5 Things That I Want My University to Know About Autism

Hello everyone,

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.



Autism and My Christian Faith

I have often been asked how autism has had an effect on my faith. The answer is not simple, but I think that it is important for me to try to explain what it is like being an autistic Christian.

I know that, from my own experiences and the experiences of others on the spectrum, that there have been difficulties in how the church overall treats autistics. I plan to discuss this issue further in a later post which will be titled “5 Things That I Want My Church to Know About Autism”, therefore I do not plan to address it in this post.

I have learned throughout the expansion of my faith that the autistic Christian likely has a very unique set of challenges that other Christians usually do not have. One of the major struggles that I have faced is Biblical interpretation. Due to the fact that my mind is extremely literal and unable to decipher the meanings of statements unless they are explicitly stated, I have found it very difficult to systematically interpret Scripture without a lot of help. As most Christians would know, there are literature styles within Scripture that require someone to “read between the lines” or interpret because the true meaning of the passage is much deeper than the literal meaning. As a result, I have had to spend a lot of time devising a method of interpretation that works for me. I almost always have to consult a vast number of resources in order to discover the meaning that I should be taking away from a particular passage.

Church attendance itself has also been difficult for me at various points. There are a number of factors that can cause anxiety or meltdowns during a typical service. The music could be too loud, there could be random loud noises (such as children or anything else), the service could last longer than expected, or interacting with people that I don’t know could send me over the edge. The best way to decrease this struggle has been to attend an understanding church that doesn’t mind if I have to step out for a bit if I’m overwhelmed, or if I choose not to walk around and interact with people if I do not feel comfortable.

Finally, the last big struggle that I have faced is evangelism. Evangelism requires interaction with other people (often in the case of my church, strangers) which can be difficult for autistic people. My church has an evangelism event each month where we go out and help the people in our community in some way. This was something that was a challenge for me at first, because the thought of talking with absolute strangers terrified me. I knew that evangelism is a huge part of my faith, so I took small steps in order to become more comfortable with these types of activities. I went from simply walking around with the group and not talking to people, to approaching people with no help whatsoever.

I have most certainly seen God working through all of these struggles to build me into a stronger Christian. He has helped me to improve in all of the areas that I have listed. It has most certainly not been easy, but it has absolutely been worth it. I used to believe that I wouldn’t be as useful in ministry as other Christians, because of my autism. God has shown me along the way that my impact can be just as great as that of a neurotypical Christian, but that my impact will usually occur in ways that only an autistic person could manage. I’ve been involved in ministries that help spread autism acceptance, as well as one that aims to help autistic people who have been bullied. This would not be possible if it weren’t for my autism.

Overall, I think that an autistic person’s Christian faith is challenging in unique ways that would often not be present in a neurotypical’s faith. Both autistics and neurotypicals are essential to the Christian faith, although those of us on the spectrum tend to have challenges that are usually not understood as well. The Christian community could be helped if there were a better understanding of the possible struggles that autistics face within the church, as well as an understanding of how we can aid ministries in our own unique ways.


An Open Letter to Anti-Vaxxer Parents from an Autistic Woman

Dear Parents:

Your presence on Facebook and on the internet has been quite prominent lately. I can barely make it through one day without seeing a post from one of you shared on Facebook or elsewhere on the internet.

Let me introduce myself. I am a 21 year old woman. I’m currently studying forensic science in college. I have a passion for science (particularly chemistry), reading, and video games. But above all else, I am autistic.

I have been diagnosed officially with autism spectrum disorder, after a battle that ensued over several years. I have always known I was different, but I never understood why I was so different from my peers. Yes, I have had many struggles when it comes to socialization. Yes, I’ve spent much of my life having attempted to fit in with my classmates. Yes, I’ve had a tough time dealing with sensory issues that have often caused high amounts of stress. Yes, I’m extremely rigid when it comes to routines. However, I have managed to make friends, learn how to adapt to life, and I have successfully pursued a college degree for the past 3 years in the area of my special interest.

Why do you view my fate as one that is worse than a crippling disease or even death? Why?

One of my friends who is also on the autism spectrum, Teighlor Fiddler, sums up what your view says to us on the spectrum well. She says, of those who are against vaccines, that “They rather have dead children than have children like me”. That is exactly what your fight against vaccines (as a result of the “vaccines cause autism” argument) says to those on the spectrum. That you, as parents, would prefer that your child be dead or have a serious disease than have autism.

Stop and think about that for a moment. It tells us on the spectrum that autism is a fate worse than death or crippling disease.

How are we supposed to feel about that, knowing that there are a growing number of parents out there that think that we are worse off than those who are dead? What does that say to us? That we are horrible, worthless, and a waste of space. It does not make us feel hopeful about our future. It makes us feel judged and misunderstood by society. I cannot even begin to put into words how awful this makes me feel, to know that there are parents out there who consider someone like me to be someone who is living a life that is worse than death.

