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  • Community Contributor

The #ActuallyAutistic Culture and Identity Project S19

Name, and/or twitter handle: Alayna (@missautistical)

Pronouns: she/her

Parent/non-parent: non parent

Age when you selfdx/were diagnosed autistic: 26yrs

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

I always felt like I was on the outside of everything. Even in high school I didn’t know who “alayna” was and in retrospect, I did a ton of masking and mimicking. My taste in shows and music I kept to myself because I knew it wasn’t “normal”. I struggled with things people didn’t struggle with, I was always worried, I felt more at ease with adults and my teachers than kids my own age.

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

Definitely! My two younger brothers are also diagnosed with ASD and ADHD so they are familiar with the language. They were very supportive of my decision to seek a diagnosis and even before when I just thought I had anxiety and depression.

3. How did you determine your ethical system?

Honestly, working as a teacher has really solidified my ethical system and the way I see the world. I definitely had a very narrow, secluded view of the world growing up. One of the things that makes me me is that I feel everything so strongly so when I started really experiencing the world and seeing children’s issues and coming together as an adult person, those big emotions really influenced my belief system. I strongly feel like the more we know, the better we can do and I apply that to practically every aspect to my life. I had a lot of strong opinions on things of course but they always reflected the views of the people around me. I’ve been a teacher for ten years nearly and my views have changed and grown so much. They’ve heavily influenced my decision to pursue my undergraduate degree in social work.

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

I’m very loud and others would describe me as bubbly and energetic. I think others see me as a know it all, a social butterfly and someone who thrives off attention when in reality I’m the complete opposite. I prefer my own company and quiet.

I think people think I’m impulsive and I really struggle with what’s going on inside my head. I’m quite an spontaneous and “by the seat of my pants” kind of teacher but in my personal life I struggle making decisions and not planning things out usually results in meltdowns. I am not a spontaneous person at all.

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

Yes!! They stand out like a sore thumb. I also spend a lot of time on IMDB. I don’t know how people can watch anything without needing to know the cast, the ratings and random trivia! I like pointing things out and I’ve been in trouble in side of movie theatres lots of times for talking (think Harry Potter and the half blood prince- I got so upset by the changes they made from the book to the movie)

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

1. Loyalty. I’m a very loyal person and I struggle so much not seeing in returned. I put a lot of myself into my relationships

2. I really appreciate friends who understand why I do things backwards or “weird” but I especially appreciate the friends who can call my on my nonsense.

3. Patience. I need friends who understand why I need plans made in great detail, why I might need to cancel plans or why I’ve been all over the map. Plus I miss a lot of social cues. They need to be able to clearly tell me what’s going on because chances are I’ll miss it.

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

1. Tardiness. I hate being late- the idea makes me panic so when my friends are late and don’t give me a heads up- it isn’t always easy. Ironically enough, 90% of my friends are late!

2. Not great at communicating. Again, I sometimes can’t read between the lines. Obviously, it’s important to own my part in conflict but sometimes if you don’t communicate that you’re upset with me, I don’t even know.

3. Being close minded. Bare with me on this one. We don’t know until we know. I strongly believe everyone has the capacity to grow and be better. Sometimes, my friends have opened my eyes and vice versa and I think friends who can grow together are powerful. just want to add that I allow myself to be taken advantage of because I get left out and struggle to make friends and I’m desperate to be included. I wish I knew what I know now but at 20. I would’ve been much better at picking the people I allow into my circle.

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

1. Kindness. I feel like how anyone treats others, especially those who are struggling, is a great indication of how a person will be after the honeymoon period ends

2. Humility. I know I’m not done growing. I’m really invested in my own personal growth and not having a partner who is willing to do the same

3. Humour. Listen, my whole life feels like a soap opera sometimes. I have to just laugh at myself. If you can’t do the same then 🤷🏼‍♀️

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

Likely, I’d still continue working. Probably continue going to school to learn as much as I can. Travel. Start a community program that connects families with community resources. Get my parents out of debt. Embrace all of my hobbies.

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

That’s a really hard one! Ultimately, I’d love to live in a world that could accommodate my needs and allow me to thrive. Freedom would mean being able to continue to grow and be better without silly material things holding me back.

11. What does success mean to you?

Being happy. Feeling like you’re making a difference. Building relationships and connections with people and your community. I really measure success by my connections with people. I really put a lot of weight into the fact that i influence children at the most developmentally important part of their life and I take pride in the little bits of myself I get to leave in these little minds.

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

I’m not a parent but I definitely find myself avoiding small talk with the families I work with. Not because I don’t want to talk to them but other than their child and their day and their development- I go blank and it’s terrifying. But honestly, i struggle with adults my age the most!

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

Regularly. If I don’t have the emotional width to carry on conversation, I pretend to be on the phone (which if you know me, I avoid phone calls like the plague)

Small talk makes my skin crawl. I don’t know how to hold eye contact, I’m so thrown off and stressed that I miss the things being said to me or I put my foot in my mouth.

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

Special interests and hyperfixations are a big one. I always thought I was just weird but it turns out we all have things we are super passionate about. As I’ve explored community since my diagnosis it’s been fascinating to learn what we have in common and what we do differently. I’ve learned so much from ND Twitter. Universally, I think we all feel like the world was not built for our brains and it’s a crying shame.

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

I’m not a parent but I am an autistic educator.

I find loud noises and the lights in my classroom overwhelming. With the pandemic, I’ve had to work with goggles and masks and it’s been so much sensory input that for awhile I’d go home crying.

Being touched out. Someone is touching at every point of my work day. I hate being touched so as much as I appreciate the high fives and the hugs and the gentle taps on the arm- it can lead to seNsory overload.

The hardest thing is the way my job emotionally depletes me. I love what I do with every bit of my being but I’d be naive to ignore the emotional and sensory exhaustion I can feel. Especially on rainy days

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

1. You aren’t for everyone. You can’t control who you are in everyone’s narrative. It’s really hard to let go but you’ll be so much freer when you aren’t wasting precious brain space on what someone might think of you.

2. Go to therapy. We all need therapy. You and the world around you will be better for it

3. Empathy. Being kind. Be gentle. The world has enough hardness- don’t join it.

4. Please please where the damn clothes. I spent so much of my early 20s I can’t get back crying over my body.

5. If you care about it and it’s important to you- speak out and loudly. Don’t let someone tell you you aren’t the person who will make the difference.

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

Honestly, it does. I feel peace in the woods and near water. I enjoy my own company. I hate crowded cities.

On a sensory level, it sounds heavenly.

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

I don’t know a ton about architecture but I do know I love houses and buildings with a ton of natural lights and big windows. If I didn’t need lights ever, I’d be so happy. (Mainly cos they buzz). My favorite thing about my classroom is that 3/4s of it is windows and the natural light is heavenly and calming and stunning.

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