Let me say it again

This or a similar statement with the same sentiment has been said before. In fact, many times by many different people. But let me say it again.

People with “low-functioning” Autism are more capable than you think. People with “high-functioning” Autism have more struggles than you think.

I hate saying “high-functioning” and “low-functioning” because Autism is a spectrum, not a scale. The difference between one person with Autism is more similar to the different shades of a color rather than the difference between black and white. I know it’s hard not to see things in black and white terms. Trust me, I know far too well. But I am learning, as we all must learn, that gray exists. In order to understand ourselves and others, we must seek to broaden our ideas of what it means to be uniquely human. 

Yesterday, I was at an appointment and one of the first questions asked was who diagnosed me with ASD. My answer to that is usually New York Presbyterian or more vaguely a neuropsychologist. So, I said NYP. He then turned from me and started asking my mom a series of questions.

 “Did she not talk on time?”

“No. She spoke on time.”

 “What about walking?”

“She walked on time. She did everything on time… She was pretty much the perfect child before she went off to college.”

The psychiatrist seemed somewhat baffled that ASD had been a suspected diagnosis let alone an actual one. I didn’t “look” Autistic. I walked on time. I spoke on time. Apparently, all people with Autism do not do that.

“Well, you must be high-functioning because you work a job and you go to school,” he said.

Because obviously “low-functioning” people with Autism do not work or go to school or God forbid do both. 

I’ll say it once more. 

People with “low-functioning” Autism are more capable than you think. People with “high-functioning” Autism have more struggles than you think.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that I am “high-functioning”; though I rather say that my spectrum has more lows than highs in terms of difficulties and challenges. I understand that people whose spectrum has more highs than lows face obstacles that I will never know or understand. I understand that I should be grateful for not being largely impacted by Autism; and I am. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have my struggles.

I have this thing where I say that everything is fine. Nothing bad has ever happened to me. I had a great, normal childhood in which I was afforded opportunities that some never will have. Everything is okay, I just have a few issues but so does everyone. I’m not disabled or anything. It’s not a big deal. I don’t deserve special treatment or extra help or anything like that. I am just your average person with a few quirks. Nothing is wrong or abnormal; everything is just fine. 

And that’s a good and bad philosophy to have. I never want to feel different or less than. I mean I can have low self-esteem and low self-worth, but nobody better dare see me as different or less than. I want to just be your normal 21-year-old. But I am not, and who is. No one is a stereotype. While avoiding feeling different or less by denying my struggles, I make myself different and less than. I say that my challenges are different and less than, unworthy of acknowledgement. 

You want to know what my first memory is? It happened when I was around three or four years old; and I didn’t feel well. But I didn’t know how to express that. I know that most three or four year olds can’t tell their parents that they have pain in the lower right quadrant of their abdomen. But tummy hurt, head hurt, or don’t feel good seems to be appropriate at that level. Saying something seems appropriate at that level. Well, I didn’t say anything. My parents sent me to pre-school and instead of interacting with my teachers or my peers, I sat in a corner all day. I sat there quietly just watching everything going on around me until one of the teachers finally realized that I might not be okay. She took out one of those thermometers that you put in your ear (which was cool and novel at the time) and it turned out that I had a fever. She called my nanny who picked me up and brought me home. When we got home, my nanny Ms. Barbara placed me on our black leather couch, put a blanket on me, and I fell asleep. 

I don’t tell that story because I want sympathy or pity. I really don’t. I tell it because for years I’ve been trying to piece together why I’ve felt different and if that dissonance was due to Autism. I’ve been trying to remember any moment that I can in which I showed signs because as my mom said, I seemed to be the perfect child until I went away to college. Sometimes I feel like maybe I’m just a really good liar and actor and that somehow I fake having Autism. Sometimes I feel like there’s no way I could have Autism because I am not your stereotypical case. I had no developmental delays. I am a woman. I am black. I went to college. I’ve had two jobs and school work at a point in my life. A point in my life which I’m happy to return to. When people think about Autism, they don’t see me. Sometimes, I don’t see me either. Without Autism, I feel invisible. Like someone who is just such a social outcast that they hide in the forest and get trampled by a tree. Like Dear Evan Hansen. But with Autism, I also feel invisible because people literally don’t see me. 

Stephen Shore said, “If you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism.” That statement couldn’t be more true. Just because one person with Autism is unable to do something, it doesn’t mean that all people with Autism cannot do it. Just because one person with Autism can do something or does do something, it does not mean that all people with Autism can. Just like every black person doesn’t like watermelon (Raise hand, I hate the texture of watermelon.) and every Asian person is not good at math. We all are different. We all are uniquely human. We create a spectrum of colors that resemble the rainbow, not a black and white cartoon.

Today, I was supposed to go to my Autism support group. But due to the Corona Virus- COVID-19, it was cancelled. My support group is a prime example of how those with Autism are uniquely Autistic. Of course, we have some similarities hence the classification of Autism but besides that we are all different. One man is an adjunct professor of biology, another a manager at Home Depot, another a manager at Aldi. One woman is currently taking remedial classes at the local community college, another is trying to explore her independence. Some are married with families; some enjoy being single. Some are 18 and others were 60. Some were diagnosed as children and others were diagnosed as adults. Like I said, we all are different cases. No one person is alike another person. So why does one Autistic person somehow have to be exactly like another Autistic person? It’s not fair. Those with different ways of thinking and being from what is considered the “norm” are entitled to be themselves as well.

So let me say it again.

People with “low-functioning” Autism are more capable than you think. People with “high-functioning” Autism have more struggles than you think.

5 thoughts on “Let me say it again

  1. Beautiful my child; Continue to Trust God and travel through this journey of life with your head held high! You are still our perfect 👸💃🏽🎉🙏🏾given to us with intent and purpose. 😍

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Amazing. Beautifully written. I’m so inspired. I have a friend who children have been diagnosed with Autism and I’ve seen their struggles.. Please continue to write. Your writing will encourage, strengthen and enlighten others. May God continue to bless you and keep you. Keeping you in thought, Lifting you in prayer.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Makayla this was absolutely eye opening . It was well written I so proud of you. I’m sure that this will bring attention Autism to anyone who reads this article.

    Liked by 1 person

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