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I Wasn’t Wrong. I Was Autistic.

One thing that’s been on my mind lately is how some parents know their child is neurodivergent, or autistic, or they are diagnosed, but they choose not to tell them.

The shadow of a young woman walking away.

I recently watched this TikTok where @mrwilliamsprek shares how his mother knew he had ASD, ADHD, and dyslexia, from kindergarten through to his senior year of high school and chose not to tell her son this. He found out on his own in college after a separate evaluation.

Now, I know many parents choose not to share this with their children because they fear they will be singled out or bullied. They don’t want their kids to feel different from their peers.

Except they are different.

More so, they know they are different. Whether they reached that conclusion on their own or their peers have already pointed it out. They know. They just don’t know why. And why is arguably the most important thing.

I’ve heard similar stories like @mrwilliamsprek’s throughout the autistic and neurodivergent communities. However, I can only really speak on my experience.

And in my experience, I started masking as young as five years old. I knew in the first grade that I was different, that certain things didn’t come naturally to me and I had to adapt accordingly to survive and appear “normal.”

I knew I was different, maybe not always consciously, but that feeling was there. And not knowing why when that’s all your brain craves is both confusing and disorienting.

The thing is, throughout my childhood I was a perfectly “normal,” little girl. I had friends, I got invited to birthday parties, I had sleepovers, and so on. On the outside I was perfectly ok, maybe a little shy, a little quiet, but ok. On the inside, I had changed myself so much to fit this ideal of “normal,” that I didn’t even realize I had changed at all.

The masking and confusion only worsened when I reached high school. I was dealing with so many changes, I felt I had no one to turn to, and I knew inexplicably I was different from my peers. I couldn’t name that difference or explain it, but I concluded that whatever it was, it was wrong. I was wrong. Inherently. In a way I could never change.

And at 16 years old that really freaking sucks.

But again, I appeared just fine to everyone. No one knew of my internal struggles, all my questions without answers, and how terrible I truly felt about myself.

And that is the problem with parents not telling their kids about learning disabilities or diagnoses. You don’t see the internal battle that’s always raging. You only see what they choose to show you on the outside.

Let me repeat that: you only see what they choose to show you on the outside.

And what’s on the outside is not an accurate reflection of what’s on the inside. I can almost guarantee you that many unidentified autistic kids know they are different and they just want to know why.

I didn’t find out until I was 22 years old. And you have no idea how healing that was for my 16 year old self. To know I wasn’t all the names and words people had called me, that I had called myself. I wasn’t wrong. I wasn’t rude, or insensitive, or without compassion. I was autistic.

If you are a parent of an autistic or neurodivergent child and you haven’t told them, take this as a sign to tell them. Please. The common thread I’ve found amongst many late-identified autistics is simple: we only wish we had known sooner.

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