NOTES FOR A YOUNG AUTISTIC OR WHATEVER KIND OF UNDERDOG YOU ARE

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One of my biggest fears is not being alive to usher my daughter into being a fully functional adult. You see, my three year old daughter is autistic. She came by it naturally. She’s autistic, like her Father before her.

And since I’m autistic that gives me a distinct advantage and disadvantage in being one of her guides. I know where she’s coming from. But I can only get her so far.

I’ve thought of making videos or recording audio for her, but that’s not how I communicate. I write. So this is for her and all those other weirdos who have come before her…those people like her that need to reach functional adulthood, and it’s for those people like me who are helping them to get there. This is my love letter to you.

If you’re autistic (or another brand of weirdo), you haven’t had it easy. No matter where you find yourself on the autism spectrum, how many sensory sensitivities, motor impairments, emotional deadspots, how much emotional dysregulation or how many social deficits you have…you’ve had more than enough challenges. And you have more than enough to improve.

Since you’re reading this, you’ve already achieved multiple things your parents likely feared would never happen. From where you started, you are a high achiever despite your limits. And you’re reminded of your limits constantly.

You’re in the race, but others are lapping you. And yet, you’re still going, aren’t you? Well, keep going.

You’re a stranger in a strange land. If you’re going to make it, you’re going to have to learn the customs. You’re going to have to learn the language of more typical people.

Your language, your customs are alien, foreign to the natives. You’re only going to be able to share the best of your personal culture. And beware challenging the ineffective parts of the native culture.

But there will be a few natives that can appreciate you, at least parts of you, It’s imperative that you find these people. As different as you are from them, you need them.

Typicals are able to live playing to their strengths. You’re not typical. You can’t just accentuate your strengths.

You’re going to have many more kinks in your armor, more weaknesses than others. You’re going to have to shore up those weaknesses. Work on the ones that are most necessary first.

Those may be sensory issues you have: lights, sounds, touches, smells. There will certainly be social issues you have. Find some way to address each of these…but only a little at a time. If you take small steps, you can get anywhere you want…with time.

I wonder if you know where you want to go…or even what you want. As an Autistic, it’s likely you also have sensory sensitivities. It makes it easy to know what you don’t want.

You may not want noises too loud. Lights too bright. Touches too light, too hard…or at all. You need things just so.

It’s like your life is about simply avoiding what you don’t want. That can take up a lot of your time. Don’t let it take away your life. You have to find out what you want…and focus on that.

What is your life going to be like? It may not be best to compare yourself to your typical peers. It would be better to compare yourself to other autistics…who had similar levels of functioning that you’ve had.

But here’s how it’s likely to go. Just as you’re getting used to something new, it’ll be time for an ever newer sort of thing. Your typical peers won’t really find those new things all that challenging. They may even like them.

This will clue you in to a necessary strategy. It’s not enough to just make it through the day as best you can. You’re going to have to prepare for tomorrow. I mean really prepare. As the great Dalton said, “You’re going to have to expect the unexpected.”

What you like and what you want for yourself will likely be a departure than what the typical person might want. You may want something more unique than being a Doctor, Lawyer, or Computer Scientist.

You may have to make your own way. But, at times, you may have to follow others to find your lane. Who do you follow?

Follow those who aren’t trying to make them into some other versions of themselves. Follow those who are trying to make you the best versions of yourself. Like most things, it’s going to require you to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

For a large percentage of us, we’re going to want social relationships, even romantic partnerships. This will require more of us than ever before. It will require more of our friends and partners, too.

If you grew up close to your parents and siblings, this will be easier. If you grew up with strained relationships, it will be a mountain of a task. But you’ll still want to climb that mountain.

The people who you relate to will have their own peaks to ascend. They may have natur(e)ally inherited a “diverse” neurology, such as yourself. Or their strain in relationships via nurture may have disabled them developmentally, as well. That’s OK…rise and evolve together.

There is no weakness that you have that can’t be addressed by objectivity. If you can see beyond your and others’ biases, you can strengthen your weaknesses. Your bias and filters will be strong and hard to see past.

Typical people will see what they believe to be the big picture. And they will see far more than you for quite a while. But as you pick up more and more of the details, you’ll see the big picture, too.

But you’ll end up seeing more than what typical people see. It’ll be up to you to convince them that they’re things they’re missing. Most won’t like that. Find the ones that do.

I have some final thoughts for you, for now. You’re going to highs and lows in your life. Your highs may not be as high as your typical peers…and your lows may be even lower.

But let me tell you something this old(er) autistic has found to be true. The ONLY way to move forward is to go both up AND down. You’ll be tempted to avoid the lows in your life: don’t!!!

More than most, many things will be outside of your comfort zone. But just because something is outside of your comfort zone doesn’t mean it is beyond your ability. While you cannot make yourself typical, you can make yourself more than you ever thought you could be.

But in order to do all these things you have to take life on one bite at a time…at whatever your bite size is. Sample and savor all the parts of life. There are parts of life you wouldn’t predict are for you. And there are parts of you that you wouldn’t predict are you, as well.

Life is about evolution. No matter how far behind you think you started, you can get farther than you think can. Not even autism…or whatever it is than makes you different…can take away your ability to become more than ever before.

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