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The #ActuallyAutistic Culture and Identity Project S23

Name, and/or twitter handle: Michelle @hookaduckduck

Pronouns: she/her

Parent/non-parent: parent

Age when you selfdx/were diagnosed autistic: dx at 32

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

Yes, I always felt like I was on the outside looking in.

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

Not really. I've always been the black sheep of the family and when I first told my family I thought I was autistic they didn't react very positively. I just don't mention it.

3. How did you determine your ethical system?

Tough question! I've always been a bit of a social justice warrior (and proud of it!) and I've studied both law and social work at university which probably sums up what sort of person I am! I quite like the Hippocratic oath to do no harm as a basic measure of whether something feels right or not.

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

I'm living a double life at the moment because I was diagnosed earlier this year and I've told some close friends and family, but not all after my immediate family's reaction, and I've told my colleagues in the new job I've started since I was diagnosed. There hasn't been a big "coming out" statement on my social media except I have an openly autistic Twitter account that I use to speak to other autistic people. It is my sanctuary when I need to speak freely at the moment.

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

No, I'm usually knitting or crocheting when I watch film and TV so I don't actually look at the screen consistently enough to spot errors. If I did look though then I definitely would. I love spotting typos in text!

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

Openness, flexibility, and strong shared values. I love close 1:1 friendships but I'm also known to need to rearrange things if I feel burnt out.

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

Too talkative, different sense of humour to me, more energetic than me. I just might have to avoid them if I'm not in the right frame of mind!

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

Laid back, hard working, stability

My husband is mainly all three of these but he does have a lot less patience than me and with me, as I am pretty awkward to be honest.

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

I'd have a quiet little knitting or book shop in an equally quiet little village and I'd probably keep to myself quite a lot. I do like going out to eat and drink though so I'd probably do that too, but again only 1:1 as I struggle sustaining a conversation with more than one person at a time.

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

Equality and equity. Everyone should have the option to pursue their interests and be the best that they can be. I'm from a single parent family and I often feel like I've had a lot of obstacles in front of me because of my lack of financial support and where I've come from. I've still achieved a lot but it involved a lot of masking and forcibly changing things about myself to try to overcome prejudice and stigma.

11. What does success mean to you?

Achieving peace and contentment. That's different for everyone and that's OK. I used to chase things that I thought I should be and didn't really know what I actually wanted to do with my life, and it has only been in my 30s really that I've started to figure it out.

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

I like the security of a partner but I also struggle with being reliable and consistent myself as a partner, so I need people that are empathetic and flexible in my life.


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

Yes! Talking to other parents bores me to death. Small talk is bad at the best of times but small talk about children is particularly challenging for me. I'd rather be invisible!

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

Often! I have a tight knit group of neighbours so it can be tricky as they're always outside talking to each other, so if I'm having a day where I don't feel like talking then I'll avoid leaving the house.

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

I've only recently realised quite how much I do have in common with other autistic people to be honest and I'm learning new things all the time. Understanding how many of us mask to fit in and then burn out from trying to sustain it for too long really resonates with me. I do emotionally demanding work that is people-facing and for years I've not understood how I can be so fatigued and anxious from the mental effort that goes into even the most basic of interaction. I started working part time to give myself more time in the week to recover from the social intensity, which helps even though the days I'm working are still hard work. I also struggle with changes to my routines, which I didn't really recognise until I was being assessed as I've always thought I'm a bit anti-routine, but upon reflection I'm just more anti-demands from others and actually I quite like having routines within my own control!

16. What are the most stressful aspects of parenting an autistic child as an autistic caregiver? This doesn't really apply to me as neither of my children are diagnosed. My youngest daughter is 3 and shares the most commonality with me, but that helps me to relate to her and how she may be feeling about different things, so I think we have a better relationship as a result. I find parenting very challenging, especially in terms of the constant demands and noise.

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

I think it's probably better to leave them to discover the world from themselves but mainly that things aren't always what they seem so to stay sharp and question things, don't just take things for granted. Also that every expert was a beginner at some point so not to be too hard on themselves if they aren't the best at something straight away. I could do with reminding myself of that more often actually.

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

Yes and no. Yes because I hate the speed of the world we live in but no because I'm not very consistent at anything and living off grid requires dedication and hard work to make it work. I'd probably end up living in squalor!

19. What is your favorite style of architecture and why? I don't have one. I generally admire things for diversity and craftsmanship, so the fact that we have so many types of architecture in our world is fascinating enough to me in itself. I do love a thatched roof though, does that count?!

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