Her Story: I Was Diagnosed With Autism Specturm Disorder at 20

In honor of April being Autism Awareness month, I wanted to share my experience of getting diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and share a bit of information about what that actually is and my experience with it.  

 

Growing up, I always felt different from my peers. I never seemed to get along with the other kids like everyone else did. I didn't make friends as easily as everyone else. People made fun of me and eventually, I became shy and reserved. I went through life thinking I was simply an introvert with social anxiety and some weird quirks. Sure, I was a picky eater and I sometimes developed obsessions, but that wasn't so abnormal, right? Well, to my surprise, my weird quirks and social anxiety were part of something else that I would have never imagined.

When I was 20 years old, I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Being a spectrum, ASD has a wide range of symptoms that vary from person to person, making it hard to diagnose. ASD is especially hard to diagnose in females, due to it presenting itself much differently in females than males and having been previously thought to be a male-dominant disease. Being diagnosed at 20 was very strange for me. It made me re-evaluate my entire life. So many things from my past suddenly started to make sense when I was diagnosed.

I was a picky eater because textures and smells bothered me to the point where I was too overwhelmed to eat the food. I developed obsessions because it is common of people with ASD to do so. I never got along with the children in school because I was different from them. For me and many others, having Autism Spectrum Disorder means that I don’t always understand "social rules" and non-verbal behaviors. It's not ingrained in my brain that eye contact is important, or that in some situations lying is better than telling the truth.

Having ASD also means that I have a hard time processing different stimulus and can easily get overwhelmed. Bright lights, people talking, loud noises, strange smells, and many other things all take their individual toll on me. My brain can't just ignore those things. It processes every single one, and sometimes it becomes too much. It makes it harder to think when I am around a strong external stimulus such as loud noises or bright lights, which makes it harder to socialize.  

 

Being diagnosed was a very strange experience. I remember when I first told one of my friends I thought I might be autistic before I was diagnosed. She told me there was no way I could be autistic, and that she believed my symptoms came from emotional abuse I had endured in a past relationship. While the emotional abuse may have created new symptoms as well as exacerbated previous ones, it was not the root cause of my symptoms. I tried to convince her why it was autism rather than an effect of the emotional abuse, but she would not believe it. Even after I was diagnosed, people who I told about my diagnosis often told me they didn't believe I actually had it. I believe this is due to the way people view autism. Many people are not actually aware of what autism truly is or what it entails.

When some people think of someone with autism, often they think of a child throwing tantrums and having obsessions. These people grow up, though, and learn coping skills. Autism is not something you can tell someone has just by looking at them, or even speaking to them, especially in adults. I feel like some people have a preconceived notion of what autism is, and many do not bother or wish to learn what autism really is. The way I hear people talk about autism sometimes upsets me due to the amount of ignorance around the subject. I know people do not intend to be offensive by the things they say, but by being uninformed about what autism really is, they sometimes can be. Autism does not necessarily make someone unintelligent. It is not something you can easily tell that someone has. It is not something only males or children have. It is not something to be cured.

One of the main companies that people believe supports autism is Autism Speaks. However, to many people on the spectrum, Autism Speaks does not support autism at all. Autism Speaks' goal is to cure autism. Autism, however, is not something to be cured. Just because it may cause problems and sensitivities that are negative, does not mean it doesn't give redeeming qualities as well. What many autistic people tend to lack in categories like social skills, they usually make up for in ways such as creativity, intelligence, or passion. Autism makes me who I am, and without it, I wouldn't be me.  

 

Thank you for reading Collegiettes! I hope you learned something from my story. For more about Autism Spectrum Disorder, check out this other Her Campus article