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When People Call Me 'Particular' as Someone on the Autism Spectrum

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Yes, thank you, I am. But don’t for a minute think that is because I am deliberately being difficult or childish or selfish. Assume instead that I am aware of my challenges and that I and my family have suffered at times because of these qualities. Assume instead that I am doing the best that I can to fit into the groups of people I’m in and to meet the basic expectations of what it means to be human and interact with other humans in a meaningful and understandable way.

Yes, I’m particular. That’s because I know what my limits are. Unfortunately, one of the most important of those limits is that I don’t do well with anything above mild chaos. I try. Life can often be chaotic, as living with other people requires me to live with and roll with some chaos. Other people’s needs interact with my self-maintained mental and physical order. Knowing my limits means I need to control the things I can control. The number of errands I do in a day. The number of interactions I have in a day or week. The length of time I can handle being in a loud, large venue with people I don’t know. Where I have my belongings put in my house. How long I can entertain and how many people that will involve. And so on.

I have to decide what activities I can participate in regularly. I never got my children involved in all the things most children in our culture do, because I could not handle the stress that would come with the endless practices, travel and parent volunteering. In the same way, I evaluate carefully whether I can volunteer at all or for the same amount of time as another person. Most often, the answer is no. I can do some types of volunteer work and find ways to help other people, but they aren’t going to look like what the average person can do.

If I don’t have a basic routine and protocol going most days, and most weeks, I will eventually lose it. I will melt down, cry, explode, get depressed and feel horrible about myself. I don’t want to do that to my family and friends. It wouldn’t make sense to push myself that hard and end up a mess.

So yes, I am particular. That’s because I’m using all my skills to compensate for my weakness, so I can be a functioning, caring human being most of the time.

Being seen as particular seems a small price to pay.

Getty image by Olivier Le Moal.

Originally published: February 24, 2020
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