My sister sent me an interesting article titled "Why 'High Functioning' Autism Is So Challenging" by Lisa Jo Rudy who is an Autism Spectrum Disorders Expert. Here is the link: http://autism.about.com/od/aspergerssyndrome/fl/Why-High-Functioning-Autism-Is-So-Challenging.htm. My sister suggested that this would make a great blog post so here it goes:
I am on the high functioning end of the Autism Spectrum and was formerly diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. As the article suggests, I have my routine and seldom change it. Most people around me know what to expect. Don't ask me to go out on Saturday night. My nights to go out are on Monday and Thursday. I get very uncomfortable in crowds and I can be very sensitive especially to sound. If something falls and clatters loudly, it really unnerves me. Getting back on track can be difficult. The conversation inside my own head can be more interesting than the conversation happening around me. Years of training to stay on topic have helped but my interests are still very restricted. I am a good problem solver but I needed a lot of help in preparing for my upcoming day long presentation. The executive function required to put all my speeches together and set a rehearsal schedule was way beyond me. None of these things would be obvious to people if they see me in public until they see one of the things I described above happening. They have no idea that I have ASD. How often have I heard, "you're Autistic? I didn't know". I sometimes think to myself or say to them "Just hang around for a little while........ you'll see!"
The other challenges described in this article are emotional issues like anxiety and frustration. These are also mostly not observable. When I read this article, I found myself thinking about the anxieties that are the part of my everyday life and those around me have no clue. Sometimes people will place expectations on me which will make me feel more pressure. I often worry that I will fail to meet those expectations. If I fail to deal with these anxieties through exercise and therapies that I have been taught over the years, I have learned that they will come out in other not so appropriate ways. I sometimes find myself to be quick to anger. I hyperventilate or I can be extremely perseverative in my thought patterns.
So as Ms. Rudy says "high functioning autism is not an easy or simple diagnosis to live with". Though I look like a typical person and want the same nice lifestyle as most everyone around me, I also struggle wondering how to I can meet expectations of normality. Approximations toward that normality present daily challenges for me. But there are also victories small and large every day. I decide to change my schedule and go out on a Saturday or I wear a different shirt than I normally wear. I catch myself hyperventilating and use the self management techniques that I was taught to stop and breathe normally. I embrace the practice schedule and nail my speech. These are my precious victories. "Autism is Autism" but these victories keep me moving forward everyday. Stay tuned for what's next!