Written by Rebecca Sharrock
Many a time (especially a decade or so ago) people get somewhat puzzled about me having autism, even though I’m not a child. The media often publicises autism as being a childhood condition that many of today’s generation of kids are getting diagnosed with.
Yet in truth autism has been around as long as humanity has existed, and it is a condition that we are born with, and will have for the rest of our lifetime. Nothing whatsoever can change the way our brains and bodies are wired. If that were possible science would be able to effectively change our code of DNA completely. Having had autism for 27 years, there are a fair few things that I want to add here.
As mentioned above autism is a lifelong condition. Yet even so, if (and only if) we are willing and were born high functioning enough to attempt to cope better in mainstream society, it is possible for us to (outwardly) change the severity of our autism.
However, there are some very important points that must now be stressed. Purposely learning facial expressions, body language, human emotions and improved speech are possible. Though we’ve got to be willing to do this as it involves a fair bit of work. From there we can appear to become higher functioning, which makes us more confident and competent than before. But no matter how well any of us achieve those skills, they will always be habitual and never instinctive.
Yet this isn’t to say that this always matters necessarily. Learned habits can of course become so ingrained that there can eventually be a fine line between them and our natural instincts. In my own case when I look back to how I was as a teenager (the time when I got my ASD diagnosis), I’m able to see how vastly different I was then compared to now.
Back then I had a great deal of anxiety from the pressure of school. This made it virtually impossible for me to ground my mind enough for me to be able to focus my attention on coping exercises. Though once I left school my anxiety lessened a little due to me having more freedom to be myself.
So for the past decade I’ve been learning all I can about social skills (from books, online and on television) and have been doing some catchup work on what I missed during my school years. This was no easy task and has taken a fair bit of time. Yet now I am much happier and appear to be much higher functioning than before. Some people now are even surprised to hear that I have autism.
Bringing this back to what I was saying at the start, my actual autism has not diminished or lessened over the years. It is true that I’m coping with life much better than before outwardly. Yet I am able to see within myself that I still have processing delays, anxiety, difficulties with socialising and very specific obsessions. Inwardly my autism seems to have become more apparent as I’m now noticing every small thing to improve.