How I learned I was living on the autism spectrum | Ambitious about Autism
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How I learned I was living on the autism spectrum

When I help a child with autism with their struggles, I can say to myself, "I know. I'm on the spectrum too."

I was diagnosed a month ago with the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I didn't take it as bad news. It is on the contrary a relief to know there's a name for my peculiarities. I can't count the number of times I thought of myself as an alien from another planet to this world.  Finding out at the age of 58 was like finding out the name of the street I had been living on for over five decades.

My suspicions were first raised some time after I started working with special education students in my hometown school district. Many times I would observe a student's behaviour and I'd be moved to tears. I saw some of me in him or her. I was drawn to working in autism units, but I didn't know why until now. 

A 12 year old girl was the lighthouse to my arriving at a diagnosis.  She is autistic with practically no verbal skills. In class, she frequently talks to herself. It is a language known only to her.  She'll sometimes get excited with whatever the story is playing in her mind that she'll holler and/or skip across the room. Watching her took me back 50 years to another girl who did such but just not in the middle of a classroom. She knew she was in a make-believe world of her own making.  She wasn't the first student whose behaviour reminded me of my own, but it so closely matched that I was prompted to take action. 

I started doing research on the Internet about the autism spectrum. The various autistic online tests had basically the same results -- more likely than not I was living on the spectrum.  I got up the courage to see my doctor and confide in him.    I also followed up with special education teachers whom I trust about my diagnosis. They were SUPER about it. I am fortunate to have contact with compassionate professionals who have expertise dealing with autistic children on the spectrum. I asked them questions about things I do, or did as a child, if it was typical for autistic individuals or not.  I didn't tell them anything that didn't have a familiar ring to it.  They could have finished my sentences.

There are rewards and hardships. My interest is writing which has been like a best friend for most of my life.  Through writing, I have been able to entertain and comfort others while receiving therapy for myself.  Routine is almost as essential to me as air and water.  It gets me to work on time, chores done, errands run, and my bills paid on time.   On the dark side, I could count on one hand how many close friends I've had from childhood to present.  I prefer to do things alone. It is when I'm alone or when I'm talking to someone I feel comfortable with one-on-one that I am recharged. It is when I'm with a group of people, small or large, that I am totally drained.  I am sensitive to certain sounds, touch, taste, and sight. I've had meltdowns when hearing what I think is "loud music" that someone is playing inside the house or next door. I don't confront the noisemaker because I avoid confrontations at all costs.

I thank the Lord for this diagnosis and the timing of it. If it wasn't for working with autistic students, I'd still be in the dark.  Now that I know, my job is more than a job.  When I help a child with autism with their struggles, I can say to myself, "I know. I'm on the spectrum too."

Marsha England was diagnosed with autism aged 58 year's old. You can find more of her writing on her blog:

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