There’s a saying – when you’ve met one person with autism spectrum disorder, you’ve met… one person.
That’s because Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is just that, a spectrum that affects each person differently. For Autism Awareness Month we spoke to two people who have autism, and share what having this invisible disability is like for them.
My autism superpower - here is what I want you to know
Meet Tim, who has worked at our Business Solutions site at Kew in Victoria for four years. His lived experiences give us insight into what ASD is like for him.
My name is Tim, I’m 41 years old, and I have Asperger’s. Asperger’s is a part of ASD. As a person who has ASD, I want you to know that my disability does not limit who I am. Here are some interesting facts about me:
I have an “autism superpower”
I can accurately remember past events, particularly for topics that interest me such as sports, history, and geography. These last two topics go hand in hand, and when you need to know when a particular event has happened, you can ask me.
I have 40 tabs open in my mind
I’m a smart person and think deeply about things because I like to give a complete answer. Many statements I take in a “matter of fact” way. This doesn’t mean I’m disengaged. In fact, my brain is furiously and quickly processing different things. I can go very deep in concentration when I am fascinated by a topic. Like others with ASD, I am hyper-aware of sounds, smells, and sights that others can screen out.
Large events aren’t my cup of tea
When I’m in a large group with many new people I find it difficult to be present. It’s mainly due to a sensory overload and being unable to read signals and body language. Learning how to pick up on body language and interpret facial expressions and emotions can be like learning a second language.
I am a good person
I don’t want you to see me having Asperger’s as a disability. I am reliable, trustworthy, sincere, and true to myself. If people can respect me for me, judge me on my own merits, then I am happy.
Working here at the Business Solutions site has taught me a lot about myself. I am always willing to lend a hand and support anyone that asks.
What I want you to know about my autism
Meet Wendy who has worked at our Business Solutions site at Seven Hills for more than five years. Wendy has 28 years of lived experience with autism, which she was very happy to write about.
Hi, my name is Wendy and I have ASD. There is a lot of misunderstanding about autism, and I’m hoping that these facts will help you understand.
1. People with autism are smart
I want you to know that people with autism are smarter than you think and are talented. I am a storyteller and write fan fiction.
2. You can’t see autism
When I meet people for the first time, they don’t know that I have a disability. When they find out I have a disability they tend to back away. This might be because they don’t understand what autism is. But I’m hoping if people understand what it is, there will be more opportunities for people with disability.
I’m an outgoing and talkative person and have so much to share, and I want people to see me for me.
3. People with ASD need to be supported in ways unique to them
I found school very challenging. I thought that I should be able to do whatever others could. And at the time I wasn’t able to receive necessary additional support because I needed a doctor’s referral for extra help. I already had a language and speech impairment, and many doctors didn’t look past that.
When I was 15, I was officially diagnosed as a person with ASD. I remember my mum being relieved because she then could find a way to support me.
Once you and your family know that you have autism, then you can get the right support you need at school, at work and in the community. My family didn’t treat me differently, but they found a way to support me.
4. ‘Disability’ is not a bad word
Being diagnosed with a disability is not bad. Now that I’m 28, I have not ‘overcome’ my autism, but adapted and accepted it. Autism is different for everyone. For me, having autism can be frustrating at times because I can’t articulate my emotions into words and can’t communicate that to people. As a result, I lash out at those around me. I process things differently to others. When I’m in crowded areas or when I can’t say what I want, it can lead to anxiety attacks.
But over time, understanding my autism has given me self-awareness of why I behave in a particular way, and I have become resourceful by figuring out what I need to do. I have my employment coach Jess, and the team at Endeavour Foundation to thank for teaching me how to understand my emotions and how to best communicate that, as well as understand and read other people’s emotions.
My advice to parents who have found out their child has autism is to keep having fun with your kids. Be there to support them, help them understand their disability.
To all people with disability, never apologise for your disability.