26 September 2012

So High-Functioning (sarcasm)

(Trigger warning: Ableist language and phrases.)
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One of the most common responses I get when I disclose that I'm Autistic is the curious look mixed with a bit of confusion as the other person says, "But you must be really high-functioning then, right?" or something remarkably similar. And I get this.

I have "passing" privilege. Most times, most days, most places, I can "pass" pretty well for neurotypical, for non-disabled, for non-Autistic. (Except around other Autistics. They know. They always know.) Outwardly, I have all the markers of success (and more) according to the framework constructed and perpetuated by our ableist society—I skipped a grade, graduated from high school without staying an extra year, took honors and AP classes, was accepted to and enrolled in a prestigious university, and am pursuing a double-major while interning at a national non-profit organization. On paper, I look fantastic.

In person, at first glance, I seem completely together. I can be intelligent, witty, sarcastic, sociable—even gregarious. I've been in two romantic relationships, know at least the basic ins and outs of both domestic and international politics, and have memorized enough little facts and anecdotes from my life and the lives of other people I know to make dinner conversation for years. I'm told that the first impression most people get of me is "brilliant young woman" or something to that effect.

Most people equate "autistic" with unintelligent, incapable of doing anything, relegated to special education, unable to complete post-secondary education, anti-social, incapable of choosing to have or not have sexual or romantic relationships, and eternally infantile. These ideas arise because of the ableism that is so pervasive in our society. I defy most of them, if not all of them. Most Autistics I know do. Intelligence has nothing to do with disability, including in those with intellectual disabilities; ability to "do things" is very heavily tied to the presence or absence of necessary supports, natural or unusual; sociability or lack thereof has nothing to do with being Autistic; sexual orientation, including asexuality, is natural to everyone regardless of disability; and all disabled children become disabled adults. The only ones that may disproportionately apply to Autistics are the over-representation in segregated special education environments and the underrepresentation in higher education.

"But since those things don't even apply to you, and they must for all of those poor, low-functioning autistics, you must be very high-functioning. Right? I mean, I would have never guessed you had autism."

I'm sitting in my dorm room past midnight and I haven't started my homework yet. Really. I know exactly what my assignments are and when they're due, and I haven't started them yet. They're sitting behind me, papers and books jumbled together in my bag, along with dishes I haven't washed (and that have needed to be washed for several days now) and notes to myself to write articles and emails that I was supposed to write anywhere from a month ago to this past weekend. I know this.

This is a nightly routine. Know that I have homework; know that I need to do it; know that I have a million and one other things that must be done and maybe needed to be done sometime two days or two weeks ago; and sit here and do nothing.

I go on Facebook for a few minutes. Check a few links, an event page. Glance at my email inbox. Glance at my blog's list of articles I've written elsewhere or other places where people have linked to here. Put laundry in the washing machine. Eat a popsicle. Wait. It becomes two a.m. quickly. But that's early. I start my homework later. I frantically work at it, knowing that I have a ticking clock before I'll fall asleep out of exhaustion and knowing that no matter how hard I try to convince myself, there's no way whatsoever that I'll actually wake up in the morning before class to finish it.

Things that aren't homework? They rot for longer on my hard drive, on my to do list, somewhere in my mind and memory. I go to classes. I go to my job. I go to my internship. I go to events where they serve free dinner. I do my homework. But then I forget to call people and say hello. I forget to write random things about disability for this blog. I forget to email people to follow-up from meetings and conferences and chance encounters after promising I would and keeping a little stack of their business cards. I forget to do my dishes, days and days after I've used them and kept them in a pile of Dishes to Be Washed by the door. I stop noticing the gigantic paper with a to do list written in marker pinned to the door to see before I leave. And these things can happen to anyone, disabled or not, but for me, to professionals, they're evidence of "deficits in executive functioning," "deficits in self-care skills," "deficits in social awareness," et cetera, et cetera.

And they're not fun. Whether they're simply evidence that I forget things a lot or fall behind on things a lot or some massive amazing deficits somewhere (which I doubt), they make life obscenely harder than if I didn't do these things (and it's not as though I haven't tried every strategy in the book, so don't give me that "but you must not be trying hard enough" or "you should just try harder" crap) and certainly not even close to as shiny and easy and happy and rainbowy and sunshiny and yay as "you must be so high-functioning" makes my life sound.

