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Why Small Accomplishments Are a Big Deal to Me as an Autistic Adult

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It would be an understatement to tell you that I have struggled a lot in my life. I have always had the cards stacked against my success. As a child, I struggled with an inability to speak and communicate with other people in any sense of the word, to the point that I had been in pain for weeks without my parents knowing. As I described in my previous post, I was given a chance to learn to speak through an educational environment that was tailored to my needs instead of trying to support the unique needs of 30 kids at once.

I have come a very long way since then. Unlike “little me,” I am now capable of speaking to people, especially my relatives. I am very grateful that I have been given the chance to learn these skills; they have changed my life forever. But in spite of these achievements, I still have the world up against me, and I still have a very long way to go. Even as an adult, my difficulties with communication have significantly impaired me. I can debate for hours with my father, but I may be unable to mutter a few words to a stranger or even my brother whom I barely know.

I am capable of holding entire conversations with my relatives about politics, but simultaneously incapable of calling emergency services for help. Even as an adult, I still live in two divided worlds of communication. But if I have learned anything over my lifetime, learned anything from the pain I have endured and my achievements, it is that I can never allow myself to give up on my future. Last year I filled out my first medical form; even though I shook very badly from anxiety, I endured it and achieved something. I went for my last meningitis vaccine myself (though my parents drove), and I can now check out groceries by myself.

These are all very small achievements to many people, but to me, these are very important steps to furthering my independence and my abilities. While others may scoff at filling out a simple medical forum, it represents achievement to me. While others may not understand the small steps we can achieve, the little things are often the most important. After all, these small but huge things are what fuel me to keep going, and show everyone that I am not willing to simply “give up” to the low expectations of others.

It was expected I wouldn’t speak at all, but I did. It was expected I wouldn’t be able to graduate high school, but I did. And it is expected that I won’t be able to work or be independent, ultimately requiring residential care. But if my past shows anything, it is that I will prove those expectations wrong.

Originally published: November 29, 2019
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