When I was a kid I was shamed for flapping my hands, letting out loud noises, holding my pen differently and tip-toeing when I walked. I was ostracized and left out of school activities, and I was severely bullied for being a “different” child.
Nobody knew why I acted the way I did, they just thought I was weird and intrusive and needed to learn how to behave properly. My world constantly felt like a battle to fit in, when really all I needed was the acceptance to stand out.
It took 19 years before I got a diagnosis, 19 years of not knowing why I was different, why I couldn’t handle changes in my routine, why I struggled to maintain eye contact and start and keep conversations going, and let me tell you, that’s a long time to feel lost.
My diagnosis is Autism, and before you jump to the “Oh you don’t seem Autistic” remark, just because I learnt to mask my symptoms to make you feel comfortable, doesn’t make me “High-functioning” it just means I suffered a lot of neglect to be who I am today.
I can’t explain how good it felt to know I wasn’t alone, to know I belonged to a community of awesome and intelligent people all around the world, some who are just like me, and some who face different challenges within my diagnosis. It felt relieving to know I was never a bad child, I was just struggling and needed extra support.
So coming from a young adult diagnosed with Autism, I really encourage you to sit your children down and talk about ALL the differences other kids can have.
You may not think your child is capable of bullying, but educating your kid can make such a huge difference for their peers at school who deal with unique challenges, I know as a child I would’ve loved to have a friend who understood and accepted me for myself.
And to my fellow humans with Autism, I know it’s hard to be yourself in a world that’s forcing you to be like everybody else, but you flap those hands! Tiptoe! Hold your pen however you like! Nobody can change you, and the world truly is your oyster, don’t let uneducated people stop you from reaching your full potential.