Let me tell you something, autism is not a fate that is worse than death or some of the worst diseases imaginable. And before you ask, no, it is not a disease. It may not make for a life that is smooth sailing all of the time, but it is something that I wouldn’t give up for the world. To assert that a child would be better off living with a horrible disease or even worse, dead, shows great ignorance on your part. It is clear to me that you have not, or will not, see the positive in an autistic person. Because let me tell you, you see absolutely no positive in autism if you consider it worse than death.

Like I’ve said, autism isn’t always a bucket of positivity, but even in the lowest of my moments, I can still see the positives. My autism has given me a passion for forensic science that has allowed me to persevere through all of my academic struggles. Without it, I wouldn’t still be pursuing my passion today. It has given me an outstanding memory that has proved useful throughout my life. It has given me the ability to notice things around me that others often don’t notice.

So tell me again, why is a life like mine worse than death?


An Autistic Woman who is going to keep fighting against this warped view of autism

Things I Wish Everyone Understood About Autism

I have realized lately just how many things there are concerning autism that most people don’t understand. I thought that I would compile a list of things that I wish everyone would understand about autism.

1. It is NOT a disease.

Unfortunately many people do not seem to understand this. I frequently encounter people that think that autism is a contagious, terminal disease. I find it appalling that people actually believe that it is a disease. It is a neurological difference, not a disease!

2. There are often explanations for the seemingly “weird” things that we do.

Whether it involves refusing certain foods, feeling clothing before trying it on, or rubbing our hands together in a certain way, there is an explanation for why it is being done. Most commonly these behaviors are related to sensory sensitivity issues, or are a method of calming oneself. Many people on the spectrum have densities to certain tastes, textures, sounds, and sometimes even light and colors, which leads to behavior that is perceived to be unusual, in an attempt for the person to avoid sensitivities that they have. We also have behaviors such as hand rubbing, flapping, or twisting, in order to help calm our brains.

3. Communication is often overwhelmingly difficult to interpret.

Imagine that you are given a picture and have to determine what is shown in the picture. However, you are only able to see just around 20% of the picture. You would probably have a difficult time doing this most of the time, right? This is a good way to think about what communication is like when you have autism. Around 80% of communication is nonverbal. We often find nonverbal communication to be extremely difficult to interpret, and often we are incorrect in our interpretation of such communication. We have to interpret communication with only 20% of the picture all day every day. Could you imagine that? Living your life being able to understand only around 20% of all communication that you are involved in? That is reality for us every day.

4. Improperly handling situations involving us (and meltdowns especially) will only make things worse.

Nothing hurts more than being told by people that “we should know better” when we mess up. We are usually trying incredibly hard to correctly interpret and handle a situation, but often fail because we have difficulties interpreting such situations. Telling us that we should know better just makes us feel more ashamed and leads to us beating ourselves up mentally and emotionally more. Likewise, screaming at us during a meltdown exacerbates the situation, instead of “snapping us out of it” like most people believe. Meltdowns are often times in which we are in a fragile state, and adding stress onto the situation is not the proper way to react. Often times it will make the meltdown worse.

Hopefully this post leaves you with a better understanding of autism.


The Most Misunderstood Challenge in My LIfe

I decided to write about an issue that I’ve been having since I started college, that those around often dismiss or laugh away. I definitely fit the stereotype of the super intelligent nerd, so when I discovered in college that classes aren’t as easy for me as I expected and that I may need to develop some new strategies to handle them, everyone around me looked at me with disbelief.

I have to admit that at first I also experienced some disbelief. I’m intelligent, always did well in school, so why would I suddenly have problems in college? I had went from being able to do homework with such ease to spending increasing amounts of time studying and trying to comprehend what I was learning. Had I not been as intelligent as I was growing up? Did I somehow lose my intelligence as the years passed by?

After some thinking I realized that I didn’t have problems in high school because it is formatted in an incredibly different way that college. In high school the activities often required the memorization of certain facts and formulas and the regurgitation of those items on exams. My brain can handle memorization in most cases pretty easily. When I was younger I was able to easily memorize the spelling of words upon words while participating in spelling bees. I could remember complicated routes to places that I had only been to once. College, on the other hand, has a completely different format. Assignments are more intricate and require a lengthy thought process. It’s not just simple memorizing and spewing anymore. 

I’ve come to terms with the fact that the way that my brain is wired up is going to make things different for me in college. I can’t do assignments and exams the same way that my peers do. I have to find different environments to take my exams in so I can focus, and I have to find studying strategies that work around how my brain functions.

I am by no means stupid. The material I’m learning is in my brain. It just takes a different way to get the material out of my brain as compared to other students. Just because I do things differently doesn’t make me useless or stupid.