And sometimes, rarely, but sometimes, I lose speech. The ability to form words and push them past my lips as sound disappears. Usually, no one notices, but that's because the few times that it's happened that I remember, it's happened when I'm alone. I've been around people exactly three times when it's happened. I usually speak. In fact, I usually speak articulately. I'm told this nearly every time I meet anyone or a group of people and spend more than one minute talking.

"But I thought people with autism couldn't talk."

Some Autistics talk a lot. Some don't talk at all. And others, like me, fall somewhere in between, whether you notice it or not. Usually, I talk. And occasionally, it just stops. And sometimes that's okay because if I'm alone, it doesn't really matter, and if I'm with another Autistic, they'll usually understand. But sometimes I worry that it'll happen when I'm in a situation where the people around me won't understand and won't just let me write or type things because all they'll see is that oh-so-high-functioning woman who we never would have guessed had autism so why the hell isn't she talking all of a sudden and what kind of ridiculous game is this. And that would be bad.

Because if nothing else, "high-functioning" usually means (grudging) (marginal) (barely any) respect for my human dignity and self worth. It means I'll at least get talked to, if talked down to, and I'll at least get listened to, if not taken seriously. It means I get into classes and show up at clubs and no one really questions my presence most of the time. And if nothing else, "passing" usually means presumption of competence, equal treatment under the law, no awkward or invasive questions from strangers, and legitimacy when I speak—until they find out I've just been passing, of course, and really aren't all that neurotypical at all.

When I speak in openly Autistic ways, move in openly Autistic ways, convey my thoughts and ideas and feelings in naturally Autistic ways; when I'm outed or out myself, when I lose (temporarily or permanently) the characteristics that let me pass or that get me labeled high-functioning; those are the times when I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. (There—a metaphor. "But I thought people with autism have no imagination and don't understand metaphor." There's a good phrase for someone like that in Egyptian Arabic—ruuh fi siteyn alf dahiya.) Those are the times where I cease to be "that high-functioning person" or "wtf she's autistic" and simply become "wtf is wrong with her."

Some days I pass all day long, and consequently, no one questions my intelligence, abilities, competence, or qualifications. Other days, I'm stuck in a room full of hameer (donkeys) who've pinholed me onto the "high-functioning" end of the false dichotomy of "low/high functioning" because OHMYGOD I CAN SPEAK AND I GO TO COLLEGE I MUST BE SO HIGH FUNCTIONING. But I don't feel neurotypical, ever, and I don't feel "high-functioning." Some days I laugh hysterically at the idea that people actually believe this bull and think of me as "high-functioning" and Amy Sequenzia as "low-functioning." And other days I just want to cry because it hurts so much.

You don't really know what you're doing to me when you ask me if I'm just very high-functioning. You don't know what that does to entire communities of Autistics, all of whom suffer from these arbitrary, hurtful labels of low and high functioning, and none of whom they even come close to accurately describing. Because they only describe ideas that don't exist in reality, that don't exist outside laboratories without windows or thesis papers without people. They don't even describe precise or definite ideas. How can you take these words, then, and try to use them to describe real, breathing human beings? It reeks of ableism; it reeks of paternalism; it reeks of laziness and resorting to the language of convenience rather than searching for and using the language that affirms the value in being Autistic, empowers us despite our marginalization, and describes us respectfully and meaningfully.

"Oh, but you're so high-functioning. You must not really understand those less able than you, those who don't function at your level. You really shouldn't try to speak for them."

Ruuh fi siteyn alf dahiya, ya hameer.

You don't know me. You don't know the life that I live day in and day out. You see me for a few minutes, maybe a few hours. Maybe a few hours on a regular basis. You know nothing about my life except what I tell you in little increments, heavily edited increments. The things I choose to let you know. The things that aren't as consequential as the things that actually affect me. You don't know me, and you can't call me "high-functioning."

39 comments:

  1. Thanks for writing this. Functioning labels have frustrated me for a long time, and your post have inspired me to also write about this - not as eloquently as you - in the hope that some of my readers will stop and think before they use the terms again.

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  2. Your blog is wonderful! Please keep it up! And I love the Battlestar Galactia reference!

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    1. This is a very well written piece. I have problems that are caused by executive functioning deficits. I think that it can be something that can effect basic decision making. I deal with it now at 38 better then I did when I was in my 20's, in college and when I was a child because I am more aware of it now.

