I thought I would dedicate my next post to the misconceptions behind High Functioning Autism (HFA), and also explain what it’s really like to be a person with HFA.
I would like to start out by addressing the misconceptions surrounding HFA. It is often though that since the word ‘autism’ is in HFA, that we are exactly the same as everyone else on the spectrum. Yes, autism does link all of us that fall on the autism spectrum, but each individual form of autism has it’s own unique characteristics. When people hear that I have AS they automatically assume that I have the characteristics of other autistic people that they have seen or interacted with. Not true. I am not the same as any other person on the spectrum. I’m even unique compared to every other person with AS. I may have a brain that is put together in a different way than Neuro-Typicals (people who are not on the spectrum) just like every autistic person, but I am still my own person. I frequently run into people who think that I, along with other ASDs, are stupid and incapable of anything product. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. All of us, even if we are lower functioning, have amazing gifts that go beyond what normal people can do. I saw a video a while back of a girl who would be considered on the lower functioning end of the ASD. Like most lower functioning autistics, she was unable to communicate. Through the help of her parents, she was able to learn how to type to communicate. The words that she wrote amazed everyone. She was incredibly articulate, more so than a NT girl of the same age. With those who have HFA, they are often incredibly gifted in some amazing areas. I have been given a gift in all areas of science. I know others who are gifted in the areas of math, chemistry, history, and many others. It just goes to show that we are much more capable and intelligent than you think. Never let it cross your mind that someone with autism is “stupid” or “retarded”. We have so much intelligence within us, it’s just often hard for us to communicate just how smart we are.
Now that I’ve covered some misconceptions, I would like to give you an account on what it’s like to have AS. In social situations, I often feel like an alien. Or like I’m invisible. If anyone happens to notice me, which isn’t very often, I feel very out of place and like I don’t belong. When I am talking to people I often say the wrong thing without realizing it. I offend a lot of people that way. I would much rather stay in a corner or lock myself in my room to avoid people. It’s usually easier that way so I don’t embarrass myself. When I am around around other people I tend to talk excessively about science, which is something that most people don’t care to hear about. My brain feels like it is on overdrive 24/7. My mind is always shifting from one thought to another. A majority of my thoughts revolve around science. For example, I will be walking around my college campus and my mind will go from thinking about how a sidewalk that goes in a certain direction forms a great right triangle with the one I’m walking on, to thinking about the chemical composition of our lake, to thinking about how the stars will be aligned that night. This is how my brain works all day, every day. It’s kind of crazy and most NTs don’t really understand it. I’m in Analytical Chemistry this semester, and for those of you that don’t know that is a pretty difficult class. I often understand the material, but with the way my brain is set up it is so difficult to get the information from my brain to the paper. It often feels like it’s impossible to convey what I’m thinking. Thankfully my professor is incredibly understanding and he is very helpful in helping me to convey what’s in my mind. I also tend to obsess over stuff very easily. Once I find something that I like it will often become an obsession of mine for a while, which is a fault with my brain. I also have a lot of sensitivities to sounds, such as humming, whistling, scraping sounds, and many others. It’s very hard for a NT to understand these sensitivities. They usually tell me to just suck it up and get over it. What they don’t understand is that due to the way my brain is set up these sounds seems like they are about 10x louder than they really are, and because they send me into sensory overload they can effectively shut down my thought process and prevent me from thinking properly, doing homework, focusing, etc.
I hope that this description has helped you to understand AS a bit better. If you have any questions about AS feel free to ask me. Most importantly, never judge a person with ASD without getting to know them first. They will surprise you. Have a good day!