Love: Impossible for an Aspie to Find?

So I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how Asperger’s has affected my life romantically. Yeah, this is going to be quite the post. I decided to go ahead and address it since it has been a popular request, and I want to inform you guys about what you want to know.

Dating and handling relationships is hard enough for a NT,  it’s close to impossible for an Aspie. A successful relationship demands a lot of expertise in the areas of understanding your partners feelings, knowing  what to say to cheer them up, being knowledgeable about social norms, and many more…

As for me I have only been in one real relationship, and that lasted about 6 months. It was an absolute disaster. Such a mess, I wish I could erase it from my mind but I can’t. This happened during my senior year of high school. Prior to that I had received pretty much no attention from guys. They weren’t really interested in me because I didn’t fit in. My college years haven’t been much better. I did have a guy that I really cared about who really seemed interested, but he recently decided that me being an Aspie is too much for him to handle.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that most people aren’t ready to accept the prospect of dating someone who was made different them, especially when you’re around the age that I am. I think that the people my age unfairly judge us Aspies and assume that we are high maintenance and not worth dating.  It’s incredibly frustrating and I’m tired of being treated like that.

It’s not easy for an Aspie to find someone who cares about them, but I implore you to think twice before you consider us not worth dating or you just push us aside because you think we have less worth than NTs. Please help me stop this trend and be a bit more considerate towards us.


Aspergers: Blessing or a Curse?

I have to admit, one of the scariest moments in my life was hearing those two words: “Aspergers Syndrome”. I was familiar with what it was, but I was in denial. Members of my immediate family were the first to suggest that I may have AS. Why did they think that I had AS? I have a close friend with AS, and eventually my family began to realize that I was a lot like my friend. My mom researched it, and the more she found out about it, the more she was convinced that it explained everything about me.

How could such fear come out of two little words? I knew the stigma behind any autism spectrum disorder, whether high-functioning or low-functioning. I worried about what the people I knew would think if I was diagnosed. Most of all, I was terrified that I would not be able to cope in my own mind with knowing that I was a part of the spectrum.

I guess I should probably give you some more detailed background info on my upbringing, so it makes sense why my family thought AS was so plausible. I was always the odd one out growing up. In elementary school I didn’t fit in at all. I liked to spend all of my time reading science books, while all of the other kids were always playing outside or making up new games. I didn’t make any true friends during that time in my life. I tried to avoid the other kids as much as possible. I knew that if I did interact with them they would begin to call me names and push me around, although that still happened even if I ignored the other children. In middle school not too much changed. I still didn’t have friends. I still kept to myself. I still was absolutely obsessed with science.  I got bullied more frequently, to the point where I was seriously struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts at that time. I didn’t want to look at people, and when people would happen to start a conversation with me I would frequently avoid eye contact. My mother would always wonder why I wouldn’t look at her when she would talk to me. By the time I reached high school I had given up on friends. I did happen to make a few close friends during high school, by the grace of God. I spent most of my time reading, playing video games, and doing more in depth research to the science I loved.

Several of those things from my childhood point to AS, but my parents had not heard of it so they just assumed that I was too smart for my own good. When they did find out about AS they encouraged me to go ask my psychologist at college about it, and I did. From that point on I was officially an Aspie.

For almost a year after my diagnosis I view myself as useless, stupid, and worthless because of my AS. I was terribly embarrassed to have it, and I did everything that I could to prevent people from finding out that I did.  I viewed it as a curse because it caused me so many problems in my life. I couldn’t talk to people, I couldn’t fit in, I couldn’t even PRETEND to be normal because of it. I didn’t think that anything good could come from the AS. I kept it to myself and locked myself in my single dorm room for pretty much the entire semester.

My feelings about my AS have changed in the past few months. I’ve realized that although I have it, that doesn’t mean I deserve the cruel treatment that I’ve gotten over the years. I deserve friendship, love, and self-esteem just like everyone else. I’ve tried to learn ways that I can manage some of my manifestations of AS, and it has been somewhat successful. I have managed to even make a few friends in the process. More importantly, I’ve seen that the way that my brain is constructed due to AS is much more of a blessing than a curse. It gives me a unique insight. It gives me my intelligence. It gives me my passion for science. I never thought that I would get to the point where I would view AS as a positive thing, but I’ve finally reached that point. AS makes me who I am. It is an integral part of me. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  I have finally seen my AS as a true blessing.

If any of you have been diagnosed with AS and are struggling, I would like to encourage you to keep going no matter how hard it is. Believe me, I understand how difficult it can get. But never give up. I’ve made it through 20 years with having AS, and I’m sure that you can too. AS is not a defect, it does not make you less of a person. It makes you a unique and beautifully gifted person.

I hope all of you enjoyed this post.