World Autism Awareness Week: Don't Call Me Different
Day One: Getting Diagnosed (March 29th, 2021)
I found out I was on the spectrum when I was 12. At the time we obviously didn’t know. I kept having these absences and had a really hard time focusing in school. So, I ended up going to a neurologist, who came to the conclusion that I could be on the spectrum. It’s actually really difficult for girls to be diagnosed, so we ended up having to go through a really long process. I’m still going through the process now to get my final official diagnosis. It’s lengthy.
Day Two: Friends and social interactions (March 30th, 2021)
I’ve always been quite academic at school. I’ve always been kind of quiet and the ‘teacher’s pet’, so I’ve got on ok at school. If anything is was the more social side of things where I struggled. It was difficult making friends. I’d have maybe one or two friends and ignore everyone else. Say my best friend wasn’t in that day, I’d be left by myself. If I were to ever interact with someone else, it would be a big thing for me. It would be so difficult. It’s weird because looking back I see that people wanted to be my friend, but I was just so nervous around other people. It took me such a long time to actually interact with other people on a level.
Day Three: Lack of understanding (March 31st, 2021)
Again, I’ve always been quite an actious person. I’ve always been an over thinker or an over analyser. But I think the biggest thing for me was lack of eye contact. A lot of people would see that as a sign of disrespect. Like I’m really respectful, I’m not going to disrespect you! When I was growing up my mum taught me “hey, people might find that rude or not have an understanding of what you’re going through”. And so, she told me to look at people’s eyebrows. So, if I’m talking to you, I’m going to look at your eyebrows and that’s my way of trying to make eye contact with you. But when I’m nervous, sometimes I’ll have an eye tick – doing this little ticky thing with my eyes. I remember my PE teacher saying to me once “you can’t do that sport with your eyes shut”. Obviously she didn’t know, and I was really upset at the time. It’s just these little things with lack of understanding that sometimes, in the moment, can make you feel really small. But it’s just that… they don’t know.
Day Four: Raising awareness/ "It's not a big deal" (April 1st, 2021)
I think if someone were to ever talk down on me or just not completely understand my diagnosis (or not really get what’s going on), I would just ignore it. Or maybe try and spread a little more awareness… gently. If you follow my social media, you see I’m constantly sharing stuff about that. So, if I were to talk with anyone at school they could easily see and be like “oh, wait. She’s just a normal person.” It’s not a big deal and it doesn’t have to be a big deal. People like that sometimes make it a bigger deal than it should be. My thing has always been to just ignore it. Maybe that’s not the healthiest way but unless their doing something outrightly wrong then I would obviously go about it differently. I just try raise awareness as best I can and let them get on with it.
Day Five: Being capable (April 2nd, 2021)
Sometimes, if I ever tell someone about my diagnosis or that I’m on the spectrum, they would (not take it the wrong way but) talk down on me. Almost as if I’m not as capable or a bit less of a person because I have a diagnosis they don’t have. But that’s not the case, if anything I’m more capable than you! Don’t try disrespect me just because. I think that’s kind of annoying – when people talk to you as if you’re some kind of pet or you’re beneath them.
Day Six: Support system (April 3rd, 2021)
I’m really lucky to have supportive friends and family. I think from day one, from making friends with them, they just knew. They just knew by my personality. With me and which is a big trait of being on the spectrum is having very intense and specific interests. I would speak to them about my random interests and after a while they started to realise “oh, Madi’s really into this!” they began to engage in those interests too. If there’s a film I’m obsessed with, they’ll watch it with me. They’ll paint me things about my favourite interests and stuff. It’s just really nice because as much as they don’t know what I’m going through and don’t relate in that aspect, they’re still so supportive and want to connect with me. In any way that they can – even if it’s a little bit different from your average neurotypical person.