I’m no spokesman for autism, being as I see it, on the cusp of clinically within the autism spectrum. I see myself as sort of having a foot in both worlds. But it wasn’t until I got the diagnosis of high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder that I was able to understand the choices I made and directions I took in my life, from early childhood to the present day.
In retrospect I can now see that much of my childhood development was learning survival skills, ways to act and seem ‘normal’ in what appeared to me a strange land populated by strange beings. There was a whole language of emotions and social contexts I had to learn, one that seemed more or less native to everyone else. I didn’t think of it that way then, and I just thought I was deficient in some way, and needed to make up for it.
By far and away, attention still focuses (and rightly so) on severe cases, and especially childhood, autism, and I suspect adult high-functioning autism is still significantly under-diagnosed, both by psychologists and by folks themselves. Every case is different, but I personally don’t see this form of autism as an ‘affliction’ as such. I and others like me are not ‘sufferers’, but ‘fitting in’ is challenging, and at times painful. So much depends on the people around us, especially those who have to live with us! Many high-functioning autism spectrum people would be very happy people with fulfilling lives if left to their own devices and able to relate to the world and people around them in ways that they feel comfortable with. I was fortunate; many others have been far less so.