The Girl with Asperger’s Syndrome – Lara Lewis
It’s easy to miss. I smile like everyone, dress like everyone, get up and get dressed and out the door to take on the day like everyone. I’m good at some subjects and struggle with others, have passions and interests, opinions, ideas, fears, dreams.
Asperger’s is made of the same things as everyone else, just formatted a little differently. For others who meet me for the first time, I seem just like them. Like I said, it can be easy to miss. They don’t see the sensory issues that dictate my diet and wardrobe, the constant self-revision of what I’m saying to get it just right, the need to balance my comfort with my “normal” in just about every interaction.
It was not easy to miss when I was a child. I blurted out the first thing I thought, read ahead of my age group, had a vast vocabulary but difficulty with figurative language. I was stubborn and thought I was the smartest girl in the world, even though I took my social cues from cartoons and Disney movies. I tried to organize everything from books to soup cans. I was a vocally picky eater and an easy crier, and I needed everything to be just so in a world that just… wasn’t so. I was often trying to make the world fit how I thought it ought to be, fighting against the Powers That Be to line it all up. Like I said, it wasn’t easy to miss that I clearly had a lot going on. I was diagnosed when I was six.
I like to think I was lucky.
I grew up always knowing support. My parents wanted me to succeed, and they wanted to understand my experience. They encouraged me to communicate, to try new things, to explore my passions and not be ashamed of speaking my mind. They were patient with me, even on the days I had no patience in myself. They encouraged me to learn about my diagnosis and form my own opinions, to speak and to write and to do everything I had to in order to get to myself. I grew up learning that the only wrong ways to act were cruelly or not at all.
I don’t have a point of reference for how I could have turned out differently, but I do believe that support was instrumental in becoming who I am. I believe that supporting the growth of a person goes further than trying to get everyone to fit the same pattern, Autistic or not. I don’t know how well I would have done without that support, but I know I wouldn’t be where I am now.
Not every Autistic person will have the same experience I did. Some people have much more difficulty socializing, or no sensory issues (or more), some people are academic geniuses who can’t function out of the school system and some struggle in school but flourish in alternative learning environments. They all deserve support, from those diagnosed as children to people who only learn they’re Autistic as adults. Punishing somebody for struggling will never make the struggle go away. It’s only by understanding the problem and trying to solve it that we can grow and improve, both in ourselves and our lives. Sometimes that means learning how to work around severe limitations in communication and daily living, and sometimes that just means finding a better way to sort the soup cans.