My thoughts on World Autism Awareness Day

Today marks World Autism Awareness Day. Over the past couple of days, I have noticed a lot of my Facebook friends have changed their profile pictures to represent this. Here are my thoughts on the whole concept of Autism Awareness Day.

Personally I feel awareness of autism is actually pretty high. What is lacking, in my humble opinion, is understanding. Most people I have come across have heard about autism, seen documentaries on it or known someone on the autistic spectrum. What a lot of people struggle to do is realise that every single individual who is on the autistic spectrum is exactly that-individual. My own experience of my autism is completely different to the experiences of the people I have worked with in residential care over the years. All of us suffer from stereotypes. People like myself are often dismissed and told that we cannot have autism because we are able to communicate verbally (even though to do so a lot of the time is extremely difficult and stress inducing) and have formed close relationships. People who have a learning disability alongside their autism are often assumed incompetent and this is what leads to a lot of challenging behaviour. How frustrated and angry would you be if people never thought to seek your opinion on something because they believed you had nothing to say because you communicate through other means, rather than verbally? Both ends of the spectrum and everything in between need a lot more understanding.

People also need to understand that autism is extremely complex. We may be able to do something one day and then, the next time we attempt to perform exactly the same task, it fails because our brains just can’t process it at that particular time. I have noticed that it is this particular trait of mine that has the tendency to annoy people the most. People don’t seem to get how I can be able to do something one day and not the next. I don’t blame them, to be honest, as I struggle to understand it myself a lot of the time. It took me 30 tries to be able to fill in a paying in slip for the bank-I was equally as frustrated as my mum at the end of it. Please don’t shout at us if we are not able to do something we have done before. Please understand that our processing system struggles sometimes, particularly if we are tired or anxious and, for me personally, knowing that someone is getting frustrated with me makes me anxious and thus even slower.

I also feel that, while World Autism Awareness Day is a good thing to have, what we should aspire to be as a society is one which is so understanding of people on the spectrum that we don’t need our own day to educate people because everybody already has an understanding. I believe we are closer to achieving this goal all the time. Blogs like mine have a part to play in this. I have always believed that you cannot moan about someone’s ignorance on any topic unless you have done your best to educate them on it. Yes sadly there will always be people who, despite education, remain ignorant but the majority of people are decent human beings and are receptive to education. I have been thanked so many times from people who have read my blog and said that it has taught them so much about Aspergers, although, as I always remind everyone, we are all individuals with our own traits, hopes, dreams and fears.

I wish everyone a Happy World Autism Awareness (Understanding) Day. I hope this blog post goes some way in helping to promote understanding.

A Welcome Note!

My name is Steph and I am 26 years old. I work in a residential special school and, in my spare time, I enjoy listening to music and spending probably more time than is good for me on Facebook! I also enjoy watching Eastenders, Casualty, Friends (I own the entire box set) and pretty much every human interest documentary there is.  

I also have Aspergers Syndrome, diagnosed at the age of 8. This brings with it a lot of strengths and also a lot of issues. In this blog, I will be evaluating my life with Aspergers and letting my readership into my innermost thoughts. There will be positive and uplifting posts and some which are not so positive because that is an honest account of my life. 

I have always had a flair for language (although my Aspergers means that I often use language in an odd and over literal way) and, when I was a child, I had a desire to be a journalist so it is perhaps surprising that this is my first blog. I find that I can express myself in a far more articulate manner in writing than I can verbally. After all, with the written word, there is little to confuse me-no tone of voice, no body language and no facial expressions. I know that this is what a lot of people who aren’t on the autistic spectrum find confusing about online communication but, for me, it is the opposite. It is very freeing and allows me to concentrate solely on content rather than having to try and decipher the many subtle nuances of non verbal communication. Having lived with Aspergers for 26 years and having had the knowledge of it for 17 of those years (I found out a year after my diagnosis), I have naturally developed coping strategies and can now decipher some of these nuances but it is hard work particularly when one facial expression, such as a raised eyebrow, can mean many different things in the context of who is using it, and my success rate in deciphering these expressions is still not great! Anyhow, that is probably a topic for another day so I will leave it there.

I hope you enjoy reading my blog. Please feel free to ask any questions-I am always happy to try and explain Aspergers to people. As a disclaimer, I feel obliged to point out that this is MY experience of living with Aspergers on a daily basis. Some people have a tendency to think/believe that everyone with Aspergers thinks in the same way and experiences the same issues and strengths but this is not true. We are all individuals and, whilst we all share elements of the diagnostic criteria, though obviously differing in severity, we really are as different from each other as any two people without Aspergers. Hence, if you are coming to my blog as someone with Aspergers, you may not see yourself in some of the things that I write about. This is fine-being an individual is what life is all about after all!

Have a good read!