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My Memory as a Person on the Autism Spectrum

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Do you ever wish you could look back at some memories and see them like a video or even somehow re-live them?

I’m not sure if this is just part of my personal experience as someone on the spectrum, or if it is completely unrelated… or maybe it’s a mixture of different reasons. But I can honestly remember details I’ve come to realize none of my friends or family can.

Just to give an example, I will share one of my first memories: I can remember being in diapers. I was in my house as a child, clawing at the edges of the diaper I was wearing. The edges were made to be a soft plastic, but had uneven rough spots obviously, because I could feel them scratching against my thighs every time I moved my legs. So uncomfortable! I’m not sure exactly how old I was at the time, but I was probably potty-trained sometime around preschool age.

Most of the rest of my memories contain even more detail than that. I remember every one of my elementary school teachers’ names. Kindergarten through fifth grade, plus music and gym and the principal. Art is more difficult because there were two different people. I remember being on my neighbor’s swing set once, and one friend dared another one to eat a leaf. They tried to, but couldn’t swallow it. I was so curious, I tried a piece as well. I couldn’t swallow it either. It’s not that it tasted bad or anything, the piece just kept getting stuck in the back of my throat. Thinking about this now… we were so lucky we couldn’t ingest it! I have no idea how that would have affected our bodies, but I certainly do not recommend trying that at home.

So I can remember these details. I can remember where I was, who was there, where those people were standing, what we were doing, and the majority of who said what.

This memory can be an asset, one I wish would work more when I’m studying for school! It can also be frustrating. Especially when someone tells me important things, such as yes, they will help me with a project. Or yes, they are free on a specific date and time. I come back to them at that time, and they have completely forgotten. Or they insist they never said such a thing — again, probably because they’ve completely forgotten. And I insist they did. But because they can’t remember this conversation at all, they feel like I’m attacking them. I’m not trying to attack, although, sometimes I can be feeling frustrated. I’m simply telling them exactly what I remember, in detail.

I do love my memory most of the time. I feel like I can trust it, and usually I’m not second-guessing myself. It’s cool to be the one at the dinner table to tell stories, and everyone seems to be hearing them for the first time. On the other hand, it’s tough to constantly face situations where people don’t believe you.

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Getty image by vgabusi.

Originally published: December 3, 2017
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