Autism: A Blessing

On the Spectrum
A column written by a Diversely Spiritual Autistic bisexual person

Although I am 41 years old, I have a childlike personality due to autism spectrum disorder. I was born autistic and diagnosed at age three. This has drawn people to me over the years. Most of them, by far, want to help me. This has mitigated some of the challenges that come with the condition.

On Halloween, my partner and I were dressed in our finest Goth outfits, complete with four-inch heels, ready for a night on the town. Since autism causes me to have poor balance and bad coordination, I do not ordinarily wear any heels at all, let alone four-inch platforms. When we got to the club, I hesitated at the top of the stairs. I always have trouble going downstairs because of my balance problems unless I can hold onto handrails on both sides – and that is in sneakers. With the heels, I could not move at all. Luckily, a couple of people extended their hands, and I was able to walk down the stairs. I frequently have people help lift my grocery cart up the steps for me, which is very handy when the grocery cart is full! I am aware some of this is because I am a white female, but I know the autism contributes as well.

I am also able to get help for others by attracting attention when no one is listening to them. Whenever someone is trying to talk to the bus driver to ask a question and the driver is ignoring them, I will raise my hand and loudly say, “Excuse me.” The driver always looks at me and asks me what I need. I then point out the person who needs help.

My partner says I am a savant because I can memorize telephone numbers and remember them without trying. I know I am not a savant, because savants can do things like memorize whole pages from magazines and recite them on cue. I can’t do that, but my memory has always been excellent regarding information. This helped me do very well in academics and still helps me pass exams easily. The autistic trait of focusing on one thing has helped me here as well.

I am also more likely to believe what I am told than a neurotypical person would be. I have a college degree, am very well-read, and am not intellectually disabled, but I am still as credulous as a child.  This helps me take others seriously when they say they are suffering. I believe that, yes, it is as bad as they say. This helps me be more sympathetic and empathetic towards others, instead of spending time invalidating others’ experiences by being skeptical.

Finally, I can intensely focus on a specific interest. (Anyone who watches me when I see a cat or dog in person or on TV knows how intense I can be!) This has helped me pick up some rather esoteric knowledge. One time I got an e-mail inviting me to a lecture by a group that sounded rather suspicious to me. Luckily, I had read a book about cults and recognized the group from the description the book had given. I stayed far, far away from them and warned the other people on the distribution list about the group. I have also been able to take charge of my own health care due to my intense interest in medicine, although I have no medical training.

If I were not autistic, I would not have the abilities I have described, or they would be present in a lesser degree. I would not have the childlike personality that drew my partner to me. So autism is a blessing, because it brought me the love of my life.

Butterfly

Over 40, Bisexual, Autistic and part of the OTO, this contributor is the creator of “on the Spectrum” column

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