I didn't know I was different from everyone else. I thought I was the was, and that was fine with me. To an extent, I thought other people thought like me, and I wasn't aware in any variations of my behavior.
I received an unofficial diagnosis in the third grade and an official diagnosis in the sixth grade. It wasn't until the official diagnosis that my mom told me about me being autistic. I was almost thirteen at the time, and the year was 1998.
After my mom explained autism to me she also showed me an article that she read that further explained autism in more depth. This article was very helpful to me, and no, I have no idea who wrote the article or what the name of the article was. As a result of the article, I was able to understand myself better. It brought more awareness to who I was and me more conscious of myself. I was not aware of my behaviors before this article. I didn't even know that hand-flapping was an autistic-like behavior. I thought having OCD like tendencies was perfectly normal. I also thought my general lack-of-interest in other people was normal. This article told me otherwise.
I did not feel bad when I found out I had autism. Actually, it was a very liberating experience because I now had a deeper understanding of myself. Essentially, learning about my autism was like having a map of who I was. I know of some people who desire to have someone else that "gets" them, and having this diagnosis was like having someone that got me, but at an early stage of my life.
Overall, the diagnosis was very empowering. It has impacted my life in many different ways, but I think the biggest way it has impacted my life was in helping me understand myself and also in effect understand others. If I did not have this map, I don't think I would understand other people. To me, they would be different, or I would be different, and none of us would get each other. But, the diagnosis helped me see how others perceive someone on the autism spectrum, and in effect by learning how others perceive those with autism, I am able to see how they perceive themselves. Now, how do they perceive themselves? For the most part, the opposite of an autism diagnosis. I know it is much more complicated like this, but having this understanding is like having colors in life. It adds much more depth and makes things no longer in black and white. I now had a depth and understanding into other people.
So, the truth is, that understanding my autism has helped me understand other people. So, it was a very good thing that I learned that I had autism, and I think I found out at the right stage in my life. I think middle school, or later elementary school is the perfect time for someone on the spectrum to learn about autism and to understand themselves better, assuming they have the cognitive ability to. I think this can be very empowering to an individual, especially if you focus on the strong aspects of autism as it relates to them. We all have our strengths and weakness, and not everything about having autism is a weakness. As a matter of fact, there are many strengths, such as having an intense focus and being persevering. Yes, understanding people can be hard for us, but with the right tools I believe we can learn to interact with others, if that is our desire. Not everyone with autism wants friends and to learn to socialize.
Looking back in time, I would have to say that learning I had autism, was the biggest even to have happened in my life. It has really shaped how I learned about myself and others. It has led to me making over 200 YouTube videos, creating this blog, website, podcast, and also allowing me to finish my memoir. Autism has been a big part of my life in every way. Not just in how it has affected me, but also how it has enabled me to reach out and impact other peoples lives.
I am grateful for how autism has shaped my life.