Most people who meet me think I’m a fairly normal person. On first glance, I appear pretty “neurotypical”. But once you get to know me a bit more, you find that there’s something “odd” or “different” about me. That’s because I have a very “mild” form of autism.
When a lot of people think of autism, their minds immediately flash to “Rain Man” or Temple Grandin. That’s a very severe form of the syndrome, but there are varying degrees. Autism can affect as much as 1% of the population, meaning you know a lot more autistic people than you’d think. You probably don’t realize it, as we’re mostly normal with only a few hints to give us away as being “neuro-atypical”.
Did you know that Daryl Hannah, Tim Burton, and Dan Aykroyd have Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism? Probably not. That’s how subtle it can be. The majority of people with autism are high functioning, meaning they are able to lead normal lives with only a few “quirks” resulting from their unusual brain development.
Here are a few things you need to know about people with mild autism (taken from Health Feeds):
- If you have it mildly, you’re at the awkward midpoint of being ‘normal enough’ for everyone to expect the same from you as everyone else, but ‘autistic enough’ to not always reach those expectations.
- We find it difficult to read people.
- Hints don’t work. Just bloody tell us.
- If I do things at my own pace and use my own methods, I invariably succeed. If I go at the pace others tell to go or use someone else’s methods, I can crash and burn rather horribly.
- Eye contact is overrated. People say I act unnatural when I talk to them, but to me it’s unnatural to stare right into someone’s eyeballs just because everyone else is doing it.
- If you think I’m ignoring you in the occasional conversation, please don’t take it personally. I can only focus for lengths of time on things I find genuinely interesting. (And even now I’m not being rude- I may truly care about you as a person, but not always about the subject at hand. Everyone has to endure conversations they’re not interested in- I’m just the guy who can’t fake interest as convincingly as everyone else. This makes me rude, rather than the people who pull it off and successfully trick you.)
- Asperger’s is sometimes called ‘Wrong Planet Syndrome’, because it often feels like that’s where you were born- on the wrong planet, among a bunch of aliens who don’t function like you do. So when I say that we’re normal and you guys are weird, that really is how it feels!
- Being born on a different planet can feel pretty isolating and lonely. Especially if none of the aliens understand your culture, or even think it’s something to be discouraged, feared or cured.
- We work better when things are specific. Sounds obvious, but the less margin of error there is the easier things are to do.
- Like everybody else, autistic people shine when given the chance to play to their strengths. When the world dares to meet us halfway, we do brilliantly.