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  3. I did the exact same thing when I was in college. (Often couldn't force myself to do what I needed to do.) Finding out that so many people have had similar experiences, after years of feeling weird and crazy and alone, is just amazing.

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  4. My daughter is 8. She has been given the ASD label by 2 major Childrens Hospitals, a psych, the ped, and the school. YET, last week, the woman who runs her social group told me she "doesn't think K has autism" She just doesn't "see it". She's seen K have a meltdown. She's been to her school to do an observation, and was the one who said she needed a 1:1 aide...YET, suddenly, she doesn't "see it". And I am made to feel like I am making something up. My daughter can "pass", I suppose, to those who don't know her. Sometimes. The older she gets (she's almost 9), the better she is at "passing". I think girls in general are probably better at this. It just upsets me that people think they know what Autism is. That they can throw years of evaluations and therapy out the door and claim THEY know my daughter isn't Autistic. That she must fit into some very narrow mold in order to be considered such. I don't know why it affects me so much. Why one woman's opinion irritates me so badly. But, it does. There are days I don't know how she will make it through. Days where I get phone calls and notes home. Days when I cry over seeing my child struggle so much. Yet, this person can dismiss it all. SHE DOESN'T SEE IT. She invalidates my daughter. I wish more professionals wouldn't make these judgement calls, either. That they understood Autism more.

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    1. This is why I don't tell the diagnosis (or not only the diagnosis but the fact) that I'm autistic (latest diagnosis aspergers) to anyone. Because I doubt they would understand. And I could not explain.

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  5. lol you said himar <3

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  6. Lydia, tell me what you think of this: I work with autistic college students - all are able to take college-level courses. Almost every student in the program (and their parents, which is where I suspect the problem starts) will say at one point or another, "I'm higher functioning than the other students in this program."

    They often say it at the very beginning of the program, before they have even had a chance to get to know the other students! I give them a talk about functioning labels, but I'm not really sure I'm getting through. What do you think?

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    1. I think a lot of people are kind of told "Hey your autistic, your *broken*.", so the whole "im high functioning" thing is really a message directed at themselves to reassure themselves that no, they are not broken. Perhaps the best response it to just say "Hey your not alone here. Nobody in this group is broken! We're just a little different from the norm."

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  7. I had to share this on Facebook. I'm not as accomplished as you, but I can also "pass" quite well. Very few people are allowed into my apartment, though. It's far from unsafe (I have a 4 year old also on the spectrum), but it's cluttered. Very cluttered. Things are piled onto the entertainment center. The coffee table is usually covered. It was worse in my 20's (I'm 34). In my 20's there were paths. It's almost 10:00 pm right now, and I've only just started the laundry. I have to be up at 7 and we're almost out of clean dishes. It will be a very late night, and I'm on Facebook (found your article there). I loose the ability to speak as well. Growing up, since it usually happened while a parent was ranting at/interrogating me, it was assumed that I was refusing to speak out of insolence, so they just got angrier. I have meltdowns. A lot. I've luckily learned how to hold it at bay while my daughter's awake, but longer than that is impossible when it's coming. I can only hold it off by doing things like playing games on my phone. Ones that don't take any thought. Bejewled comes to mind. I have never been able to hold a job. My father supports my daughter and me financially. I can't manage more than one college class at a time. Yet people are shocked that I'm on the spectrum. People "never would have guessed." I "must be so high functioning." I want to scream, "What, do you think I like living off my father at my age?! Do you think I was born without the capacity to feel pride, or to have it deeply wounded by countless failures at trying to work towards living independently?!" I cry a lot. I'm ashamed to be a 34 year old dependent, and am mortified every time someone asks me "So, what do you do for a living?" Sorry, I needed to rant. You hit a nerve with this one.

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    1. Julia,

      May I link you to an article from a month ago? "Privilege and the Myth of Independence" is the title, and you may find some solidarity there, too.

      If you haven't yet, please find other Autistics near you and spend time with them. And find people with other disabilities near you, too, and spend time with them. We are stronger and more resilient in community than we are alone, believing no one else will understand or encourage.

      Lydia

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  8. The problem is we are contending with the public's very outdated and inaccurate image of autism from the 1940s,50s, Rain Man, etc. We come along as new data that should revise the theory but we get rejected because we don't fit that old model.

