The Mighty Logo

To My Roller Derby Teammates Who May Not Realize I Have Autism

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

woman with roller derby gear on

Dear roller derby team, 

Joining the team has been one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life. It has been physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting. Yes, yes, derby is that way for a lot of people, what’s the big deal? Well, it’s even more so for me. You see, I’m on the autism spectrum.

Basically, my brain works differently from yours. I can be socially awkward, I can experience sensory overload, and my gross motor skills are lacking at best. The lights buzzing, the sounds of the skates on the track, mixed with the feeling of my mouth guard and other gear can be overwhelming at times. Throw in trying to skate and hit each other on top of it all. Yikes! It’s like a bomb went off in my head that screams “danger!” But I’m out there trying my best.  

I don’t usually make it widely known that I have autism. There is unfortunately a stigma that comes with it. People usually say something like, “You don’t look autistic” or “You are just quirky.” I’m not sure what they think a person with autism looks like… and “quirky” can be just a nice way of saying “weird.” Some days I can function pretty normally, and some days going to the grocery store is like walking onto a battlefield. That being said, I have told a few ladies on the team about my autism for the simple reason that in playing a full contact sport, I might have a sensory meltdown and I don’t want people freaking out.  

I say all this because I want to say… thank you! Tonight’s practice was difficult for me. I was in pain and experiencing sensory overload. I was on the verge of a meltdown when one of you lovely ladies patted me on the back and told me I was doing a good job. It was a little thing, but it was enough to snap me out of my funk. Thank you! Thank you to the people who knew about my diagnosis and have always treated me like everyone else. It means so much to me to be accepted. Thank you to the coach who has told me dozens of time to hold my head up and get into my derby stance, without losing patience with me. I hear you, and I’ll get it one of these days. Thank you to the people who barely acknowledge my existence. I know you are in the zone. Your dedication and focus are something I aspire to have. Thank you to the people who see I’m not understanding something so you break it down in a way that I get. Your willingness to work with me is something I haven’t often experienced. 

Roller derby people are some of the kindest, most generous and toughest people I have ever met. Thank you for all you do!

Originally published: August 9, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home