As an autistic person I think differently from neurotypicals. I am a visual thinker, which means I think in pictures. I also remember a lot of things really well; for instance, I can go back to a memory and remember different people, sounds, colors, etc. I am also a literal thinker, which means I sometimes have trouble understanding things when they are unclear and understanding things like sarcasm, jokes and idioms.
Sometimes I feel some neurotypical people don’t understand this. They might think I am “making up excuses” when I don’t understand. I need clear instructions. I have had some neurotypical friends say that I’m not a child, and that I should be able to figure things out on my own. But this doesn’t work well for me. I understand best when things are clear.
This can be frustrating for me because I don’t feel understood. I become very anxious and I partially shut down. I may recover and act happy, but on the inside I am upset and anxious. I can lose trust with the person, and have anxiety about seeing them again. They may wonder why I’m anxious — it’s because there was a misunderstanding.
I used to be on a swim team. My coach said something about backstroke and I interpreted it as I needed to turn over on my stomach once I reached the finish line. I did this, and I got disqualified. One of the coaches told me, “Makayla, why did you do that?” I was confused and upset. At some point I almost started crying in the gym.
I also process things more slowly than some other people might. My teacher will sometimes ask me a question in class after watching an educational video, and I won’t be ready to give an answer because I’m still be processing the information from the video. Once I have processed the information, I will be ready to give an answer.
It can take me longer to learn things. I also like doing things over and over again, and this helps me learn. I am in a dog club, and I practice showmanship. The dog’s owner teaches me (she’s a great teacher, she is very patient with me) and I am currently learning how to hold the leash correctly and how to try to keep the dog’s attention on me. I practice the showmanship pattern over and over again, and I become more comfortable each time I do it.
This is how I think as an autistic person.
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Thinkstock image by DariaZu