Autism has become much more widely discussed and heard about in recent years. Many people, including myself have now been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. It is indeed true that autism affects us all to various degrees. Yet there are many characteristics a person may have that would give them a diagnosis. When it comes to autism each and every one of us diagnosed (and also not yet diagnosed) will have a number of the various characteristics which make up the autism spectrum, and there will also be some of those characteristics which we don’t have.
Each and every person with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) will be affected individually. However this alone doesn’t give information about the severity of a person’s autism. There’s one rather common misconception that gets to me most, and that is that being verbal makes someone’s autism High Functioning and means that they require less support.
Difficulties with communicating verbally is one of the possible characteristics required for an ASD diagnosis, and there are indeed nonverbal children and adults on the spectrum who have high support needs. Though there are other areas on the autism spectrum that can also greatly affect a person’s ability to function in society.
In my own case I am verbal, however my support needs are definitely not low. I have extreme anxiety and experience frequent involuntary autism meltdowns. Due to that I need regular therapy and have to take medication for the rest of my life. Also, I have severe processing and cognitive impairments in certain areas. These include difficulties with understanding and keeping up with conversations, as well as severe difficulties with comprehending and understanding certain information.
As a result I have been medically assessed as needing a disability support pension, even though I do everything possible to be as independent as I can be (and I’m gradually achieving that with every passing year). However there are certain things that I still can not do such as completely managing my anxiety and meltdowns, along with difficulties with my ability to process information at a typical speed and hypothetically understanding any information that isn’t literal. All of that affects my ability to work, have relationships with people, drive a car and live a fully independent life.
Deep down I’m rather sensitive about my difficulties in all those areas. So whenever someone overestimates my abilities due to being verbal, and accuses me of not trying hard enough to attain them I get very upset. In fact those occasions feel like a double blow to me because I’m both disappointed about not being able to achieve those things, and then additionally I feel hurt about being accused of laziness or lack of motivation in regards to those difficulties. When I’m queried and have to fully explain myself during those times it also makes me feel ashamed, embarrassed as well as invaded at times.
So when it comes to autism there’s so much more involved than linguistic skills alone. What’s involved on the autism spectrum is various indeed, and it’s impossible to gauge a person’s level of support needs by just one area.
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