UFO (Autism)

The Portal
UFO
Per-Bast
Make WWW Great Again
Mount Paozu
DOS/Win9x Game Shrines
Town of ZZT
Observatory
The Quarry
Library of Babel
Red Forest
Haunted House
Macula's Maze
Reptile House
Wildcat Den
The Scratching Post
Dock
The PortalUFOPer-BastMake WWW Great AgainMount PaozuDOS/Win9x Game ShrinesTown of ZZTThe ObservatoryThe QuarryLibrary of BabelRed ForestHaunted HouseMacula's MazeReptile HouseWildcat DenThe Scratching PostThe Dock

Enlightening Autistic Pride Symbol Discovering My Autism as an Adult Enlightening Autistic Pride Symbol


In spite of the mainstream treatment of autism as a neurotype that is exclusive to children, autism is as fundamentally a part of a person's being as anything can be, and there are tens of millions of autistic adults in the world today. Lamentably, due to mainstream understanding of autism still being far from optimal, many of us escape diagnosis during our childhood, and enter adulthood with no awareness of our autism, going through life as true round pegs being awkwardly forced into square holes by a society that doesn't know any better.

An Alien in a Strange Land Being unknowingly autistic is in many ways akin to living life as a cat in a dog pound, with neither you nor the dogs being aware that you're not a canine. It's a series of infuriating and inscrutable struggles to communicate and relate with everyone around you. The various sensory issues that usually accompany autism can make you feel like a sighted person in the country of the blind, trying and failing to explain the distress you feel from sounds/tastes/smells/textures to an audience that might not even notice the presence of said stimuli, and can only conclude that you are either exaggerating or mentally ill.

There exists a common sentiment among autistic people that being autistic can feel like being a space alien stranded on another planet, and indeed that notion was one of my reasons for naming this section The UFO. The other reason, for the record, was that it gave me an excuse to give it a funky and creative design. (:

One fictional alien in particular that I related to a lot during my journey of self-discovery after learning about autism was Piccolo from the Dragon Ball franchise, a Namekian born on Earth immediately after the death of his parent, the amnesiac Namekian known as Piccolo Daimao.

The junior Piccolo spent the first 9 years of his life with no understanding of why he was so different from everyone he met, clinging to his father/former self's belief that he was a demon because it was the only explanation that he had, until abruptly learning about his heritage from the alien invader Nappa. After nearly a decade of living in solitude, unable to relate to anyone save a lone boy who he was training to be a fighter, he suddenly not only had an explanation for all of his oddities, but also knew that he had an entire tribe of people just like him.

Although Piccolo chose to label himself as a demon primarily due to inheriting the label from his father, a being who was heinous enough to effectively count as a demonic entity, it's actually fairly common for undiagnosed autistic adults to go through life feeling like they're terrible people due to a combination of life-long ostracisation and rejections, along with struggles to relate to and empathise with neurotypicals in many ways. A sizeable amount of us also harbour a life-long disdain and even lack of regard for both authority and social norms, which combined with everything else, starts making sociopathy seem like a possible explanation for our differences.

Due to our different brains, many of us are prone to unintentionally making very negative first impressions on neurotypicals without even knowing what we did. There have been many times where I would unintentionally intimidate people to the point of them being visibly afraid, even while being perfectly calm and polite, or be looked at is if I suddenly sprouted a second head without consciously doing anything at all unusual.

One study showed that unlike neurotypical children, autistic children do not mimic unnecessary behaviours in adults. This along with many of us often having monotone speech and not emoting much, surely likely triggers a lot of unintentional red flags in neurotypicals, who are used to seeing a laundry list of reassuring subtle social signals from everyone they interact with.

Finding My Tribe, and Liberation While my autism was a mystery to me for the longest time, I had obviously known since early childhood that I was fundamentally different from just about everyone around me. Over the years, I went through theory after theory about what made me tick, covering everything from MBTI to various personality disorders to whether I was perhaps indeed a cat stuck inside of a filthy human body. The fact that I, like many other autistics, seemed to relate and interact with cats much more intuitively than with humans certainly did not help rebuff the latter theory.

I had of course heard of autism in passing, but it never crossed my mind that the label could apply to me. I knew very little about the neurotype and essentially thought it was a severe mental disability limited to special needs people sitting around making noises or screaming "PENIS!!" while giggling. I am certainly a lot of things, but I daresay that stupid is not one of them.

As I've mentioned in the past, the pervasive stereotype of autism being a mental disability is also quite likely the reason that I escaped diagnosis as a child despite seeing multiple psychiatrists. I distinctly recall hearing some form of "there's nothing wrong with you - you're very smart!" many times as a kid. While I do agree that there's nothing wrong with autism, the pervasiveness of this sort of notion is why I am so quick to remind people that autistic people tend very strongly towards having high IQs. There are countless autistic children and adults out there that are missing vital answers about their brains, simply because they don't fit into the box of the outdated yet still prevalent definition of autism as a disability.

