Voices From the Spectrum #40: Anna on “Invisible Autism”
Anna is an autistic blogger and advocate who blogs about a variety of topics related to autism at AnonlymouslyAutistic.net. This website is designed to inspire through the sharing of stories and experiences. Anna tells visitors, “Writing is therapy” and “Hopefully something that I have to share might be helpful to you in your life.” This week Anna shared some of the ways she addresses the specific challenges that come along with being an “invisible” autistic.
How did you feel upon first receiving your diagnosis? Have your feelings changed since then?
At first I was upset. I felt like I had wasted years feeling inadequate, not knowing why I had always felt different and struggled. I mourned the loss at the opportunity for interventions, but wondered if I would not be as “strong” if I had known before. I didn’t get to use Autism as a crutch growing up. I had to be tough. Now I am empowered by the information.
What have the people closest to you done to support you that was especially helpful?
My mother always pushed me. She taught me good work habits and how to look attentive when people are speaking. My grandparents always believed in me.
What advice do you have for parents to help address their autistic children’s burnouts? (What are some signs you know you are personally becoming overwhelmed? What do you do to help yourself recover?)
Burnouts can be caused by a number of things but tend to be tied to a change in routine or atmosphere. Moving into a new home, town, school, or job can trigger one. Also, too many small life changes at once can trigger them. Sensory overload can ALSO be a trigger. I start to feel fuzzy and go on autopilot. I can be cranky and disoriented, have headaches and stomachaches. My anxiety rises more easily when I feel burned out, and I am overwhelmed by simple tasks more often. I try not to make too many big changes in my life and allow for plenty of rest time engaging with my passions. Special interests are the only things that help me to recover – in addition to positive thinking.
You’ve written about how difficult school was for you. What are some mistakes your teachers made when you were in school? Or what do you wish they would have done differently that might have helped you?
School was very difficult. Teachers passed me without me knowing the information because I was a good test-taker. I also had few friends and was bullied a lot. Teachers wanted me to sit still and did NOT want to deal with me. I was not DX, just thought of as a “troublemaker” in school.
What mistakes do neurotypical autism advocates make?
They assume that “high functioning” autistic people have little to no struggles. They think people like me, who function well in society (from what they SEE only), do not deserve a diagnosis. Yes, I hold a job, but I do need some basic accommodations to be a good employee because of my sensory sensitivities and executive function difficulties. I am a master at pretending everything is alright even with it is not – many ASD women can do this. Just because we look alright, doesn’t mean we are not losing it or confused inside. Autism is invisible; my “special needs” are invisible. Yes I am “gifted,” but I am also lost on some very basic communication issues.
How would you rate society’s acceptance of people on the spectrum today?
People need to see REAL autistic people from ALL over the spectrum, ESPECIALLY the “Invisible Autistics”. These are the ones that nobody believes is Autistic. Search #SheCantBeAutistic on Twitter. It is not fair that this group is denied, often by parents or people who know the autistic people who cannot hide and closer match autism stereotypes. I am tired of being told that I can’t be autistic because I am “too normal”.