    "We must view with profound respect the infinite capacity of the human mind to resist the introduction of useful knowledge."
    -- Thomas R. Lounsbury

    See also: "I Am Joe's Functioning Label"
    http://aspergersquare8.blogspot.com/2008/03/i-am-joes-functioning-label.html

    P.S. Can you translate the Arabic phrases?

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  9. Those with very high levels of intelligence, on the spectrum or not, often can't realize what it's like to struggle to accomplish various basic tasks, and consequently underestimate how bad it can be to have mentally impairing disabilities. They certainly don't have a reason to act righteously indignant when someone points out that some are doing better than others due to difference in aptitude. The low/high functioning dichotomy is real and can't be proven otherwise. It's definitely not arbitrary though functioning disparities are continuous. This is not concerning malleable ideas, but real circumstances that occur for millions.

    I don't like having the recognition of my real problems coupled with my diagnosis, insulted because I'm not one of the brilliant autistics who gets to skip grades and interact with others with no trouble. Acting as if there are no disparities within the spectrum in functioning is not appreciated, nor is it kind. Perception of privilege doesn't go away by pretending that successes are frivolously defined. I think that such denials are condescending and paternalistic. I can't help but think that many of you are trying to weaken recognition of autistics who really cannot "pass", and who really do have trouble doing basic and advanced things, who don't just have a few fluke instances of problems.

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    1. My ability to pass actually heavily influences the fact that I do not leave my house, almost ever. I had 'passing' drilled in me and it's so distressing to live with and maintain that I just stopped going out or participating in anything. Being perceived as high-functioning for the hour or two a week I'm not in the house is still a complete distortion of how I actually live the rest of my life.
      True, I found that going to college wasn't ever going to work, neither has a job, or many other basic things, actually many of the things Lydia can do, but I sure can put on a HF show... So do those two hours I can pretend equate to high functioning or low functioning or perhaps moderately functioned? I think that is more the issue Lydia is attempting to address,though I can see your point as well.

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    2. Essentially, I used to 'look' a lot like Lydia and the end result is a hermit on SSA.
      Assuming that functioning levels are constant can be damaging, and often people assume that someone who can pass will always pass, and will not ever need services, and if they regress it is through some personal fault of their own.

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    3. Lurker don't you think that Lydia not being able to cope with her dishes despite skipping grades might put her in exactly the right position to understand? Do you really want to classify her issues as a "fluke instance"?
      Are you happy to identify as being more or less autistic then someone else?
      Of course there are disparities but none so huge that being Autistic isn't the common ground. I think that what Lydia and others are trying to accomplish is actually the opposite of what you allege; autistics that can speak should, the insight is invaluable.

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    4. Um, WTF? I think you've completely missed the point, "Lurker"...

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    5. She said such instances can happen to anyone, disabled or not, and acknowledges that they're not massive deficits. So I don't know what that would put one in the position to understand. If one set of problems come from the domain of disability, and another set comes from without, it doesn't seem like they will be considered the same way. I didn't say anything of intensity of being autistic. I'm just referring to levels of impairment which vary a lot, even if autism is the common ground.

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  10. You and my children are why I am starting a school for 'high-functioning' individuals! I am bipolar and there are so many similarities between autism and my disorder. It is time to allow people to be who they are regardless if that is different then what we believe they should be, act, talk, etc. thank you for an amazing essay. Remember that regardless of what anyone else things, says, or does to you or about you; that there are millions of us who understand and appreciate you!

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  11. My various levels of "functioning" boil down to this some days. And, in most of the areas in which I "function," not being able to speak is "BAD." It's scary to put this out there, because part of my thinks "Oh, no one will ever hire me again, and the people I *do* work for (and do good work) will get rid of me because they will think that if I can't talk I can't think (even though I am doing perfectly good work for them!) http://paulacdurbinwestbyautisticblog.blogspot.com/2012/09/nonspeaking-autistic-makes-video.html

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    1. I've had that worry. My current employment, they wouldn't know if I could speak or not, and I still had that worry. (My boss does know I've assisted class while non-speaking before, and that no one could tell at the time I was doing so. I think I'm safe?)

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  12. I believe girls are better at passing as well. I am in many Autism groups and most of the girls pass very well but most of the guys do not

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  13. you know what, the dishes are the least important thing in your life - get a cleaner! if you cant afford it then tutor someone for an hour on a skill you have that they want and then they can do your dishes in return (bartering is a wonderful thing) :-) - just an idea

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  14. OMG, I have a special hatred for the "so high functioning" line that gets trotted out nearly every time I express my opinion on something as a Real Autistic Person™. I'll stop there lest I launch into a 50-page rant... but yeah, completely relate and agree with everything you've said.