One of the most liberating and empowering things about learning that there was a scientific explanation for why I was the way I was, was the confidence it gave me in fighting for my needs. While nobody should have to put up with being hurt by others, autistic people far too often grow up being treated like we're disordered or pathological for our aversions and behaviours (sensory issues, eye contact aversion, strong need for routines, etc) and learn to keep our daily distress to ourselves.

Like many autistic people, isolating myself from others to avoid negative experiences became as natural as breathing sometime during my childhood, to the point where even spending quality time with people whose company I genuinely enjoy can seem like too much of a burden because it takes me away from the special interests that I've always found so much shelter in.

It was simply too much of a hassle to have to explain that I refuse to eat in public because the smells/sounds of people eating are too off-putting, that I get overwhelmed to the point of wanting to commit mass-murder whenever I'm in crowds, and a million other issues that seemed exclusive to me, as they were encountered. To say that it was mind-blowing to discover that there was one widely known word that completely explains all of this, is an understatement.

Dyspraxia, a motor skills disorder that is often co-morbid with autism, was another mind-blowing revelation to me. Although it affects me far less now than it did as a kid, I was notorious in my childhood for my abysmal handwriting, equally abysmal ability to play sports, and a complete inability to tie my shoes until some time in middle school.

Although dyspraxia has nothing to do with intelligence, it can understandably make a person come off as mentally challenged and caused me a great deal of stress and embarrassment over the years. My handwriting in particular led me to take a lot of flak from my father and various teachers, who couldn't understand why an otherwise intelligent child was so inept at the task, and repeatedly accused me of being lazy in spite of how hard I worked to try to improve it.

Learning about stimming (repetitive movements such as finger-flicking or hand-flapping done for self-regulation or stress relief) and echolalia (verbal stimming in the form of repeating the same word, phrase, or sound) were yet more liberating and enlightening discoveries for me. I was aware that I would sometimes start instinctually moving my toes when under a great deal of stress, and would take particular relief in the fact that no one could see this. Having thought about it, I believe this clandestine behaviour emerged as a response to being reprimanded many times as a child for openly stimming to relieve stress.

I also occasionally mumble the same thing over and over to myself very quietly for a few moments when particularly over-stressed by a sudden event. Having learned that these are perfectly valid behaviours that have proven benefits to autistic people, I am no longer ashamed to openly finger-flick or rock in public if I need to. Seeing as these activities are essentially the autistic version of tapping one's foot or pacing back and forth, why should I be forced to hide them?

Rocking and headbanging when listening to music were the only stims that I carried into my adulthood, likely only because metal culture had normalised the practice to the point where it is no longer stigmatised as a behaviour of "mentally challenged" people. I do wonder a little bit if the practice was invented by an autistic person, because of how natural it is to us. After going through some old family videos in my journey of self-discovery, I found one where I was a few years old and experimenting at playing a guitar while rocking and head banging.

The Journey Continues Liberating as that all may be, it was also unspeakably disheartening to realise that there are dozens of millions of other autistic adults and children with the same plights as myself, along with much worse ones. I've had my share of struggles, but not receiving a diagnosis at least ensured that, unlike many autistic children, I was spared from traumatic "therapies" like aba or literal electroshock torture. (I've been asked before if I am planning to write an article on aba (I refuse to capitalise it), and my answer is that reading about it boils my blood so much that I'm not sure I can even do it without cathartically strangling a few practitioners to death in the process.)

I was also able to find an open-minded employer who hired me in spite of my eccentricities, unlike 85% of college-educated autistic people.. And much like the aforementioned Namekian Piccolo faced down the genocide of his people at the hands of the galactic emperor Freeza, autistic people are facing calls for our genocide at the hands of groups such as autism speaks.

I cannot overstate how much purpose it has given me to be able to use the research I've done in my journey of self-discovery to educate people about autism and hopefully do something to improve at least a few autistic people's lives, either directly or by proxy. There's a reason this section is at the top of the sidebar. While I will never be able to go back and teach my child self and my parents about what autism is, I can hopefully at least make that difference in the lives of other people in my tribe.

If the experiences that I write about in this section of the website seem familiar to you or seem to describe someone you are close to, I highly recommend taking (or having the suspected autistic person take) the RAADS-R or AQ test on this website. While this is not a substitute for a professional diagnosis, it is easily the best method for determining a person's autism without the cost and hassle of a diagnosis. This is really something that I should have posted somewhere outside of just the Dock much earlier, but better late than never, I suppose.