My dad loves to tell people that when I was a young kid, the first thing I would do when I got home was to take off my shoes and pick out the lint that was between my toes.
He didn’t know I was autistic, but looking back now, it is one of my childhood peculiarities that makes complete sense now.
I had a lot of things like that as a kid. Unrelated, “odd” things about me, my body, or my behavior. I had frequent stomach aches, and hated how carbonation felt on my throat. I loved to sit in my room, even as a very young child, and just think. I spoke in a way that very few people could understand, so I had to go to speech therapy. I would get rashes on my face with no known etiology. I would play by myself for hours, making imaginary worlds out of legos, paper, or whatever material I had. I felt more comfortable around adults than kids my own age and would have lengthy conversations with them. I walked with an odd gait and my parents took me to podiatrists and other doctors to try and fix it.
We couldn’t see that all of these things were related to autism. That isn’t my parents fault or anyone’s fault for that matter. I was born in 80’s and the understanding and information about autism had not evolved enough.
We now know that autism is a different neurotype that results in neural pathways that fire more frequently and in conjunction with others. Autistics’ senses are frequently more enhanced. That was why I noticed the lint between my toes even as a kid. Autistic’s hyperactive minds result in them frequently getting lost in special interests (my imaginary worlds) and thought (sitting and thinking in my room). As deep thinkers, we also far more enjoy deep conversations, which was I enjoyed talking to adults more.
Autism also impacts how we learn. The language I developed as a kid was a shortened version of the world I heard around me. It made sense to me, but not to anyone but my mother. I had to learn that “brefast” did not signify “breakfast” to others. I also spoke in a sing-songy voice where I frequently put emphasis on the wrong part of words or said them as if I had an accent (stiill do … speech pathology couldn’t quite take it out of me haha).
Autism causes the nervous system to be on hyper-alert, which can cause gastro-intestinal issues. It can also result in an over-active immune system, resulting in rashes and other. It is hypothesized that the combination of nervous system and unique brain firing results in connective tissue and gait differences in autistics. I still walk a little funny, though I’ve gone to physical therapy at different points in my life.
I used to think I just had a lot of random problems. Turns out it’s just one thing - and it’s not even a problem. I have a brain difference that results in different traits and behaviors that vary from neurotypicals. And I’m fine with that.
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