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When People Say 'You're So Functional'

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“Oh, but you’re so functional.”

I get this a lot as an autistic woman. I feel they want to say “normal,” but no one would ever accuse me of being normal. I have been accused of not being autistic, of abusing myself by “hiding my symptoms,” and of being “not really autistic, you don’t struggle enough.” I have been told I must be this functional because of help. I have been asked what therapies I got as a kid, which treatments I got. No one believes that I was never treated at all. When my parents tried to get me diagnosed, they said “Sorry, but she’s a girl and girls don’t get autism.”

The truth is, I do struggle. My senses often overwhelm me and cause me pain. I wear sunglasses basically all year around now I have the confidence to do so; before that, I just got sore eyes. I can’t stand clubbing and I need to greatly mentally prepare for concerts. If someone I don’t know touches me, especially my neck, I completely freak. The lightest brush of a hand can even cause me real pain sometimes if I am caught totally off guard.

As for my social skills, they were never the best. Luckily I am a nervous talker. I talk pretty much non-stop because I am pretty much always nervous.I also talk a lot once I am totally comfortable with a person. My constant talking, though often deemed “weird,” helps cover up my lack of social skills. It helps me fake confidence and act as though I know what I am doing in social situations. Eye contact has always been a pain too, but then I learned to fake that as well at a pretty young age.

I could go on, but basically I have issues with my autism to this day. Being an Aspie girl is hard. People still ask me “how did you learn to cope?” since I am very verbal about the fact no organizations or doctors ever helped with my autism. Only one person really put the time and effort into helping me with my autism, and that was my mum. With the publication of certain books I won’t name, there’s a lot of attention towards autism parenting and how it can go wrong. But my mum always got it right with me.

Growing up, my mum was my hero, not that I ever really showed it back then. In all honesty I was pretty ungrateful. But I was lucky enough to have a mum who put her research in, who looked into every book you have ever heard of about autism parenting, specifically for Aspie girls. We have a wall to wall bookcase with one shelf just on autism alone. She worked bloody hard for me, and taught me that I could do the same. My mum put a smile on through all of it, and I watched her and I learned. I learned to pick myself up and always be brave and put on a smile. I learned that whatever struggle I had, I could overcome it by myself if I had to, and I was never afraid to tackle things by myself because I knew she was always there.

There are plenty of methods autism parents use, all with different degrees of success, but my mum took her own route of stern support. She’s as scary as she is warm and kind, and always gives me a straight answer. She won’t sugar coat things for me, and I have always preferred that. Now I am a strong Aspie woman, able to face the world by myself. But whenever I need a shoulder to cry on, or someone to just complain to and whinge when it all gets too much, she’s there. I talk non-stop and she never ever stops listening.

So if you want to know how I am such a functional Aspie woman, it’s because I had a strong neurotypical woman showing me the way. Thanks, Mum.

Getty photo by DGL Images.

Originally published: April 10, 2018
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