So many posts have been churned, written and re-written in my mind in the last few days that I am really not sure, which one I should give words to in this attempt. But I know I need to clear out my mind.
I have wanted to write about feeling a special connection with autistic children/people (I mostly meet children/adolescents) for the longest period, but I am afraid of not understanding this connection well enough to articulate it properly. Then again, I always feel unsure when I want to put something in writing out there, I am afraid I might not agree when I read it a few months later, or that I have misunderstood something, or that I am being insensitive or disrespectful in some way. But I also think that putting my thoughts here to engage with other people on the topic will bring more insight into discrepancies in my thought processes.
All this to say that I do feel I share a special connection with autistic children and adolescents. It is more evident with adolescents because there is mutual appreciation and a sure two-way ‘connection’ of sorts. My acquaintance with autism was completely accidental, I didn’t choose it. As a foreign student in psychology in a University in France, I was assigned to an Autism Resource Centre for my internship even before I arrived at the University. Thinking about this ‘connection’ obsessively has brought some awareness into this attachment I feel with autistic people, not only with the children I meet but also in the writings of autistic adults I have read.
Its actually quite simple, I am an introvert, I love day dreaming, I am very sensitive emotionally and can come across as hypersensitive sometimes, I am pretty sure I can live for long periods of time in my inner world. I rarely get bored because of this and I love nature and animals. I can be mono-thematic in my interests over large periods of time, dwelling deeper and deeper into one ‘idea’. But I have always felt isolated, I was lonely as a child, often bullied. When I was about 6 years old, I used to roam the playgrounds of my school looking for small shiny discs (chamki), kids used in craft work those days. Teachers often told my parents, I was in my own world, preoccupied, melancholic, lost, but very well behaved. Recently while I sat on my terrace staring at the eagles flying low, sweeping down so gracefully, I remebered how children at my school made up stories about the eagles, how they flew away with little kids or gorged their eyes out. Though I never believed the ‘gorged their eyes out’ story (I always thoughts birds and animals to be gentle except when absolutely necessary), I always wanted to be carried away by the eagle into whatever magical world it was they lived in. To summarise I always felt ‘different’ as a child, I struggled to fit in and tried very hard, but was always socially awkward and extremely reserved in new environemnts. I think my temperament facilitates the kinship I find in some Autistic people I’ve met. I relate to some of their experiences and they instinctively understand some parts of me not everyone can.
From my relationships with them, I learnt so much about myself. Most importantly I learned a valuable technique – ‘self-perservation’. Contrary to what common autism literature says, many autistic people are so much more in touch with their real selves than other people you meet. Therefore they have fine-tuned their techniques of self-preservation and use it regularly as grounding techniques. In their company I learnt the contemplative, relaxing, meditative effect of painting on a large sheet of paper, staring at the rain fall on leaves, the ripples created in the water by a stone thrown into it, sitting side by side doing a quiet activity and talking about whatever thoughts ran through your mind.
Their independence and their capacity to assert their need for space and how they embrace this has certainly helped me be less influenced by ‘social requirements’ and be truer to myself. One of the autistic adolescents I know once said to me “The problem is people value social etiquette more than honesty” while talking about why he ‘had’ to have a ‘diagnosis’. It was a revelation for me. I knew it somewhere deep inside, but now that he had said it I saw it plain as day. I learnt from the autsitic people I have known to be unapolegetic about myself. I learnt to value being and feeling ‘different’. I have realised that I need a community that understands, respects and values certain ideals, to feel like I belong. I am for the most part neuro-typical and I found this community amongst autistic people.
My relationships with autistic people I met in the last 3 years have been nurturing at the least and life-changing at the most.
Love this post by Squidalicious – ‘Surrounding my autistic son with community that matters’ it triggered more thoughts on this post I had stashed in a corner of my mind.