Look Again: An Inside View of Autism / PDD “There’s more to me than meets the eye”

Look Again: An Inside View of Autism / PDD “There’s more to me than meets the eye”

WE EXPERIENCE THINGS HOLISTICALLY. The sight, sound, smell, feel and emotional tone of a situation hit us all at once. It’s hard to filter anything out. Sometimes one sensation seems to trigger all our other senses, making it difficult to tell where the real signal came from. We may be alert to information others miss, but the task of processing and dealing with it can be overwhelming.

“I internalize a lot of grief from others, and it penetrates too fast.” TMR
“I can’t distinguish feeling-wise between the political and the personal. It feels the same.” KL
“I don’t think most people know what extreme anxiety is like – or to have intense feelings triggered by harmless sounds –and to live with no relief.” BM
“I hear too much all the time and I wish that it would stop.” BE
“If only people knew the reason why autistic people get upset so easily. Self-control is much harder because there is so much ‘self’ to control.” BM
 
WE ARE VISUAL LEARNERS WITH GOOD MEMORIES. We tend to notice and remember visual details. Often, this is very useful, but we may need help to separate what’s important from what is not. While others see larger patterns emerge from details, for us these are like hidden pictures that stay hidden. The unseen future is difficult to grasp.

“These are my strengths: I’m good at biographical memory, good at visualization, have a good sense of direction and a good memory. Because I’m visual, it’s hard to LISTEN to what others think is important.” BM

“If I miss the second half of Star Trek, it’s hard for me to realize that the Enterprise will still win over the Klingons; for the same reason, it’s hard for a student to understand that if he doesn’t bite his arm during math class, the teacher will let him play a computer game afterward.” KL
 
WE ARE STRAIGHTFORWARD AND HONEST. We expect people’s words and behavior to mean exactly what they seem, and not to have multiple or covert meanings. The language of emotions can prove especially tricky.
"I am honest on the major things in life. You won’t get us to plead the Fifth Amendment!” KL
“I find it hard to answer other people’s questions, especially those that deal with emotions.” JV
“I get upset when the kids pretend to like me and talk to me just so Ill say or do things for them to laugh at.” EP
 
WE HAVE SPECIALIZED INTERESTS.  We avidly pursue and thoroughly enjoy what appeals to US, not just the latest style or fad.
“One of my favorite things is politics, flags and anything to do with politics.” KL
“In Colorado Springs in 1960 is when I first liked traffic lights. They had two at each intersection. I was 9 years old then…I am glad that attitudes about autism have changed. I can now draw pictures and write stories about traffic lights and people are actually enjoying them.” BM
“I want to be a nurse so that I can know the histology of the body parts that I already know the anatomy. I can dissect mice and rabbits that the cats caught and name all the body parts.” EP
 
WE PREFER ROUTINES. Sudden changes are too unnerving. You might say we’re traditionalists.
“I am punctual. I am persistent. I am stubborn and hold to my own.” KL
“I have a hard time adapting to change and to other people’s agenda.” BM
“Autism has many advantages. I consider myself lucky. But I could do without the insecurities of it.” TMR
 
OUR FRIENDS ARE VERY IMPORTANT TO US. Being a friend takes a lot of effort and energy. Some people think we don’t care about having a social life, but we do.
“I’m always on pins and needles as to what others think about me. I want to make a good impression.” BAM
“I like to talk. But that also means mighty big phone bills!” KL
“As a child I was always afraid of the postman – for what reason I don’t know. As you can tell now, I just love the postman!” TMR
"Some people say that people with autism as a rule don’t show their feelings, but on the contrary many do.” JPB.
 "I am a spiritual and a feeling person. People with autism can and do form deep relationships.” KL

Q: “Can you tell me what kinds of classes are taught in High School?”
A: “French, English, science, cooking, math, history, geography, work, religion, typing, beautiful girls.” BE
 
WE ARE POOR. It’s hard to be taken seriously and to have a stake in your community without jobs and resources.
“We’re people like anyone else and we’re capable like anyone else.” BAM
“With my salary I am paying bills and Uncle Sam is taking out taxes. But how the heck am I going to get insurance? I wish we had a health care system similar to Canada’s.” KL
“People with autism deserve a better chance in employment to do what we want to do, NOT being stuck 15 years in only clean-up and janitorial work! We are entitled to do better with our lives – not cleaning toilets and emptying 100-pound trash barrels, but some other meaningful work.” TMR
 
DEVELOPING SOCIAL SKILLS FOR PEOPLE WITHOUT AUTISM
“Talk to autistic people as you would to anyone else.” BAM
“I am tired of being analyzed by people who do not understand my mental state.” TMR
“I am afraid to make mistakes, afraid that it will trigger mistreatment from others.” BM
“When people with autism succeed it’s not because some professor’s theory worked to a ‘t,’ but because real-life people with real-life common sense did what they had to do with what they got. And no theory can replace that.” KL
“Cut down the myth that people with autism are locked in their own little world!” TMR
“I am not a little boy. I hate it when people ignore me and treat me like a little kid.” BE
“It takes two sides to compromise: we compromise and then you guys have to compromise. It takes two to tango, and two to sign a treaty. I improve myself a lot more when people let me be me.” KL
“When I was growing up, no one was willing to see talent in my imagination because it was part of the illness that I was supposed to give up. It was like my illness was a ‘sin’ and I had to ‘repent or else.’” BM
“If people want to help people with autism, don’t expect us to do nothing! Expect us to be accomplished in something, and we’ll do that and even more.” KL 
 
LOOK AGAIN was born of a belief in the competence of people with autism/PDD, and of the need to cast aside misperceptions for a fresh look. It represents a team effort by Jean-Paul Bovee, Billy Eitler, Kathy Lissner, Barbara Moran, Beth A. Moreno, Erin Patton, Therese Marie Ronan, Jim Vipond, and editor Pat Amos. Cover quote by Beth A. Moreno. Artwork by Erin Patton. Contributions were made verbally and through Facilitated Communication. Published by Autism Support and Advocacy in Pennsylvania (ASAP). When using this text in other formats, please credit ASAP. COMMENTS? Write to Pat Amos, 635 Ardmore Avenue, Ardmore PA  19003.
   This project was funded under a Collective Advocacy Grant from the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.
 
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO COPY AND REDISTRIBUTE THIS BROCHURE!
 

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