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What My Autism “Looks Like”: Differences and Similarities Across the Spectrum (Non DB Edition)

I was thinking about it, and I thought it would be a great idea to write a blog article about how Autism affects me. Autism is so misunderstood by so many people. I just got this remark this past weekend (End of April 2017) by a customer who was visiting to buy some laptops. “Autism? You do not look like you have Autism” and he was trying to have his driver concur with him on that fact. I told him in return “I have a great come-back for that statement; you do not look ignorant either”. He gladly agreed and saw where I was coming from. Autism is such a spectrum disorder, and shows differently in EVERYONE who has been diagnosed. The misunderstanding of autism is so profound. I once had a romantic interest tell me she did not want to date me because of the autism label. “It scared her away” she said. She also told me that she had to quit work at a horse farm because they dealt with people with autism and she was afraid she did not know how to interact with them.

I was diagnosed at 16 years old with High Functioning Autism! I grew up the majority of my childhood with other diagnoses (ones that usually accompany an Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis) but my healthcare providers and school system officials had NO CLUE that I was on the spectrum. I dealt with and was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, a mood disorder, and general anxiety. No one can deny that I dealt with any of these issues, or diagnoses. Because of the late diagnosis and the way I am different from everyone else, I wonder about my Autism, and the diagnoses. I cannot say in some ways that I am not jealous of others who have autism, as autism can be seen in a positive way and not many people realize this. I have a friend (he will go by the name M) that has a much lower functioning form of Autism than I do; it affects him very much in the social skills and learning area. This man, however, can tell you the exact date (and maybe time) something happened. He also has dates remembered for the future. I have what others call a great memory but not what he has. I kind of envy him for this skill. He has such a GREAT work ethic because he is very prompt, and goes by an exact schedule. My friend (I will name him P) is an amazing skier and participates in the Special Olympics. Not only is P an amazing athlete, he can paint very well. He is a fantastic artist and designs greeting cards for the holidays. I definitely envy his skills as well. I met people who are amazing students, writers, musicians.

So, how do I fit in with these individuals; what gives me the label of Autism? What traits do I possess of someone on the spectrum? I have my extreme interests just like the people mentioned above. P’s extreme interest is skiing and the state of Maine. M’s extreme interest is maps and geology. He can tell you how to get somewhere exactly; almost like a human GPS. My extreme interests are trains, computers, car racing, GM cars, and South Africa. I also have my talents that I excel at. I am more of a mechanical person in that I can build or teardown a computer, just to do it. I am a very good driver and enjoy it so much that I have been told that I should drive a truck. However, there is a big difference in driving a semi than a sports car:) I favor the latter. I really am fascinated with repetitive routines. Yes, you think routine as in having a personal one (i.e. shower, bathroom use, eating, and so on) but I am talking about that of how businesses would operate. I am fascinated with surgery, not just for my interest in instruments and anatomy (the mechanical way I think), but how the Operating Room handles the flow of patients, from the decision to have surgery, to posting, all the way to patient discharge from the facility. This process fascinates me so much. Also, how an airline works. Things such as scheduling of flights and airport operations (i.e. the boarding process, and how passengers navigate an airline). The “Hub and Spoke” system really is neat. Things such as events really fascinate me, such as how an event is put on and handled. I enjoy planning events for my non-profit; The Buddy Project. Unfortunately, I never really come out on top. We have planned several “Balls” and “Cake Auctions”.

Okay, so I do fit the criteria of being on the Autism Spectrum. It just manifests in a different way than my friends. We all have similar struggles but are also so very different. I consider Autism to that of a cat or dog breed. There are so many different ones, and no one is the same.

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