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10 Things I Wish People Knew About My Autism

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There are so many different myths and misconceptions about autism, so here are 10 things I wish people knew about my autism:

1. I am first and foremost a person.

I am not a diagnosis. I am not autism and then Lottie. I am Lottie, and I have autism. Ask me what kind of language I want you to use. Some of us like person-first language, so person with autism. Others like autistic person, and it is very upsetting to us when you don’t use our preferred language. But also respect our choice of language even if you don’t agree with it.

2. I do not achieve things despite having autism.

I achieve things with my autism. Who could say I would have done all that I have without it? My autism has never held me back and therefore my achievements have never been despite my autism. However, they are not because of my autism. They are because I worked just as hard as the next person, and my autism was just, well, it was just there.

3. Please avoid asking me what it’s like to have autism.

I can explain exact things like what it feels like having a meltdown, but when you ask me to explain what it’s like to have autism, my answer will be “it just is.” It’s like me asking you what’s it like to live without autism. You’ve never experienced life any other way and therefore it just is. To help us and be our friends, you don’t need to understand what it’s like to live in our shoes and why we do what we do. You just need to accept that this is the way we live and that it makes sense to us.

4. When I am having a meltdown or shutdown, I have no control.

When I become overwhelmed, I have no control over my actions. It’s like a little man has taken over your brain and is now controlling you. You know what’s going on, but you can’t stop it. Please understand how frightening this is for us. We can’t process any more information at this time, so please avoid giving us extra instructions.

5. I can hold down jobs.

I am perfectly able to get and hold down a job just like you. I may struggle more with the social part of having a job due to communication difficulties, but that doesn’t stop me being a productive member of the workforce in whatever job I choose to do.

6. If I try to explain something about my autism, listen to me.

My autism is my autism. It is completely different than anyone else’s autism. Therefore, if I’m explaining something to you, please take me seriously and listen to what I have to say. Don’t just assume you know autism because your friend’s brother has it or you watched “Rain Man” or “Adam.” If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.

7. I am just as capable as you of being in a relationship.

My relationships may be different than most, since I’ll need to talk to my partner about things neurotypicals just “get.” But that doesn’t stop me from being in a relationship. I can be in a relationship, I can get married and I can have kids just like you. People with autism just need to be given a chance, and they may need you to completely rethink what being in a relationship is like.

8. I have the same feelings as you.

My autism makes it harder for me to express and understand my feelings, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have them. I still feel happy, sad, angry and frustrated. I am still capable of love and hate. I just struggle to express this to you, and I sometimes struggle to recognize it in myself. I still have the same sexual desires as you.

9. I do not need to be cured.

Autism is just a different way of thinking. I do not need to be cured; I need to be accepted for who I am and I will flourish.

10. If you want to talk to me, speak to me, not to whomever I may be with.

I am able to talk to you about anything. If you want to know me better or just want a conversation with me, then talk to me. I know about myself better than anyone else, and I can talk for myself if you want a conversation. My friends and family are not with me to be my voice; they are there to be my friends and family.

Lottie Harland.1-001

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Originally published: December 11, 2015
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