak,” Kennedy argued that thimerosal – a mercury-based preservative added to vaccines, which has been reduced or removed from most vaccines used today – causes autism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asserts, “there is no link between vaccines and autism”; the research that originally suggested there may be a link has been repeatedly disproven, and the doctor who authored the study, Andrew Wakefield, has his medical license rescinded.

The CDC has maintained that there is no connection between thimerosal and autism spectrum disorder. Since 2003, there have been nine CDC-related studies, all of which have determined no link between vaccines containing thimerosal and autism.

According to the CDC, thimerosal was “removed or reduced to trace amounts in all childhood vaccines except for some flu vaccines” between 1999 and 2001. The thimerosal was removed was a precaution, a way to limit children’s exposure to mercury. Now, in 2017, the only childhood vaccines that contain thimerosal are flu shots packaged in multi-dose vials. Thimerosal-free shots are also available.

Last month, Kennedy made headlines after he said Donald Trump had tapped him to head a new vaccine safety commission. Following Kennedy’s statement, more than 350 medical and professional health organizations co-authored a letter to Trump with evidence of the safety of vaccines, stating “Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are effective. Vaccines save lives.”

Photo credit: Daniel Schwen

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