I Am Thankful My Daughter With Autism Was Accepted by Her Classmates


As my daughter’s first year of school comes to an end, I want to give a huge thank you to a group of people. This year was filled with anxiety, doubt and a lot of scary experiences. There were many times I cried for my daughter. I can’t even count how many sleepless nights I have had. There were many times she came home crying and anxious. For every good day she seemed to have two bad days. But there was a group of people who stood by her side through it all. That group of people was her classmates.

My daughter is only in school for 3 1/2 hours a day. A lot can happen in those hours and I thought about this many times during the school day. Being that she has been at home with me her whole life, I did not know how she would handle a group of 3 and 4-year-old kids running around.

You might think I’m being dramatic about my daughter’s first year of school — I mean, everybody does it at some point. Why should I be more anxious? Well, my daughter has nonverbal autism. Something that is still a little hard to say or write. Sending her to school caused me more panic attacks than I like to admit. With all the regular school woes, I felt I had them 10 times more. Would the kids accept her? What if someone hurts her and she can’t tell me? How will she adjust without me? Will she be able to learn new things? Will the school be calling me constantly to come pick her up early? That is just a handful of concerns I had.

Throughout this year, her classmates were consistent. I am not sure where to even start on how much I appreciate each and every one of them. They accepted her right from the start. They were her biggest cheerleaders and celebrated her every accomplishment. Somehow, they could pick up on her cues and body language faster than most adults. They knew when she was sad or needed a break. If she needed something they helped her. There was never a day when she wasn’t looked after by this fantastic group of kids.

Above everything else, they were her friends. I am sure it wasn’t easy to understand why she doesn’t talk or doesn’t always hug back. But they never stopped being kind to her. They didn’t judge, whisper or bully. I know they may think she doesn’t understand or feel the same way towards them — but I believe she does. They showed her what it is like to have friends and be included in a group. And for that I will be forever grateful for each of these children.

If every person could be like the kids in preschool this world would be a beautiful place. I am thankful they were something most adults cannot. I am thankful they were kind. Thankful they accepted her differences and treated her the same as they treated everyone else. I will never forget their kindness. I hope they never change.

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Nathan McConnell Creates 'Growing Up Aspie,' a Comic About Life on the Autism Spectrum


Nathan McConnell creates comics for people like him, and if you grew up on the autism spectrum, you might find his “Growing Up Aspie” illustrations relatable.

“I was diagnosed as a child with Asperger’s syndrome but due to lack of understanding, it was quickly forgotten,” McConnell told The Mighty. “So growing up, I went through years of extreme bullying, relationship issues with friends and others that often ended in catastrophic falling outs… This continued into adulthood and it wasn’t until my mother reminded me of my childhood diagnosis that I was finally able to look back on my experiences with that added filter and the years of frustration all just made sense.”

After getting a job as a Samsung representative, McConnell bought himself a Note 3 phone and began sketching. Through his sketches, McConnell got the idea for “Growing Up Aspie” and decided to tell his story in comic form.

While many illustrations in this series focus on McConnell’s experience, he also uses feedback from other people on the spectrum to inform his work. “Often times, I will read the autism message boards on Facebook for something that is a mutual experience to a lot of us or that desperately needs to be addressed for autistics who haven’t been through it yet,” he said of his work.

In the three years, he has created hundreds of drawings, which he recently compiled for his debut book “Growing Up Aspie: Year One.” “This book is a collection of my first year of comics and the deeper meanings originally posted with them,” McConnell said. “In this first year of comics, you follow me losing my last job, struggling to find a new one and finally fighting my way into a full-time position in my field after almost 10 years of trying and failing.”

Of his illustrations, McConnell has a few favorites, including “360 No Scope,” about how autistic people often see everything at once — something McConnell describes as “a blessing and a curse.” He is also fond of the very first comic he made, “Making Friends in Middle School,” which he wrote based on a memory from his teenage years when he says he realized he wasn’t quite like other kids.

The response to his work, McConnell said, has been amazing. “I’ve had girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, wives, moms and dads all write me thanking me for helping them understand the autistic person in their life,” he said. “I’ve also had autistic men, women, and children write me crying and thanking me for letting them know that they are not the only ones who have experienced what they have.”

