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The #ActuallyAutistic Culture and Identity Project S34

Name, and/or twitter handle: Neurodivergent Dr @autisticdoc

Pronouns: she/her

Parent/non-parent: parent

Age when you selfdx/were diagnosed autistic: 38

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

Yes. I always sensed that I had to copy others because I didn’t know what to do, didn’t understand situations. I was very concrete, where others would always somehow see where the rules were flexible. When I was 4 and started kindergarten, we had cupcakes for one of my classmate’s birthdays. I was told I could choose one to eat. I tried to eat the whole thing including the paper wrapper, because that’s what I was told to do. It felt bad in my mouth, and I knew it wasn’t food, but I kept trying. My teacher eventually noticed I had a mouthful of paper cupcake liner and explained what I should have done.

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

My mum is a little perplexed but supportive.

3. How did you determine your ethical system?

Honesty, fairness and equity have always felt natural to me, like a “true” path to follow when presented with different options. Perhaps my relative inflexibility lends itself to these values. I have always tended to accept the experiences of others, not question them as my neurodiverse counterparts seem to do. This makes me want to stand up for others who are being unfairly questioned or misjudged.

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

I mask so much it’s sometimes hard for me to know my true private self. When I’m my truest self, I cherish: time alone, one:one interaction and deep conversations, “nerdy” pursuits with deep dives into research, time in nature.

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

Not really.

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

Honesty, shared interests, quirky sense of humour.

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

Gosh, what an interesting question.

Extroversion, provided they understood and accepted my need for alone time. Gossip.

People who communicate by phone calls, although my refusal to reciprocate has been a dealbreaker in the past.

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

Accepts and validates my experiences.

Supports my executive dysfunction.

Shared love of nerdy pursuits.

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

I don’t like change, so I would probably do exactly what I do now. Oh but I’d love to donate more to charities that I’m passionate about - huge money boosts to reduce societal disadvantage, what a thrill that would be.

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

Another deep question. At a personal level, I feel nervously freed if I deliberately “unmask”, like if I just say no a social event that I know is going to be painful to me. No explanation, just no thanks.

11. What does success mean to you?

The goals keep changing for me, but I feel most successful when I complete tasks, or when I master a new skill.

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

I would have to say yes, definitely. My husband takes on so much of my executive function load, I’d probably have 95% less energy if it wasn’t for his support.

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

Oh goodness yes. One of the worst activities ever. Sensory overload, social confusion, masking to the max.

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

This made me laugh. I do this all the time. But isn’t it the worst feeling if they notice you?

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

The Autistic community has given me endless validation, acceptance and pride. Every aspect of my life and experience is Autistic, and I haven’t found any areas where I don’t identify with other Autistic people.

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

I think the most stressful thing is when I can see that my children are distressed, and why, but others can’t. It’s because they are viewing them through a neurotypical lens. It’s hard to not get angry.

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

1. You don’t have to eat the cupcake liner.

2. The world is definitely noisy, hot and confusing and you aren’t imagining it.

3. You don’t have to spend time with people who make you feel uncomfortable.

4. You should have as much alone time as you need.

5. Neurotypical things are easy for neurotypical brains. Autistic brains need to do things Autistically.

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

No, but I love being able to escape into nature for short bursts. Living off grid I imagine would require a lot of executive function work.

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

I don’t know enough about architecture to answer this question. I love looking at bridges though, they are beautiful.

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