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The #ActuallyAutistic Culture and Identity Project S17

Name, and/or twitter handle: Andrew (andrew_the_pom)

Pronouns:he/him

Parent/non-parent: parent (two boys 7 and 4. My eldest is also autistic)

Age when you selfdx/were diagnosed autistic: was given diagnosis at 39

1. Did you feel you were different from others as a child?

Always.. I felt different from other kids in the interests I had and the things I enjoyed and was good at. But more than that I also didn't even feel part of my own family. Not because I felt excluded at a young age. More because I just felt our views and experiences of everything were just so different.

2. Are your parents supportive of you as an autistic individual?

Honestly I haven't actually told them directly. I think others may have but they didn't hear it from me. We don't have any real relationship anymore after I could no longer deal with how they treated me and my challenges even pre diagnosis. I always got the feeling they'd use my diagnosis to vindicate themselves rather than as a tool to educate themselves to be better supports.

3. How did you determine your ethical system?

I think it's been quite passive in its construction although not enforced passively. I think a lot of autistic people have a strong sense of justice and I think I fit that mould. I tend to act or speak up based on wether things feel right and it usually feels pretty clear to me what is and what isn't. But the simplest test I can think of is "what if that was done to me or my kids"... If I don't like the answer, then I know what I have to do.

4. In which way does your private self differ from your outward facing front?

I'm hoping that more and more the disparity is shrinking but I think the truth is all too common. I mask a lot. Always have done and with little sustainable payoff. This is the reason I'm starting to allow myself to be unashamedly autistic. It's come at a social and economic cost. I lost my job and have been out of work for over a year since disclosing. But I also know that if I continued to hide who I was I may not be here anymore things were getting that bad.

5. Do you enjoy finding mistakes/errors in the production of films and television...continuity etc.?

I'm not sure enjoy is the right word because in more than one occasion it's tainted an experience for me. But dang I'm good at it. If fact my attention to detail and ability to see things other people couldn't was basically what I did for a living as an analyst.

6. What are the top 3 traits you look for in a friend?

•Acceptance. Real acceptance

•Make me laugh because humour has been something that's saved me more than once.

•understanding. Knowing that sometimes I need space and sometimes I do need company but it needs to be without pressure to engage and that even though I may not be able to share it with them, that I do appreciate it immensely.

7. What are the top 3 traits you perceive as negative but are willing to overlook in a friend?

This is tough because I really don't feel in a position to judge anyone on their negative traits. But I would at a push say • ignorance around autism: most people are not to blame for this. But a good friend will be open to accepting and learning from what I share with them

• insistent on going to some social situations. I've experienced this before and it's usually come form a good.pkace where they are trying to get me out of a depressive state when what I need is the opposite. To be in a calming and comfortable environment. But again, as in the first point, someone that really wants to do right by me will be willing to accept and support my needs once they learn them. But I can't blame them for not knowing before it comes up.

• in certain situations I can overlook a friend that tries to push things that work for them on me even though I've expressed that I cannot do it. That being said, if they're too persistent when I've asked them to drop it I can feel rejected and unsafe.


8. What are the top traits you look for in a partner/traits your partner possesses?

I think they're the same as for a friend because ultimately I need to feel safe with them. But as the relationship is a lot closer and intimate, the level of acceptance of the challenges I face has to be almost unconditional. I would never want anyone to jeopardise themselves to accommodate me but at the same time they cannot be judgemental about the way I am able t deal with certain scenarios

9. What would you do with your life if you had unlimited funds?

Oh lord... Eat and draw and play Lego with my sons in a house with a garden.

I've never wanted for much other than to feel safe and accepted. Unlimited money would allow me to provide for them in a way that because of my long term unemployment seems impossible right now.

It would also allow me space to heal from the trauma I've experienced in my career at the hands of toxic employers and colleagues by letting me explore things that give me true joy work wise with no pressure and allow me to share my experience and empower others to be their authentic selves.

10. What does freedom mean to you. What does it entail?

I know I've said this a few times but for me freedom comes with feeling safe and accepted. When I've felt this way I've been able to be my most productive in both work and person life and been able to offer the best version of me to others. The latter especially is what freedom really means to me.

11. What does success mean to you?

So long as I can provide for my kids and myself and feel safe that's success for me.

12. Are you more stable/happier/productive within the structure of a relationship...partner/good friend/long-term roommate?

I think I've often craved those things thinking they will solve things but it always comes back to where I am mentally. Absolutely I do better when I have a supportive network and people I can share with regularly. But rather than having deep connections being the initiator, I find when I take take of myself first it allows me the confidence to allow people in more and form stronger bonds which can fuel more positive outcomes for me. But the second I start to neglect myself, intentionally or not, the relationships suffer

13. Do you find it stressful to be around other parents at school functions?

I find it stressful to be around groups of anyone in chaotic environments whatever the reason. But this is more around the pressure to engage in a particular way. However I am actually very chatty and love to talk to people so given the right group, so long as I don't have to break the ice, I live seeing people and talking to them. But I also need to know that I can step away if I need to.

14. How often do you pretend to not see people you know if you don’t want to talk?

I never pretend to not see them, I've felt that rejection way too often and in couldn't risk doing that to someone else. But I am getting better at explaining when I am able to talk if we do stop to talk.

15. In which areas do you identify the most with other autistic people?

I'm not sure because if there's one thing I've learned more than anything these last couple of years since really trying to engage with other autistic people is that I see more differences in this community than I have done in any others I've been in before. But I think it's the understanding of this that is the most common trait and it's absent too often from NT communities looking in. Other than that I think working environments have a long way to go and far too many of us share bad experiences after disclosure at work and way too many are dismissed and rejected outright. But in spite of these the daily aggressions we face, the vast majority of autistic folk I chat to face life with kindness and empathy and this is remarkable given we are not usually extended the same courtesy.

16. What are the most stressful aspects of parenting an autistic child as an autistic caregiver?

For me it's always the anxiety of not being able to offer my full self when my sons need me most if I too am in need of extra care and support at any given or if am also in distress. Any parent wants to be able to give their all to their kids. I'm no different. But I know that sometimes I'm left unable to function properly and I worry about not being able to give my son the care he needs when that happens

17. What are the top 5 things you want your children to know about the world and why?

-That I'll always find a way to get them what they need.

-That knowledge is empowering.

-That kindness is a sign or strength and intelligence.

-That the world is easier to navigate if you do something you enjoy and not something you're expected to do based on other people's priorities.

-That there are always People that will accept them unconditionally. Finding them can be hard, but settling for anything less is doing yourself a disservice.

18. Does living off the grid appeal to you and why/why not?

Lord no. I need my twitter and insta feeds. I don't have many/any real life connections... Those tools are the only thing currently standing between me and absolute isolation. Without them I'd have no platform or opportunity to share with anyone.

19. What is your favorite style of architecture and why?

I have no real formal knowledge of architecture, but I love the nature and any building or structure that uses or reinforces a place's natural beauty, integrating with it seamlessly I always find impressive.

Otherwise I get to live in the same city as one.of the world's most iconic buildings in the Sydney opera House but other than that this is a new country and and so a lot of.buikding can be uninspiring. However my advice is, look up. Coming from London, a place with a long architectural history, sometimes at eye level things can appear mundane, but you look up and see some of the buildings there from all throughout history and it can be breathtaking.

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