Okay folks – here is the deal, I recently had a new reader reach out to me. She told me that she had recently discovered my blog and spent quite a bit of time reading. She asked not to quit writing because she thought that my words were quite powerful and could help parents and others whose lives are transformed by autism.
She also disclosed that she has autism. I’m always very interested to hear from teens and adults that have autism – it helps me to connect with where Tucker is heading. I asked her to tell me more about her.
Let me tell you…I was SO moved by her response I asked if I could share her story. She said yes – there are so many things I want to expand on from her story. I’ll do that some other day – I have read this post at least 20 times and each time I am moved – to tears, to smiles, to fist pumps, to ‘You Go Girl!.’ I really need to take my own time and let this soak in…all the way in.
For right now? Take a moment and read about my new friend (we already have a lunch date set), Erin.
I am 25 and am from northwest Arkansas but I live and work in Bloomington, IN. I live by myself with my dog, Ace. Ace is my best friend. He helps me a lot. He always knows when I need to calm down and he helps me.
I am the video coordinator for women’s basketball at Indiana University. I am responsible for breaking down film of our practices, games, and upcoming opponents as well as making recruiting mailouts on Photoshop. Also, I do analytics for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm. I was out in Seattle for most of May and now I am doing all of my work for them remotely.
No one ever told me I had autism when I was growing up because I always excelled academically in mainstream classes. I would get very overwhelmed and would sometimes just leave class but I never knew what was wrong. When I went to graduate school, I had to find a new doctor to write my prescriptions, he diagnosed me with autism. That was when I found out.
Not knowing that I had autism when I was growing up was both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because no one ever put any limits on me. All I knew was I took my medicine every day for ADHD. I went to college because that was what I was supposed to do. Then I went to graduate school. I am thankful for that – without that I do not know where I would be today.
The curse was that I felt all these things awful things. In college, I tried to overdose on my medicine because my brain was so loud and I could not make it stop. I thought if I took all my medicine my brain would be quiet. My anxiety was out of control and I was very obsessive. I wish when I was struggling someone would have told me why.
Now when my brain gets too loud, I know that it is not ‘me.’ It is only the autism part of me. I do not want to quit – but often, autism wants me to quit. When I get my head to be quiet and I do it in a positive way, I recognize that autism is not all of me, only a part.
My autism is not all bad though. It makes my brain very good at my job: film breakdown and statistical analysis. People know that I am very, very good at my job and now they all know that I have autism. Disclosing was a great decision for me. Before, I got called “retard” a lot. Now the people I work with know I have autism; but they treat me very well and I do my job very well.
The sensory environment is more difficult for me as I get older. I think part of it is because it is only within the last three years that I have learned that everyone’s world is not as loud as mine. I hear a lot of noises that don’t bother other people.
For example, right now, there is a lot of construction going on at a building near mine and the jackhammering has been so loud. Because of this, I wear my headphones most of the day. Also, game days are very loud. I sit down at the scorer’s table for most games so I also wear my headphones then.
When my senses get too loud. I like to chew on things and I know it helps me calm down. At home, I have a trampoline, a physio ball, and a weighted blanket that I use to settle down, especially when I get home from work. When someone told me that I had autism, I learned that I could fill this metaphorical toolbox with things that help me calm down: music, games, weighted blanket, puzzles, trampoline, and fidgets.