What Women With Autism Want You to Know | Iris

published on July 2, 2020

when people think of a disease they

think of something that is degenerative

and that will hurt you and kill you

autism is not a disease it is a

developmental disability it's about

living our best possible lives with this

condition I don't know I you know always

get that you don't look autistic thing

autism is like an internal thing not an

external thing no one looks autistic and

people find that out the first thing I

like you don't act autistic like you

know I had to go through a lot of stuff

to learn how to mask my idiosyncrasies

autism isn't a linear spectrum of high

or low it's a whole bunch of different

traits that are on their own spectrums

it's kind of a 3d weird mess autism is

simply a different way of thinking

seeing and you know and interacting with

one's world

I view autism as realness the words high

functioning and low functioning are used

by people again who are talking about

autism from an outside point of view so

rather than using those labels we tend

to say minimal support needs and high

support needs to describe two different

kind of levels of the spectrum that

people fall on I definitely would

disagree with the idea that we're not

emotional I think we're actually highly

emotional I think that we just many

times we don't express it the way that

people expect

I like the comparison to Vulcans in Star

Trek

you know lore the Vulcans feel more

strongly than humans they just like

don't show it we're feeling it it's

there it just might not come out and

then other times it might be overly

expressed

I mean sometimes like we'll cry I mean I

may be at like weird moments I mean well

you might think they're weird I don't

think they're weird it can be so

overwhelming I'm so intense that in

order to function you kind of have to

sort of be still or shut down a bit we

can't filter them out because we feel

them so strongly so we shut down as a

way of processing all those emotions it

takes a lot of effort to appear like the

way I

right now like it takes a lot of like

conscious awareness social skills are

like a muscle for us people will often

say to me oh you're so high functioning

I would never know you had autism unless

you said something and I say well you

don't live inside my skin you don't know

how hard it is for me sometimes just to

get through a day it's very very

draining you know even with people that

I care for enjoy being around I have to

psych myself up to be around them all

the little things that everyone does

unconsciously autistic people do

manually so that adds up what I'm doing

with every part of my body I am to some

degree aware of and trying to do a lot

of women women that I know who are

autistic are not diagnosed until their

20s 30s or even beyond a large part of

this is because the way that we diagnose

autism is by using criteria that were

created observing boys and autism looks

different in girls and women than it

does in boys people don't expect to see

someone that looks like me or my two

youngest children who we're on the

spectrum also we know about anyone can

you know be on the spectrum I didn't

become aware of Asperger's I was already

an adult at the time finding a doctor

was really difficult because there were

people that were like oh women don't

have that and then there were other

people that were like well you're too

high-functioning I was in my early 30s

when I was diagnosed myself after my

children were I don't think I would have

been otherwise

women are under diagnosed black women

especially and I think there's also this

idea of you know the strong black woman

you kind of have to hold down the family

and um be able to just keep going and

not address you know your you know

whatever needs that you have your

support needs not prioritize self-care

we just kind of slip through the cracks

for the majority of our lives

I remember parent-teacher conferences of

teachers telling my mom that I should be

in special ed I was an ideal homeschool

candidate there was something wrong with

my brain I remember that one that was

cool you know and now I feel a lot

better I feel like okay I know why I'm

this way I know why other people are the

way they are so I can bridge this gap

you invite a girl back to your apartment

to watch a movie and she thinks you're

just watching a movie

Netflix and chill doesn't literally

Netflix and chill that often does happen

when you have someone who is inherently

a little bit more naive because they're

so literal we think of people on the

spectrum is not being interested in sex

not having any kind of sex drive or

sexual interest and it's just not true

we just may need more support in order

to learn how to make that happen we

don't naturally understand the nuances

that are involved in this and there are

a lot of nuances there's a huge thing

where people think that people on the

spectrum you know that they all don't

have relationships and if they do that

it doesn't even reach a sexual point

having or not having those things does

not determine whether one is on the

spectrum or not some of the ways that I

show love and he might have thought

broad he now understands it's just mine

you know my love language my way of

communicating and and a sense he kind of

serves as my interpreter so the nurse of

the world often I'll just people don't

get taught sex ed at all let alone like

how to protect themselves in like the

real world from like date rape these are

topics that often aren't taught to

autistic teenagers because adults like

don't want to deal with it it's people

on the autism spectrum

especially women are more likely to

experience sexual assault or some sort

of violent incidents than the

neurotypical non autistic population we

are we are very vulnerable we definitely

can be more trusting because we are very

honest and upfront people so we don't

think that other people might not be so

honest and might you know be trying to

hurt us one of the traits of autism is

not reading between the lines in social

interactions and so much of like dating

and sexuality is supposed to be indirect

and subtle and that it's like

inappropriate to talk about sex in a

direct way even when you're teaching it

as sex ed most of what they tested us on

were like the mechanics and like can you

label the diagram you know no one's

teaching the social aspects and honestly

this is where autistic people are the

Canaries in the coal mine teaching the

social aspects of sexuality would help

everyone autistic people need it but it

also benefits everyone

there's the stereotype that everyone

with autism is

and science and math and stuff like Rain

Man but a lot of people with autism

women actually especially like a lot of

us are into the arts my experience

autistic girls are also just as

obsessive as autistic boys they're just

obsessed with you know fantasy novels or

like their favorite bands or whatever

like not you know planes trains and

automobiles that's what I'm more of a

social science and literary person and

I've met a lot of other people on the

spectrum who are into languages or music

or art and I think we thrive in some of

those non-traditional areas

I just sang at Carnegie Hall I'm a

writer I definitely started off with the

interests of astronomy and I actually

ended up being one of the Mars one

finalists but it tends to be a

stereotype and I did fall into that

stereotype when I was younger and I had

no outlet you know nobody wanted to hear

from me and I felt that I couldn't be

myself so I turned to writing people

picked on me for any number of things

and I didn't know why I didn't know what

it was that they saw that was different

nobody would ever tell me that you know

it's it's like somebody making fun of a

blind person only in this case you're

blind socially I I felt broken

I felt strange I felt different

everything was so simple for other

people everything they understood so

easily that I couldn't understand that I

couldn't grasp or do I just didn't

understand what was so wrong with me the

travails and and difficulties I

experienced with bullying and with being

suicidal

from a very young age and I would say

that we all start from somewhere but

that that isn't necessarily where we're

going to end up and you have to believe

that there is going to be a future I

didn't have that belief at that point I

didn't know that I was even going to

have a future is very difficult to go

through many many years especially as a

child you know having no friends and no

one willing to extend a hand out of

friendship to you as I got older like

there were like high school college

afterwards there's enough misfits in the

world like people who got picked on

there's so many of us so you do finds

your tribe to finally have friends is

such a big big deal

I I think if that ten-year-old girl

could see what her life is gonna be now

she wouldn't believe she would think it

was some fairy tale or something out of

a movie I can't believe it because it

almost seems like a dream at times that

I've gotten to where I am that I have a

master's degree that I've started my own

business and I also can believe it

because I worked for it and so I am

willing to give myself the credit that I

think I deserve which has always been

something I've also struggled with I

wished I could go back to that little

marine okay and give her a hug and let

her know that she was just fine the way

she was and that she was gonna be all

right I think things are gonna be a lot

better for the next generation like I'm

actually really hopeful they are going

to be diagnosing children more and there

is gonna be more social acceptance you

know your kid might be behind their

peers but it doesn't mean they're gonna

be behind forever your kid is a full

human being who will grow and change

just like everyone else I just love to

see every autistic person living up to

their fullest potential whatever that is

for them success is about your time

growing up to be the best version of

themselves that they can be whoever and

whatever that is

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