The #ActuallyAutistic Culture and Identity Project S35
Name, and/or twitter handle: Katherine Woods
Age when you selfdx/were diagnosed autistic: 42 (I am now 43).
1. Did you feel you were different from others as a child?
Yes. I remember, very clearly, being very self-directed in terms of my play. I had a whole world inside of my head that I liked to act out through pretend play. I remember thinking that I preferred to play alone, since it would 'slow the game down' if I had to explain it to someone else. I drew and wrote stories to illustrate the vivid pictures in my head. I asked my mum about my interactions with others and she said the best way to describe it was that I 'tolerated' other children. But really, I preferred the company of adults.
2. Are your parents supportive of you as an autistic individual?
Incredibly so. When I called them last year to tell them I thought I might be autistic, they were happy for me to seek answers in any way I could. My mum commented that I have always been on the path of being curious and trying to solve puzzles, and perhaps I had now finally solved the biggest puzzle of all. When I was in my 20s, she bought me the book "The Alchemist", which has the central tenet, "your treasure is at home where you were looking for it all the time." Both my mum and dad have always accepted my differences, even though we haven't had the words for it until now.
3. How did you determine your ethical system?
Fairness has always been at the forefront for me. As a child I couldn't be happy if I saw injustice or suffering (I still can't). However, I learned quite quickly that there were some opinions I had to suppress. This turned to ignoring my 'gut feeling' for a long time. But now in my 40s, I am learning to operate my head, heart and gut together in unison.
4. In which way does your private self differ from your outward facing front?
As an autistic individual, I can't always accurately gauge the gap in conversation when I can 'jump in' when in a group. This tends to happen most at work. I also suffer from 'selective mutism' (terrible and inaccurate phrase!) when I can sometimes shut down in highly emotive environments. So, my private self would tend to be a lot more outspoken, which I am when I feel comfortable.
5. Do you enjoy finding mistakes/errors in the production of films and television...continuity etc.?
I love it! I really enjoy the business of acting and film making, so these sorts of things are fascinating. It doesn't detract from the enjoyment of them though. Things like cups being too light when people drink out of them is very obvious to me (apparently 1 in 4 people notice this, but it isn't worth the risk of accidents from full cups to shoot with them full). As a related topic, I also always want to point out when I recognise actors, and what else they have been in. Probably very annoying! But good for trivia.
6. What are the top 3 traits you look for in a friend?
Kindness. Community. Connection.
7. What are the top 3 traits you perceive as negative but are willing to overlook in a friend?
Sarcasm. Spikiness. Inflexibility.
8. What are the top traits you look for in a partner/traits your partner possesses?
Adaptability. Openheartedness. Integrity.
9. What would you do with your life if you had unlimited funds?
Firstly, I would do what I'm doing now - study as much as I can about 1) autism and 2) the changes we need to make to our world. Secondly, I would fund the practices we need to make those changes and implement then. It's about rebuilding our community in a way that is inclusive for all who are different, in any way. Neoliberalism has wrecked our systems and it is time that all forms of government worked for the people instead of channelling funds to those who already have the most.
10. What does freedom mean to you. What does it entail?
Choices. The ability to walk away from people, places and situations that are not serving me. The ability to spend my time and energy in the way that makes sense to me.
11. What does success mean to you?
It used to mean other people thinking I was successful. But now it means crafting a life where I can fit comfortably into my own skin and values, in a way that works with all those around me.
12. Are you more stable/happier/productive within the structure of a relationship...partner/good friend/long-term roommate?
Yes. A supportive partnership, where I was comfortable to be my true self, which is truly interdependent, has been key to my self-acceptance and recovery from the various forms of trauma that have occurred from the social and executive functioning deficits that have made operating in this society so difficult. Now I have a safe space where I am encouraged to grow and be the best that I can be.
13. Do you find it stressful to be around other parents at school functions?
14. How often do you pretend to not see people you know if you don’t want to talk?
Depends on the amount of 'spoons' I have left for that day and how the other person seems to be. But, usually I have found that it's better to overcome the slight hesitancy I have and connect. Even if it feels awkward to begin with, if it's someone I like, it's always better to talk, than to avoid. Every time I do this, I feel uplifted.
15. In which areas do you identify the most with other autistic people?
That nagging sense of not being born with the inbuilt social rulebook that other people have. That sense of either sharing either 'not enough', or 'too much.' A sad feeling of knowing there's so much more I could bring out of me in the right environment (the 'orchid child' phenomenon!).
16. What are the most stressful aspects of parenting an autistic child as an autistic caregiver?
N/A, but I can imagine it would be two things: sensory-related in terms of the amount of noise. And difficulties with emotional regulation in the face of a child's distress. Oh yes, and the solid weight of other people's opinions about what to do!
17. What are the top 5 things you want your children to know about the world and why?
I would teach my imaginary child:
Keep going with what you're doing. Follow your own interests and don't let anyone tell you differently.
You won't care as much about what they think one day, as you do now.
Not everyone someone says is true, and they have all sorts of reasons for not telling the truth, and it's not always what you think.
Everyone gets sad sometimes and scared sometimes, and it's not just you. So don't worry that you are alone.
Sometimes we have to do hard things. But, we can do hard things - and that's the secret!
18. Does living off the grid appeal to you and why/why not?
Yes, but only if it was part of a large community. We need tribe, it's how we are built.
19. What is your favorite style of architecture and why?
Industrial style, repurposed warehouses made cosy. Exposed brick, high ceilings, mezzanines and stone. A mix of the old and the new. I like this because it's a nod to where we have come from, but in a way that holds us in the modern age.