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.

~Meghan

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A Disturbing Trend

I know it has been a while since my last post, and I apologize for that. I’ve been up to my shoulders in chemistry, calculus, and various other college things.  However, now that I have finished the semester and am on summer break, I have plenty of time to start posting again.

As you all know I just finished my sophomore year in college. Halfway through, woohoo!! This has been a rough year for me because of various social issues I’ve been dealing with. It has been tough for me dealing with all of the complications due to my Asperger’s without accommodations at college.  While dealing with my social problems this past year, I have noticed an extremely disturbing trend. It seems to me that bullying and other cruel behavior towards others has dramatically increased.

This absolutely breaks my heart to see how cruel people are. I have witnessed awful, stereotypical names being used to attack those with disabilities, I have seen people on Facebook and other social media outlets  calling others horrendous names and telling them to go kill themselves, and I have to admit that it makes me sick to see how frequent these occurrences are. It’s absolutely disgusting. It’s as if all compassion has gone right out the window.

It takes everything I have in me to not lecture those people about the hurt that they are causing. I often wonder if people who say these horrible things ever stop and think about the implications of their words. After thinking about it for a while I’ve realized that people today think that they’re free to say anything that they want behind the safety of a computer screen or phone, without having to witness the repercussions of their actions. In order to drive home the effect that these words can have on others, both online and in person, I would like to share my story with you.

I have been bullied my entire life, since I first started school. In elementary school I wasn’t able to make any friends and I was ostracized from the other kids in my class. I was thought of as strange, and my classmates made it clear to me that they thought so.  I was pushed off of slides, called some terrible names, none of the kids wanted to come to my birthday parties, and kids in my classes would even sneak behind the teacher’s back to invite everyone in the class except for me to a party. In middle school things got worse. I was called increasingly terrible names, my classmates would leave their classrooms when I was in the hallway to yell atrocious things to me, rumors spread about me like wildfire, and I still had no friends. I was even told by someone that I could go kill myself and nobody would care. I was so distressed during 6th grade that I began self harming, and when that didn’t help I came very close to attempting suicide.  I ended up transferring schools, and when I began high school I was able to make a few close friends that treated me well. However, a lot of my classmates still called me some terrible names and treated me like a freak. The words that were aimed at me had begun to hurt me even worse. You would think that once I had reached college I would no longer face bullying. You would be wrong. My freshman year of college was terrible. I had people who would find me wherever I went on campus just to attack me with cruel and harsh words. Those who I had considered friends would spread the worst rumors about me that one could imagine. It got so bad that I wouldn’t even leave my dorm room most of the time, in an attempt to avoid as much bullying as I could.

Hopefully my story helps you to realize how significant of an impact “just a few words” can have on someone else. It can make their life miserable, so please, the next time that you think about saying anything remotely cruel towards someone else, consider the impact that it could have upon someone else.

I would also like to announce that I am beginning a new ministry this summer to help kids of all ages deal with bullying, and to teach them how to handle it in a Christian way. This is a topic that has gotten me fired up time and time again, and I am looking forward to helping others by using my less than pleasant experiences.

 

~Meghan

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.