How I Experience Autistic Joy
The new season of my favorite show just came out. As the main title appears, I’m so excited I’m bouncing, laughing, and widely flapping my hands. I’m so excited about the show that my family joins in on my celebration. My joy opens up a new experience for my neurotypical family. I feed even more off of their joy and I’m buzzing.
The world is a vivid, loud, and intense place. As an autistic person, I experience stimuli in extreme ways. The over and under-stimulation is very real in an autistic experience that can bring meltdowns and shutdowns. However, there are magic moments when I experience intense sensations of extreme autistic joy. My autistic joy is one of my favorite things about being autistic. It can be intense as a meltdown, but filled with overwhelming happiness and excitement. When I experience joy, I feel the excited vibrations throughout my body. To release the energy, I do what I like to call “happy stim.” I will jump up and down, excitedly flap my hands, sometimes even dance. I don’t see neurotypical adults experience or express joy as I do.
Many autistics have been made fun of and had to suppress their autistic joy. For many years professionals didn’t understand stimming. It was thought to be harmful and autistics were made to suppress their stims, whether the stims were happy or upset. Now with the help of the autistic community, stimming has become more accepted. However, many still don’t understand the difference between happy or distressed stimming. Stimming is important to my autistic joy. If I suppress the joyful stimming, the joy can turn into anxiety.
My special interests are one of the ways that I experience autistic joy. My special interests have changed over the years, but my current ones are Star Wars, fantasy shows/books, and learning about disability and mental health. My special interests will often bring me this intense feeling of excitement. I can be so focused on reading backstories about my favorite characters in Star Wars or organizing my bookshelves that I will lose track of time. I can feel a happy buzz throughout my body for a whole day if I am thoroughly engrossed in my special interest. I take fangirling to the extreme.
These interests have also helped me succeed in my everyday life. I’ve learned when it comes to work, I need to be in a profession that feeds into my autistic joy. I work as a freelance writer as well as a paraeducator for high school students with learning disabilities. I love that I’m able to learn and help teenagers who are neurodivergent with their school work. I’m able to impart some of my knowledge to young students who might not have someone who listens or talks to them. I also help teachers understand some of their toughest students that they have given up on.
My special interests aren’t the only thing that I’ve found that gives me energetic vibrations in my body. Eating my favorite food, playing with my favorite stim toys, and touching something that is very soft can all give me a spark of joy. I’ve been known to do a happy dance while eating a good steak dinner and stim dance for hours just to feel the movement.
The way I feel joy is an integral part of my autistic experience. It’s a beautiful part of being autistic and should be celebrated.