I'm Not What People Imagine When They Hear 'Autism'

Jas ONeill Stone
Portrait of a woman's face.
Portrait of a woman's face.

Autism.

When you hear that word, most people generally think of boys. Autism is seen as predominantly affecting males. However, this simply isn’t true.

I am female. I also have autism. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 17. Lots of girls have autism, but we often present very differently, and thus we get overlooked time and time again. People think we are being awkward, difficult or lazy. We aren’t. Our brains do not work the same as yours. We are simply trying to exist in a world which is totally backwards, loud, bright and confusing for us.

A neurotypical person cannot feel what autism feels like or imagine what the world is like to us. Imagine being a computer program that reads files. Now imagine the files you have been sent are upside down, inside out, in foreign languages, constantly moving around, shouting at you, flashing, and opening and closing themselves randomly. Then imagine the computer is permanently running at 50 percent battery and there is no way to charge it, and you can’t update the computer programs ever. That is what autism is like for me.

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The world is so noisy, and there are so many things to concentrate on all over the place. The world is bright. It often burns my eyes. Supermarket lighting feels like it’s disintegrating my retinas, and combined with the colors of everything on the shelves my brain gets confused; it’s too much information. I’m not being dramatic, or exaggerating what I am experiencing, which is what some people label autistics as doing. I’m not exaggerating when I say supermarkets physically hurt; please believe me!

By nature I hide everything. It’s not always on purpose, in fact most of the time it’s because I simply don’t know how to describe what I’m feeling. So while outwardly I may just appear in a bit of a rush or fidgety, inwardly there is likely an overstimulation war raging inside my head, and there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s made worse by the fact that because I am female and don’t present in the typical manner, it often goes unnoticed and overlooked. People often can’t understand how I can talk to someone one minute and be nonverbal the next. It’s because I’m autistic, not because I am difficult, as some people label me.

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I do not retain information – it’s not that I wasn’t listening to you. I just cannot physically remember. My brain does not process and store the information quick enough, so when I ask you again, a question I know I’ve asked you before please bear with me. I am trying I swear, I am not being lazy as some people label me.

If I question something you’ve said or asked me to do, please explain. I am not being difficult, I am genuinely curious as to why we do things this way when my brain tells me it would be much easier or more logical or more “me” to do it another way. I want to learn, I want to grow, but I need information to do so.

A common misconception or label put on those of us with autism is that we have no empathy, that we cannot feel emotions or imagine what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. While I physically cannot imagine what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes, I can imagine the pain, hurt, sadness and despair they may be feeling. I can imagine the happiness, joy and excitement someone may be feeling. I don’t know exactly what anyone else feels, I imagine we all feels things entirely uniquely, but this doesn’t mean I lack empathy or understanding. I know what I feel, and I can empathize with what someone may be experiencing based on my own feelings.

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Rather than feeling nothing at all, as some people seem to believe about those of us with autism, I feel it all. I feel far too much. I am an emotional sponge and I feel every ounce of anger or impatience or annoyance that has been spat in my direction when I have been unable to verbalize how I feel or what I need. How do you verbalize that you feel everything all at once? It’s like having the intensity of the world turned up to the max all the time, with no way to turn it down.

I am autistic.

I am female.

I can empathize with you.

I can relate to your emotions based on my own.

I am me.

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