The #ActuallyAutistic Culture and Identity Project S5
Name, and/or twitter handle: K/dropoutninja
Pronouns: any, I like to try them on like hats (agender)
Age when you selfdx/were diagnosed autistic: 35
1. Did you feel you were different from others as a child?
I did not feel I was different, I knew I was different. My family pointed it out. I did not speak most of the time. I drank from a bottle until I was seven and had other developmental delays that sharply contrasted with my abilities in math and reading. Teachers pulled me from class for advanced learning. Counselors pulled me from class for social emotional learning. This one lady always used a dolphin puppet to address me. I am glad to report that despite these difficulties, I have retained my love for puppets.
Though I had pretty extensive therapy, nobody explained to me why I was different. This information would have been useful.
Eventually, I was able to connect with other children for the first time, around middle school age. I was outgoing-- I always loved people and wanted them near me, I just also wanted them to be quiet and mind their own business.
2. Are your parents supportive of you as an autistic individual?
I had an assortment of caregivers. My mother frequently told me I was weird, embarrassing, etc. She wanted me to "act normal." My stepfather brought me video games, Lego sets, K'Nex, and puzzles. He understood my personality and was probably autistic himself. Unfortunately, he was also abusive.
My father and grandmother (who mostly raised me) were very supportive. They played echolalia games, honored my routines, and explained the world to me. Both are dead now.
I do not speak with my mother and stepfather. I am disowned. This actually has a lot of perks.
3. How did you determine your ethical system?
I had a strong moral compass at an early age. It was mostly instinct. I knew that I did not want anyone, plant, animal, or human, to be hurt. I was a vegetarian because I only wanted to eat food that "didn't have babies." I yelled at people for killing insects. I didn't even want to see other kids mistreat their toys. The world seemed unnecessarily cruel. I cried for others frequently. Some of my first Special Interests were religion and literature, so reading helped me adjust my beliefs as I grew up. My whole family was pretty religious, but after a while I determined that Christianity was not ethical enough for me. Now I am a Unitarian Universalist. Unitarian Universalism is like a buffet with plenty of vegetarian options. I still spend a lot of time wondering whether or not I'm doing the right thing.
4. In which way does your private self differ from your outward facing front?
Most of the time I try to stifle my reactions to stimuli. I do not like loud noises. I pretend these noises do not bother me when I am out in public.
There are certain stims I only do in private.
I try not to talk about my "unacceptable" Special Interests (sex, death, Halloween, horror, murder mysteries) in the wrong crowds.
Sometimes I am nonspeaking (I like to say I am semi-speaking). My mouth cannot make the words that I think in my head. Or my mouth says a different word than my brain asked it to say. So the person I am inside is much more fluent and communicative. I just cannot always transport those thoughts outside of me. Because of this, there will always be a big part of me that is private.
5. Do you enjoy finding mistakes/errors in the production of films and television...continuity etc.?
Usually films/tv shows are too fast-paced for me to notice errors-- there's so much to keep up with! But I like to find typos and continuity errors in books. When I took an exam to become a teacher, I made a perfect score and found an error on the test.
6. What are the top 3 traits you look for in a friend?
That is harder to answer. Mainly I seek out kind people with similar interests. There are a variety of characteristics that make someone appealing to me. Do they sing? Do they carry a pocket knife? Do they get along with cats? Usually I find myself with an odd assortment of friends.
7. What are the top 3 traits you perceive as negative but are willing to overlook in a friend?
Being too loud, not following the rules in board games, and disliking spaceships/horror.
8. What are the top traits you look for in a partner/traits your partner possesses?
Gentleness, the ability to make me laugh, and bauble-giving.
9. What would you do with your life if you had unlimited funds?
Growing up, I was a poor Appalachian kid in an industrial urban area, so I have thought about this a lot. If I had the money, I would fully fund the low-income and alternative schools in my area so that they had enough staff to have smaller class sizes/provide mental health support to students. ("Alternative" schools serve juvenile offenders and neurodivergent students. I work in these schools as a substitute.) I would also create food banks, scholarships, and emergency assistance programs for the students in these schools. I would donate a good portion of the money to my church and other organizations that give back to the community I grew up in. I would buy a house in my old neighborhood and take care of any neighbors who needed help. All my kid's friends/classmates and their families would have whatever they wanted. Also I would probably go see the Louvre at some point.
10. What does freedom mean to you. What does it entail?
I don't know. That's a Big Idea. When I dream about flying, that feels like freedom. Having a spaceship that could go anywhere in the universe at tremendous speeds, that might be freedom. Never having to go hungry, never worrying about where I will sleep, never being afraid. Maybe that's freedom. Or maybe freedom is just not having to spend Christmas with my family.
11. What does success mean to you?
Doing something you want to do or managing to do something you didn't want to do but had to anyway.
12. Are you more stable/happier/productive within the structure of a relationship...partner/good friend/long-term roommate?
I am always happier within any kind of structure.
13. Do you find it stressful to be around other parents at school functions?
Absolutely. Not only because of my autism but also because of my queerness. I live in the Bible Belt, and people are not afraid to make unpleasant faces or comments. Plus, other adults sometimes think my Special Interests are weird. I would absolutely rather hang out with the kids because we have more in common.
14. How often do you pretend to not see people you know if you don’t want to talk?
Fairly often if I am stressed. If I am not stressed, I like to stop and say hello. I have many acquaintances all around town, and I run into my students a lot. All of those people know me and understand I am my own "eccentric" self, so it is easier to talk. My sensory problems worsen in public, however, which makes me less willing to interact. If I avoid people, it is usually in bright noisy places.
15. In which areas do you identify the most with other autistic people?
Issues around sensory processing disorder, dyspraxia, and speaking.
16. What are the most stressful aspects of parenting an autistic child as an autistic caregiver?
I will just address the part about being an autistic parent in general because I like to keep my kid's business private.
The hardest part was growing the baby. It exacerbated all my sensory difficulties. My nausea was so bad I lost weight from being pregnant. Infancy was a terrible time thanks to all the noise, smells, and interruptions to routine. If I ever have another child, I would like it delivered to me at the age of eleven, after most of the gross stuff has subsided. Though of course middle schoolers do have a penchant for carrying around fart spray. Probably I should just stick to working in schools instead of having a second kid of my own.
17. What are the top 5 things you want your children to know about the world and why?
I hope I have taught my child how to
-do what she wants to do
-overthrow the kyriarchy
I think these things are important so she can love and protect herself and others.
18. Does living off the grid appeal to you and why/why not?
I am terrified of driving and often rely on public transportation. I don't own a cellular phone (or any portable tech device like that), and I don't mind going without the internet. If I could live in an urban area with bus stops, libraries, and schools within walking distance, I would live off the grid. I guess that would put me squarely on the grid, however. So... no. I am a city mouse.
19. What is your favorite style of architecture and why?
I prefer buildings made out of Lego. I do not believe this requires further explanation.