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Autism: Special Interest Week, Day 2

Updated: Jun 11, 2023

Prompt: Your Most Recent Special Interest

Letters spelling out Autism with other random letters around it.

I think my most recent special interest has to be Autism. As soon as an appointment was booked in for an evaluation I started on the research. I love reading and learning about Autism because it helps me understand myself better and grow as an individual. It also makes me feel less alone.


Women and Girls

I first wanted to know how Autism presented in girls and women because I wanted to know how I was missed. I soon learned that many, many women - and basically anyone that isn't a straight, white boy or man - is skipped over. Frankly, I'm still mad about it. Part of this is because of masking and how women and other minorities are more socialized to try to "fit in." It's also expected for girls to be quieter and more sensitive, thus nothing seems out of the ordinary.


Masking

Evaluators can even misdiagnose or not diagnose at all because of this masking. During my evaluation one aspect I thought I didn't fit into was the "restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour," also known as stimming. I didn't stim.


Except I didn't stim because I was masking 24/7. After I was diagnosed, I started to unmask and learn more about myself, and I realized I was suppressing the need to stim and express my emotions in a healthy way. I started to remember that as a child I loved the rocking chair at my aunt's house, that I liked to watch the ceiling fan, and so on. The problem was being told these things were annoying, so I stopped doing them.


Now I stim in other ways. My favourite is listening to the same song over and over again, or putting a playlist on shuffle, closing my eyes, and just listening.


Social Anxiety

As a girl, I was shy. Or at least, I was brushed off as such. In reality, I now know that I was quiet because I didn't know what to say and I was scared to mess up and say the wrong thing. This caused a tremendous amount of social anxiety, but also an inability to explain why and express my emotions. It's not uncommon for Autistics to experience social anxiety. I think we've all agreed on the fact it feels like everyone else has this rule book for social situations - how to act, what to say, when to say it - except for us.


I knew I'd found my people and that I wasn't alone when others spoke of this "rule book," because I had used those exact terms many times before. Since learning this I have come out of my shell a bit and stopped caring so much if I come across as awkward or strange. Though this does depend on who I'm with, where I am, and whether or not I feel comfortable unmasking.


Final Thoughts

Gosh, there is so much to know and learn about Autism and I could talk about it for hours and still forget to mention certain aspects. I'm thinking of creating a Google Slides presentation to gather all the information together in one place. What do you think?

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