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  15. Hi – Will you please post a link to your important Blog at The Autism Community at vorts.com? Our members will really appreciate it.
    Members include: Those living with Autism, parents of children with autism, their families, friends, support groups, etc.
    It's easy to do, just cut and paste the link and it automatically links back to your website. You can also add Articles, News, Photos, and Videos if you like.
    Email me if you need any help or would like me to do it for you. I hope you consider sharing with us.
    Please feel free to share as often and as much as you like.
    The Autism Community: http://www.vorts.com/autism/
    Thanks,
    James Kaufman, Editor

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  16. Thank you for writing this. My son has also been slapped with a "high functioning" label. I see him struggling all the time to keep up appearances and look "normal". I can see on his face how tired he gets at school. When he gets home, he feels more free to just be the autistic kid he is, if that makes any sense. Maybe you don't do your homework and let the dishes stay dirty longer because at home it is ok to just be you and let it go, at least for a little while?

    If it's any consolation, I would let my dishes stack to the ceiling if I could.

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  17. I had the same issues in college, as well. Also, in my apartment, I have a lot of clutter and have a hard time getting things together. I often feel guilty about it, but maybe I shouldn't. Still, because it might not be because of my being Autistic, then perhaps I should still feel guilty about it.

    Also, for speaking, I can do the same thing.

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  18. Lydia, your post has totally resonated with me. Totally.

    I have been throwing money at problems (cleaner, meal deliveries, donating cash instead of participating in events for my kids' school etc etc) and from the outside it looks like I am a frivolous SAHM leeching off of her professional husband. I get a lot of "but, what do you DO all day?".

    The reality is very different and I'm slowly coming to terms with how much energy 'passing' is sapping from me - even with my costly troubleshooting. Thanks for sharing with me, you've given me lots to think about.

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  19. Thank you for writing this. I will link to it, when needed. For me it is quite similar. I have passed school, university and I have work/am employed. But I gave my physical and psychological health to this. No one knows how much effort all this takes. And I have (in my opinion serve) problems with speaking. That does not mean, that ppl realize, because I do speak. (Maybe they realize, that there is something wrong with my speach, but not the extent at all.) I speak at work. We have meetings and I tell what I should tell. I have to work with participants and patients myself. I speak to them. But it is in a standardized way (what is good in this case, because I have to tell the same words to everybody). But if they don't respond in the usuall way, I don't know what to say. I say "hm" then most of the time. I asked my supervior what I can say (e.g. if ppl start to tell me their problems and I don't know a good answer) and she said I can say they can talk in their therapy. That's good for me, but maybe unpolite to them. Another thing is that I can not talk about certain things (not because I don't want to but because I don't know HOW) and ppl then usually think I don't want to, because they heared me speaking before. E.G. I go to my doctor and he doesn't ask specific questions, so I don't know what to say. Or in 2004/2005 I was making a psyco-therapy myself. Well I should have made because I was in a psychosomatics-hospital. But I didn't know what to tell. I really did not know. And the thearpist stared at me all the time. I hated this. And they said I don't want to. I would want to! I wanted at that time! (Not with the staring therapist though but I got another therapist later.) I just don't know HOW to speak this them. It is a strange situation when you are sitting there and they expect you to tell... whatever. I don't know. Because with the other therapist I said a few sentences but they didn't understand. Now some of my collegues are psychotherapists. I asked them if all patients find it easy to speak with them. And they (all!) said yes. They are able, they talk a lot. But (they said so!) some ppl just don't want to. No, thats false, some ppl can't. There must be a way to help ppl who can't speak or can not speak in certain situation, mustn't it? (I tried with writing to them, but, I don't know why, this was not effective. And now of course I can't go to my doctor and give him a peace of paper and say: Please read this, if written my problems down here. Because that is not socially acceptable - unfortunately.)

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  20. Sorry, I nocticed a mistake in my comment: "Or in 2004/2005 I was making a psyco-therapy myself." should be "Or in 2004/2005 I was attending a psyco-therapy myself." this means something different. Sorry.

