#AutisticsSpeakingDay: Growing Up Autistic Without a Diagnosis, and the Importance of Community

Auteur: The Gonzo Mama
Datum: Friday, November 1, 2019

CN: mention of suicidal ideation

#AutisticsSpeakingDay: Growing Up Autistic Without a Diagnosis, and the Importance of Community

On Autistics Speaking Day, it seems appropriate to reflect upon the importance of community, but in doing so, I couldn’t help but think about what life was like, before I found it.

I was not a child who was indistinguishable from my peers.

Instead, I was a child who stood out for various reasons:

My mom says when I was a toddler, I didn’t point out things that were readily apparent to others. That is to say, when we were in the car and drove past a herd of cows, I didn’t point, and say, “Cows!” because obviously, there were cows. Why point it out? Everyone can see them, so what’s the purpose of exclaiming the obvious?

When I did speak at that age, people thought I was older, because I spoke like an adult. And that “tiny grown up” perception followed me throughout my childhood and youth, and a lot of times, it stood in the way of making friends, because kids my age thought I was arrogant, or weird, based on the way I spoke and tried to engage.

When I started school, I interrupted and corrected teachers and other students, and never understood why that was viewed as rude, disruptive, or inappropriate — and certainly never understood why I was reprimanded or disciplined for it.

I had vocal and physical stims that were pointed out and mocked so many times by teachers and fellow students, I learned to try to stifle or hide them. I’ll never forget my fourth grade teacher — noticing how I scrunched my nose repeatedly during silent reading — calling out from her desk at the front of the room, “That’s not attractive, Christina-Marie.” The entire class, naturally, turned to look, and laugh.

I tried to pretend to like the things my peers liked. I tried to look the way my peers looked. I tried to talk like my peers talked. I devoured “girl culture” magazines, like YM, Teen, and Seventeen, hoping to unlock the secret to being accepted by the other girls, but nothing ever “fit.”

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#AutisticsSpeakingDay: Growing Up Autistic Without a Diagnosis, and the Importance of Community