One of the many amazing things about the internet is that it provides safe spaces for similar people—whether it be their age, race, a physical condition, a health issue, or a common interest—to gather and share their stories with one another.
On August 19 on the site Reddit, a Redditor posed a seemingly simple question to his/her fellow Redditors who have autism. What followed was an earnest outpouring of responses that covered a huge variety of issues including the advantages and challenges of autism, what is unique about having autism, and many more heavily nuanced insights into what it means to live with autism.
So for this week, instead of telling you about what individuals with autism are achieving in the world, we’re going to listen to their voices and give them a chance to tell you what it’s like to live with autism. We highly suggest you read the whole thread; while it’s quite long, it also contains countless precious insights into what it means to exist in a world where you don’t quite fit in.
As user nelleker puts it, “The issue is finding your place in a world that doesn’t feel quite right. Your social skills and self regulation are your weakest areas (also sensory issues are a pain in the ass, when things are too loud and everything smells bad) and other people expect a lot from you and you are (at least I am) a perfectionist that beats yourself up for little mistakes. It can really be rough but I’m holding out till I find the place in society that is right for me.”
One common theme that comes up is the fact that people with autism don’t always feel connected with their neurotypical peers. As user Scouterfly says, “The best way I can find to describe it is running on a different OS [operating system] than most other people.”
Other users expound upon this, explaining the various ways they don’t quite fit in with others, with HAL9000ish claiming that it’s a positive that they are “an extremely visual thinker” but where problems arise lies in the fact that they have “social anxiety” and have trouble feeling confortable in social situations.
But a common thread across the many disparate responses was the desire that they expressed to overcome the social challenges, with some even going so far as to say it’s not so much social skills they lack, but the way they learn them is different. As GryphonGuitar says, “It’s not that I lack the social skills others have, it’s just that I had to learn them actively and have to keep them in the conscious part of my head whereas others can do this subconsciously.”
But some did echo each other in the relative loneliness they feel, with Onamonopiaye stating that they feel “Normal. Except for the lack of friends. I haven’t talked to anyone outside of my family since the last day of school. I’m also empathetic to the point where I don’t eat because I feel bad for the food. When someone gets mad at me, I assume they hate me and avoid them for months.”
Simply put, if you’ve ever wanted to really explore the wide and diverse range of experiences and emotions felt by those with autism, this thread is a must-read.