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  21. Hi it is difficult for me to express my appreciation on your writing and comments and i am not autistic ..my 14 yr old son is. every time i hear the oh but he is HF i need to control desire to punch that person/teacher in the face...i was told by a teacher thew saw him laughing at lunchtime so was i sure he was autistic WTF he is bullied but puts on the happy face he has beem taught or at least learnt to avoid questions...teachers dont understand he sometimes needs to lie down in a dark room after school for hours so didnt get his homework done. he has model good looks and is clever but that doesnt help him with basic exec functioning. He is on his way to his 3rd high school in 2 years..first two catholic boys now trying public co ed. We have lists
    Reminders and schedules that are more for me than him..he already knows they "dont really work"

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  22. Hi it is difficult for me to express my appreciation on your writing and comments and i am not autistic ..my 14 yr old son is. every time i hear the oh but he is HF i need to control desire to punch that person/teacher in the face...i was told by a teacher thew saw him laughing at lunchtime so was i sure he was autistic WTF he is bullied but puts on the happy face he has beem taught or at least learnt to avoid questions...teachers dont understand he sometimes needs to lie down in a dark room after school for hours so didnt get his homework done. he has model good looks and is clever but that doesnt help him with basic exec functioning. He is on his way to his 3rd high school in 2 years..first two catholic boys now trying public co ed. We have lists
    Reminders and schedules that are more for me than him..he already knows they "dont really work"

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  23. Thank you so much for this post, Lydia.

    Reminds me of when my Disability counselor told me I don't seem autistic. (I don't have it on my file.) Little does she know I put conscious effort into not stimming, into mimicking NT norms, etc. etc. It was really frustrating to be erased like that.

    So thank you for this post.

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  24. I am 57. When young and having such a hard time understanding how most people thought... they just called me weird.

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  25. I was diagnosed autism around age 5 or 6 by Boston children's hospital. Attended summer studies fit learning disability testing associated with autism. The doctors lost any record of me before 1998. Im 40. now the doctors say i don't have autism. All through out elementary, middle, and high school they had me in special education classes for autism. But now they say i don't have it and that I'm delusional for thinking i do. What a mess. Your article has helped me feel not so alone. Thank you.

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  26. This is exactly how I feel. I didn't spend much time in college, so I'm rarely around anyone who thinks I'm "brilliant." Most of the times no one knows what I'm talking about, or understands my complex vocabulary and "high functioning" way of talking. Most people tell me I'm the smartest person they've met and they are stumped as to why I don't "do things" for myself. I like to think it's because most of them aren't college educated, but even the doctors and dentists are impressed when I use big words to describe the location of pain, etc, like around my mandibular condile. I've even went so long without doing my dishes that I just threw the stacks of dirty dishes away and still haven't bought anything besides disposable dinnerware, since. That was over 8yrs ago.
    Um...so how does one fix this? What makes you feel more like a "normal" person? Because I feel anything but normal, all of the time. I've been on benzodiazepines for 13yrs, because the best way I know how to describe how I feel just sounds like anxiety to the free clinic psycologist. To which they've never diagnosed me with autism, at all. It's something I had to diagnose myself, after having my therapist tell me that autism was something that kids needed to worry about, after telling her I wanted to be tested for it. She's also told me that she'd take me to a local amusement park, but we would have to close my file, and be friend. I'm guessing she didn't notice anything amiss about my personality. I'm currently in withdrawal from the benzos, because the upper echelon of the free clinic has decided to not prescribe those anymore, due to problems in the community, that are out of my control. I'd buy them on the street but I need to stay employed, and without a prescription, I have no reasonable excuse to take them, as far as an employer is concerned. I'm also consequently withdrawing from a lot of other things, that I feel I've developed habits for, because I don't know how else to deal with the way I feel, and never knew, up until recently, how to deal with what I now realize is high functioning autism.
    I'm also in the middle of a breakup of a 7yr relationship, that I tend to think has a lot to do with my autism. I'm laying on the sofa at my dad's as I type this, feeling lost af in the world, and do not know how to handle this high functioning shit. I only stumbled on this blog out of curiousity about sarcasm and my disorder, or whatever is the proper term, and to keep my mind busy, so it doesn't dwell on the people I miss and wish were still in my life.
    I'd really just like to know if there is anything that makes it better, or if there is any steps I should be taking to get a handle on this and feel a little better about how I "am." I just want to feel normal. Whatever that is.
    And thank you for writing this all down. It must've been a chore.

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