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.
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.