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Youth participation
Wednesday 16 December 2015

How autism affects me

My name is Daniel. I was diagnosed with autistic spectrum condition (ASC) when I was three years old. I prefer to call it ASC and not ASD (autism spectrum disorder) as I don't consider my autism to be a disorder; it’s simply who I am, or at least part of who I am. If you removed my autism it would be like removing my blue eyes or my love of chocolate...

When I think about what autism does to my life I think two things stand out.

One is it has made me focus on specific things which I enjoy and enables me to become very knowledgeable about them. I can retain a huge amount of information and my brain is almost photographic because if something interests me I can recite an article on it almost word for word. On the downside some things are very difficult for me to remember, like tasks I need to complete, because often my mind is full of the information I enjoy and it sometimes feels there is no room left for other things. That can be difficult as I have been known to forget to do things.

My other big issue is social communication. I've always found it difficult to make friends and this is a big disappointment as it’s something I would love. I recently made a really good friend at my youth group and we had so much in common and talked about things we enjoyed but unfortunately the youth group couldn't let my friend stay as it got very full and he lived outside the area the group covered. That felt very unfair.

I've struggled with social communication for as long as I can remember. I would watch the children playing at school - they seemed to be running around and shouting so I would try and copy them, but they didn't seem to understand I was trying to join in so I ended up just running up and down on my own. I didn't go to a mainstream high school. Instead I went to a communications school. But most of the young people had behavioural issues and so I tended to keep to myself to myself there. To be honest I was glad to leave.

Talking to people can be difficult. I'm not great at following social cues so I'm not really clear on if I'm talking too much or not talking enough. Sometimes I say things and they come out wrong. I tend to think it’s best if I just keep to myself then I can’t get things wrong. Don't get me wrong, I like people, I like communicating and I really would love to make friends, I just find these things confusing.

I am currently training to be a chef in college and working part of the time in a café with people with learning disabilities two days a week when I am not at college. I find it hard to fit in at the place I work as the staff can be quite patronising and the people with learning disabilities don't feel we have much in common. To be honest, I do agree in many ways as I don't feel we have much to speak about so I tend to keep to myself. I enjoy it at college, people there are nice and always friendly. I think a lot of people with autism find social skills tricky - I tend to talk about things that interest me and hope the other person enjoys what I have to say, but I don't need to talk about those things, I would love it if the other person spoke about their interests as well.

Some things can be hard but basically I'm just an ordinary person trying to live my life and hoping other people will like me. I guess you feel the same? So we aren't so different after all.