In college, we read a book (well, a couple books) about a boy with autism. This one was called The Curious Case of the Dog in the Nighttime. I think. We were discussing it in class, and I made the mistake of expressing my honest opinion.
We were talking about his quirks and how they affected his daily life. The specifics that I remember are as follows: he didn’t like a certain color (yellow? Red?). So when he saw cars that color on the way to school, it was going to be a bad day. I also remember that he avoided touching the part of the train(?) ticket that was that color. This struck me differently than it struck everyone else. I said something like, “He needs to grow up and deal with these things. He can’t let those little things dictate his day or how he holds something. He can’t them affect him so much.”
Hate me yet? Hear me out.
Naturally, I was shot down. And I began to consider things a lot harder. But in the end, I have realized that I’m pretty much right. At least mostly.
Hear me out. As one with her own issues with mild autism and major ADD, I don’t expect the world to change for me just because I have these disabilities. I don’t expect people to understand or care. Part of being an adult, being a part of a group of people, is realizing that you’re not special. And I don’t mean that in a mean way. You are unique. People do love you for your uniqueness. But you can’t expect the world to cater to your disability. It’s great when it does, but you have to be able to deal when it doesn’t. Because nine times out of ten, it won’t. Especially for those “invisible” disabilities like ours. And why should it? How could it? Everyone is unique with unique needs. Life isn’t about making the world better for you. It’s like what JFK said. “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
I was raised being taught that I had to fight through my struggles to be, well, “normal.” Not necessarily conformed, but able to function in a world that doesn’t care about my disability (we only knew of one when I was growing up). A world that may or may not see me as my disability. A world that only sees and cares about what I bring to the table.
Life is about fighting through your issues, or maybe working with them, to bring something great and unique to the table.
I have specific examples. Remember how the character in the book didn’t like the certain color? And how he avoided touching that color on his ticket? I can relate, sorta. I never told anyone this until recently, but I have an issue with something happening to one side of my body and not the other. If I stomp my left foot, I have to stomp my right foot with exactly the same force. Otherwise I’ll just go crazy. But I never told anyone about it. I just dealt with it. I deal with it. And now that I’m growing up and realizing how unimportant that is, I’m making myself deal with one side being different from the other sometimes. That’s what I meant about the character growing up and dealing with it. Don’t let it affect you. Not even worth mentioning in even the most intimate conversations.
My personal issues with my body are so very unimportant. What is important? What I can give in spite of that. I don’t like my body being asymmetrical. But I’m over it enough that I’m able to type this out and share my thoughts with you all without worrying about the symmetry of my fingers.
I’m super-sensitive to touch. I can tell the softest spots of animals’ fur (their heads). And I -love- rolling on the ground petting my dog. I can give him the kind of attention and affection no one else can. If my hands are too try or even pruny, I can’t even touch soft things. It drives me nuts. And I can’t stand having sticky fingers.
I’m super-sensitive to taste. I can taste pretty much all the ingredients in a dish. I even taste the salt in chocolate chip cookies sometimes.
Life is about using these things to my advantage. And dealing with them when I can’t. Yes, I do cater to my issues sometimes. I put on moisturizer so I can touch things after showering. I do wash my hands when they’re sticky. But it’s really not as big a deal as it was made to be in the book. And it shouldn’t be. Because those things aren’t what’s important. What’s important is what I can do with or in spite of these issues. I don’t expect, or even want, the world to supply me with moisturizer for free or make a syrup that isn’t sticky for me. I want to give the world my ability to think about things almost too much. I want to give my experiences to teach others what I’m going through in life.