I recall with a reasonable amount of clarity the time when my parents revealed to me that I was autistic. It was towards the end of my high school career one night when my parents called me from my room because they wanted to talk to me.
My mother asked if I remembered a certain time when I was younger. I was watching the news when the caster was describing the symptoms of autism. I must have felt that the symptoms matched my experience, so I asked my mother if I was autistic. She told me no at the time, but now she and my father were telling me that I was.
I think at that point I was only half listening to what they had to say. As I recalled my life, the pieces began to fit into place, perhaps touched with a twinge of feelings of betrayal. It was a rather strange feeling that I had trouble shaking for some time.
At first, I felt I had to tell someone. I told two of my best friends at high school and I don’t think either of them really understood. To them I was pretty normal. They did not know what I was like when I was in elementary school. I was disappointed, but in all honesty I cannot blame them.
Before UOIT, I went to another university for two years. In the first term of the first year, there was a class where we were supposed to keep online, public journals. In that forum, I revealed my condition to everyone. I needed to tell people. I felt so alone in my condition at the time, and I had not yet resolved the new knowledge. I lived 18 years of my life not knowing that I was autistic, and now that I knew of my condition I became keenly aware.
There is a lingering question, though. How did my sharing this knowledge alter the opinions of others? The answer is that I don’t know and perhaps can never know. I don’t quite remember when I realized this, but it was before I transferred into UOIT. The nature of autism as seen by others is insidious in ways that some may not expect.
One side surprises no one, the side of those who see my condition as a disease to be purged, or who see my existence as expendable. This is where people talk about the stigma behind autism, and I appreciate efforts to deal with this stigma and similar stigmas of conditions that I do not have. We are all people trying to live peaceably and amicably, and to those who recognize that, I say thank you. You are an honourable and worthy person.
On the other hand, I don’t want to be babied. I want to be treated as the adult I am, and I wanted to be recognized for my capabilities and faults like a normal person. My condition – however – leads to being treated in a manner that is different from ordinary people, often in a less than capable manner. I suppose I understand it. One need only look at the common symptoms of the autistic condition to understand what I mean.
So I don’t tell everyone about my condition, because it happens I can get away with it. People are unable to tell my condition just by looking at me. At UOIT I have told 4 students, and the only reason I did this is because it was relevant to the conversation. It is something I’d rather keep to myself, but I am willing to reveal my condition if it is appropriate. Such is a calculated risk, of course. I fear that sharing this knowledge will change the way people see me, either because they will think I am sick with some horrible disease, or because they will treat me as a child lacking the capabilities that I possess.
Because of this, I keep it to myself. I would like to be more open with my condition because of how it could potentially help myself and others. People who know my condition can mix this knowledge with what they knew about me before I revealed my condition to them. Both pieces of the puzzle can lead to a solution that will help me in areas where I struggle. Meanwhile, I can potentially inspire others with my experiences and knowledge, regardless of whether they share my condition or not.
Fear paralyzes me. I hope someday fear no longer paralyzes me. The first step in my mind is for people like me to show the world our capabilities, to show that we can accomplish great things. For now, I will find satisfaction in talking to the individuals who frequent this forum, sharing my experience with those in the university who will read my words.