While McConnell hopes his illustrations will help bridge the gap between neurotypical people and autistic people, one thing he wants the former to do is listen. “Listen to what we are trying to say and not what you think we are saying,” he said. “Many of us have had so many people listen to half a sentence and feel like they had our full meaning figured out. It’s a recipe for invalidation and misunderstandings.”

For more of McConnell’s work, visit the “Growing Up Aspie” Facebook page.

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Spending Most of My Time Alone as an Autistic Person Doesn’t Mean I’m Antisocial


I was diagnosed with autism in my early adulthood by specialists in the field. And then I participated in a series of experiments that my local university was running that led to my diagnosis being confirmed. I have autism. No matter how outgoing I sometimes appear on the outside, I have some very well-hidden coping mechanisms related to my autism.

I’m an adult now, and I’ve finished school. I learned something while I was in school. I learned that most conventional university experiences are full of noise, full of people and full of a crowd of young people who seem to me to move as one in their perhaps instinctual understanding of what a party is, or what a get-together is. I would be perfectly content if it was acceptable to sit at the edge of a party or just outside it, far enough from the noise, and be part of it by solitarily enjoying the proximity. I love to listen. So many autistic people I talk to want to be part of it, but just because we enjoy the fringes doesn’t mean we’re not enjoying it at all. I enjoy the fringes the most.

Now that I’m not required to sit in rooms with hundreds of people talking — listening to things my auditory processing issues can’t make sense of because the words can’t compete if the air conditioning is too loud, or someone is eating potato chips two seats down — I’ve found that I relate to the world in a different way.

I spend almost all of my time alone. Someone might assume I’m sick or maybe depressed. And I do have bipolar disorder as a comorbid diagnosis, which adds a new flavor to this, but frankly, I just like to be alone. For me, in these years since graduating school where I’m no longer required to be part of a crowd constantly, I’ve learned I am much healthier when it’s just me. I can keep my emotions regulated. I can recover from a meltdown — not only that, there are fewer meltdowns because I’m dealing with less at a time. This does not equal antisocial.

I’d also like to break down the stereotype that autistics can’t be charming. People like me who have spent a life writing scripts and watching how those scripts impact the people I say them to have developed quite a social lexicon — but it uses a fuel we don’t have, and the more we have to do it, the closer we can get to burning out.

When I was a kid, the way I’m living now would have seemed like a catastrophe to me. I wanted to be conventionally beautiful, be absolute “normal.” Not this balding 33-year-old semi-dude (nonbinary, but that’s another blog post) who spends at least 85 percent of his time alone. I used to dream of the day I would like going out dancing, going to parties, hanging out in large groups. The older I got, the less I wanted that. The older I get, the more content I am with myself.

I’m not someone who avoids social interaction at all cost. Theatre has always been my deepest interest, right from childhood when I couldn’t talk to people and it caused me so much stress and anguish that my dad started writing me scripts. They worked so well that I started writing my own scripts. I have this whole script system laid out in my head like a library of flowcharts. All the easier stuff, like pleasantries, are there. Conversations with cashiers about the weather or what holiday is coming up are there. And then there are the specific situations like an outing with a friend or a volunteer job. Those take time to create and are more involved. There are more variables and I write scripts for every variable I can think of. Once I’ve got scripts, I play the interaction in my head. Visually. This comes from theatre training too. How close will I stand? What will my hands do? What door will we enter? Walking, or standing still? What are the escape exits just in case? If I’m lucky enough to have been there before to have a visual picture of the place in my mind, it’s like playing Barbies in my imagination.

At the same time, no one is aware that I use so much mammoth preparation for something as small as a coffee chat. So when I get tired easily, or upset, or I need to step outside and collect myself before continuing, I’m always afraid they will smell the different on me. It’s reaching that point where pretending for so long has eaten away every last bit of fuel I’ve been putting into performing.

I fly under the radar easily. I have learned to socialize well, and as part of that I’ve developed an attitude of “I don’t care what they think,” which leads to genuine reactions on my part. Usually only people who know autism can see it in me at first glance. But just because I can mask the problems I have for short times doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared.

