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I Have Autism. This Is Why I'm Lucky.

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I just read a blog post from Autism With a Side of Fries called “My Son Has Autism. This Is Why I’m Lucky,” so I thought I’d write one from the perspective of someone with autism.

Having autism means I’m lucky, but it by no means makes my life easy. I’ve had to deal with so much in my 17 short years — I’ve been bounced around schools that just didn’t understand autism. At each school, I’ve been bullied because I’m different, and I know that other people with autism have had the same experience. It’s not always the obvious stuff, like physical bullying and verbal attacks — it’s when people laugh behind my back after I’ve said something inappropriate. That hurts the most. Contrary to popular belief, I have a good awareness of the world around me — I’m just not good at knowing what and when to say things.

Despite all this, I am lucky to have autism. In my case, autism means I have an above average IQ. I am a member of Mensa, and I believe that every other person with autism is intelligent in their own way — they just have to be given the means to show it. I have an exceptional memory. I never have to learn definitions in physics or chemistry; I read them once or twice, and they’re in my mind until I need them in the exam.

I have special talents because I’m able to focus on one thing for long periods of time. My special talent is sailing. I got into the National Youth Squad in Laser Radials — one step below the Olympic squads. I’ve been to world championships. This was by no means easy, and I honestly think my autism may have made aspects of this harder for me. I went on lots of residential camps, forcing me to work as a team with people. This has made me a better all-around person because I was given the opportunity to practice my social skills in a safe environment. Sailors are mostly nice people, so when they learned I had autism, they helped me in social situations.

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I believe every person with autism has a talent — you just have to give them the means to find it. Then, you need to help them make the most of it. I’m a loyal friend; I don’t believe in saying I’ll do something, then bailing at the last minute, no matter how scared I am. I have some of the most amazing friends you could ever ask for — they point out if I’m annoying them (I’m good at this and working on it!) or if I say something inappropriate. They help me understand what I should have said instead. They’re always there for me, even when I’m upset or having a meltdown. They’ll just talk to me for a while until I calm down.

I’m lucky because I don’t care what other people think of me; I will always be my true self. Anyone who doesn’t like that can get out of my life! I’m good at watching how other people behave so I can fit in slightly more — but I always keep my quirks.

I am lucky because I have met people in my life who have helped me and have put their all into doing so because they saw my potential. I want to be like them. I’m never going to tell people what they can’t do; I’ll always tell them what they can. My friend and I want to sail a yacht together and do transatlantic and round-the-world races. We also want to use that yacht to take people with autism and people from disadvantaged backgrounds sailing when we’re not racing.

I think everyone with autism is lucky — you just have to look at things differently. I’m not saying it’s going to be an easy ride; it will be the hardest thing you will ever do. There are days I wake up and think, “I wish I didn’t have autism” because I just can’t grasp social things. But then something happens — and I remember just how lucky I am.

Hold on and let yourself shine through — don’t let the world change you into who you aren’t. I’m not here to show you how to think outside the box — I’m here to show you there is no box! I’m lucky in every aspect of my life; I just need to look at it differently. I love life just as it is.

Autism doesn’t define me. But it is a major part of my character and personality.

Originally published: September 16, 2014
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