I am very excited for this first installment of my new blog series titled “5 things that I want my…. to know about autism”. I have decided to begin with my university. I would like to include a small note before this post. Some of you probably know that I attend a Christian university. As a result, both the church installment of this series and this particular post will apply to my university. Therefore, I have decided to focus specifically on social and academic aspects in this post, since spiritual aspects will be covered in the post addressed to the church.
5 Things That I Want My University To Know About Autism:
Just because I don’t seem to have a disability, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.
I hear this a lot at my university. I don’t always “appear” autistic to those around me at my university. I understand that it isn’t as easy to look at someone and tell that they are autistic, as it is to look at someone and see that they have a physical disability. So I can understand that you can’t always tell immediately that I have autism. But please, stop assuming that just because I don’t “appear” to be autistic that I can’t be autistic (or that I have very little to no struggles as a result of my disability) once I have decided to tell you about my disability. It is extremely difficult and very discouraging to constantly have to defend my diagnosis when people do not believe me simply because that person has not witnessed me struggle as a result of my disability. Some people at my university may never see me at one of the many moments when I am struggling, yet that does not negate the existence of my disability. So please, when I tell you that I am autistic, do not dismiss it and my struggles just because you haven’t witnessed them.
Along the same line, I can assure you that I am not “faking it”.
I could never put myself through this much pain, stress, and anxiety just to pretend to have a disability in order to get academic assistance and supposed sympathy from people. It is not possible to fake struggles in so many aspects of my life. Think about it. I would have to constantly pretend to feel uncomfortable around people, to have sensitivities to pretty much every sense that I have, to not know how to interact with people, to feel isolated and lonely… 24/7. Pretending to have these issues would not be worth the help that I would get from faking a disability.
To my professors: academics are incredibly tough for me, so please don’t give up on me.
I cannot stress how difficult classes can get for me. There are times when, no matter how much I try, I cannot get my brain to retain information because it is preoccupied with a sensory disturbance, or a worry, or something that it has decided to focus on against my will for an extended amount of time. There are times when, even with testing accommodations, tests stress my brain so much that I cannot truly show how much I have learned. There are times when I cannot focus during lectures because of a noise or smell that is very disturbing to my brain. It is very difficult for you to truly understand what I know. If you question me about my knowledge, by brain could get overwhelmed and essentially “shut down”. If you go by my test scores to determine my knowledge, you are only seeing what my brain can reproduce under stress. I don’t know if you can ever truly understand what I know unless you talk to me in the right kind of environment. Even I don’t understand how much I know at certain times. Just please don’t give up on me.
Acceptance is one of the greatest things that could improve how I feel at school.
It is so important to move past “awareness” to acceptance. Awareness does nothing to help me. It just tells the world that people like me exist. What I need is for people to understand (to an extent) the struggles that I go through and why I experience those struggles, as well as how to better assist me as I work through my difficulties. A campus were acceptance flourishes could make my life so much easier. I would not have to worry about facing judgement or a lack of understanding about my disability. I would not have to hide my disability from those around me. I could be completely open with everyone and receive the support and encouragement that I need, instead of having to live in fear.
Anxiety and depression can become worse when an autistic person doesn’t have proper support.
My anxiety and depression can worsen depending upon what I am going through. When I am facing struggles that I am having a hard time overcoming, they can both become much worse if I do not have access to people who are uplifting and willing to help me. The isolation that can result from social difficulties can also increase my depression. My anxiety can rapidly fluctuate throughout the day, depending upon the sensory triggers, social situations, and other stimuli that I am facing. Even with medication, these issues can still fluctuate. These are issues that, no matter how strong I am and how hard I try, still affect me every day. This is why a good support system is so important. With the aid of a support system these issues can be decreased, although never completely removed.