I’m going to write a part two about what I’ve learned about working and living as an autistic adult as safely as possible, as openly as possible. Because experiencing burnouts can change my life drastically.

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Why It's Hard for Me to Say 'I Am Autistic'


As an Autistic individual, I find it hard to tell people I am Autistic. Most of the time, I keep it a secret because some people are not very supportive when I reveal I am Autistic. In my last singing concert, I revealed to the audience I am Autistic. It was really hard for me. I was afraid I would be judged or shunned. To my surprise, people complimented me on my song, and I felt less anxious.

In my experience, telling someone I am Autistic can have both risks and benefits. If I tell someone I am Autistic, they might criticize or misinterpret me. They might not understand that loud noises are hard to deal with and that certain foods taste really bad in my mouth. But there can also be benefits, such as people being more aware of why I do certain things like cover my ears, eat certain foods, stim, etc. It’s also hard for me to say I am Autistic because of stereotyping and labels: “Oh, but I know an Autistic person and he never does that, you must not be Autistic.” Every Autistic person is different; each of us is unique and has challenges in our own way. We each have our own talents and special interests. In public, if I cover my ears, I worry, Will people stare at me? Will I be judged?

 

During sensory overload, I try to look OK, but on the inside, I am screaming. If there is loud noise and I cannot cover my ears, I will wince and have an upset facial expression. I cannot help it, it’s part of me being Autistic. I also sometimes will jump if startled, and this is also a part of me being Autistic. So if I say to someone, “I am Autistic,” I am being really brave. It is not something I reveal often, and it is hard for me to try to explain what it is like.

This is why it is hard for me to say “I am Autistic,” because the world can sometimes not be understanding of Autistic people.

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I Am a Strong, Autistic Woman. My Feelings Are Valid.


Is there something about being autistic (Aspie, as I identify) that tells certain people I don’t have solid feelings or thoughts of my own? It sure seems that way. I would like them to know it is quite the opposite. While I might seem more child-like at times, it does not mean I am a child who needs someone else to dictate my thoughts or emotions. And I certainly do not need my own feelings invalidated. No one does. It is, in fact, a very dangerous thing to do. Especially to young children!

Where does this idea come from, I wonder? Our differences as autistics do not make us “wrong.” No, they don’t; they mean we are in the minority, which is not wrong.

I would like more people, in general, to be aware of the fact that autism is a “different operating system” and not a defective one. It is not a disease. I have no business telling someone else how to form their morals and values, and I do not need them to tell me how to form mine. They are formed, and it is my business. I am a strong, autistic woman.

The next time anyone thinks it is their business to tell an autistic person how they should think or feel (or anyone, for that matter), think again. Is it your business? Why is it your business? Might you have something to learn from the person you are trying to change? Think about it.

 

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Dad With Autism Creates Autcraft, a Safe Minecraft Server for Those on the Spectrum


With over 8,200 members, Autcraft lets children and adults on the autism spectrum play Minecraft in a judgment- and troll-free space.

Read the full version of Dad With Autism Creates Autcraft, a Safe Minecraft Server for Those on the Spectrum.

Read the full transcript:

Autcraft Is a Safe Minecraft Server for Those on the Spectrum

In 2013, Stuart Duncan, a dad with autism, founded Autcraft.

Autcraft lets children and adults on the autism spectrum play Minecraft in a judgment- and troll-free space.

Today, Autcraft has more than 8,200 members.

Duncan noticed parents of children on the spectrum were looking for safe spaces where their children could play the game.

“Their children were being bullied on public servers because they behaved a little differently and were easily angered.” -Duncan, username AutismFather.

Users must submit an application to join and are required to follow a set of community rules.

“I feel very successful in what i’ve accomplished because i’ve seen children go from being shy and quiet to making friends…”

“And then off to making friends in the real world and finally to getting their first job.”

“The players are the community. It’s not just me or any other single person.”

“It’s everyone, and we’ve all grown to support and encourage and even celebrate each other.”

Duncan says he’d never leave the community behind and hopes to add more game types and servers.

“What I’d hope is simply to inspire other people to do as much as I have or more.”

Real People. Real Stories.

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