Published in the Chariot, August 2011
Having autism has deterred me from communicating with neurotypicals. Neurotypicals are people not like me; people who have what are considered normal behaviors. Their sensory processing is functional so they can see, hear and feel normally. Because I have sensory processing challenges, I can’t feel or see the physical space I am in. I can’t see and hear at the same time so I don’t look at people when I am listening to them. People may assume because of this that I am not listening or not interested, but that is not the case. As well, I can get overwhelmed in noisy environments because of my sensitive auditory processing challenges. For me calling a person on the phone is no easy matter because the ability to talk is not a strong ability I have. This is due to motor challenges. It takes great muscle control to speak. While autism affects my ability to speak it has not hindered my ability to think.
Being nonverbal has it’s advantages. For example people will stop talking if you don’t respond which is great when you don’t feel like listening. At least I have a good excuse. Kidding aside, I have great technology and support staff to help me communicate. But by the time my poor finger has typed a response, often the conversation in a group setting has moved on.
Sometimes I dread being in public places. While many people are understanding, some frankly act weird. Like those that treat me like a train wreck: they dreadfully watch but are frankly happy it’s not happening to them, this life of having a disability. Getting a lot of attention can be awesome for the autistic community in general, but sadly if you ask autism advocates most will tell you that not all press is good press. The reality is that most of us would rather be unnoticeable than be noticed just for our autism.
Although I have challenges that make it difficult to communicate, I am very interested in getting to know my fellow students. Bravely feel free to talk to me when you see me. Just be patient while waiting for a response.