There is a broad spectrum of people who are autistic, and even though many may share similar traits – no two autistic people are the same… just as two non-autistic people are not the same either, no matter how alike they may be. Even biological twins, who may appear identical on the surface can be considerably distinguishable and different when you look deeper – we are all distinct and unique human beings, and none of us are the same. This is especially true for autistic people as there is not a single archetype of autism and an individual’s features, abilities, and degree of difficulties can differ and vary considerably among those diagnosed. Personally, I was diagnosed when I was eight years old back in the early 2000s and have yet to find another autistic person similar to me – trust me, I have looked but have never found a doppelganger.
My journey to understanding and accepting my diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome has been long, arduous and complex to say the least. Throughout my life it has been very difficult to conceptualise and communicate what autism truly was to others – even I struggled to resonate with my diagnosis, let alone those closest to me who were confused and perplexed too. Statistically being one in 100 can be considered quite lonely compared to the 99% of the general population who do not have an autism diagnosis like me. Growing up I did not want to be perceived different to others, so I kept my autism a secret from everyone and hid my traits in everyday life. Not only did hiding my true self from others affect my personal identity growing up but it also limited my outlook and opportunities, as I was always scared and afraid that I would expose myself as different to others or be perceived negatively. Masking my autism for so long meant that I was ashamed to be myself in front of others – although I may not have had a doppelganger, for many years it felt like I was living two different lives at home and outside.
This all changed when I met my first autistic person before I started Art School, almost a decade after my diagnosis. From my own misunderstanding and poor interpretation of autism growing up, frankly I expected to meet a monster – however, she was delightfully ordinary and truly opened my eyes to how broad and all-encompassing the autistic spectrum really is, there is no one archetype of an autistic person and we all belong on the spectrum. From our discussion, we each had our own sets of challenges and strengths, which helped me acknowledge that some autistic people are more capable in certain aspects of life than others – just like neurotypical people. Following my first encounter with an autistic person, my sense of belonging and confidence in my identity grew that I could engage more with my autism going forward.
My perception evolved considerably that for my final year Bachelors project, I designed ‘SPECTRUM’ to reveal an new positive perspective to autistic awareness and empathy towards the neurotypical population, using colour to communicate and educate better around autism; through a reimagined ‘inclusive’ autistic spectrum understanding model and diagnostic framework, educational engagement approaches to help facilitate conversations around destigmatising autism and an app promotional campaign that allows neurotypicals to tangibly discover their autistic traits and better empathise with the autistic community.
Through my project engagement and insight, I recognised and appreciated more commonality than difference between myself and neurotypical people around me – although none were the same as me, I did not feel so alone or different anymore. As such, I find current umbrella framing of autism can cause confusion and misinterpretation towards those living with it. This highlights the need to dispel negative stereotypes and show the true reality of what it is like to be autistic and how broad the spectrum can be for those diagnosed.
Although others may be diagnosed autistic, it does not mean that they are the same. If you have the pleasure to know someone who is autistic, you know a particular perception of autism from them. However, one autistic person is not representative of the whole autistic spectrum. If you truly want to learn more about autism, I encourage you to engage with many autistic people and seek various perspectives of autism to gain a holistic picture of the breadth of the spectrum and discover that autistic people are not all the same, but each amazingly unique with different perspectives of autism.
Autistic People Can’t Work As Part Of A Team
A very common misconception many people have is that autistic people are very controlling and uncompromising and so cannot work together with other people. This is an amusingly inaccurate idea to say the least.
There weren’t autistic people when I was at school
Well, as an autistic person in their 40s I can assure you - we were there. Many of us were not diagnosed or identified as autistic but we were most definitely there.
Watch Wendy Ferguson share her poem on the subject of normality.
Why I Came Out Publicly About Being Autistic
Autistic people come in all shapes and sizes, colours, and textures and I for one am delighted with that fact!
A New Understanding of Myself
My son was diagnosed autistic at age four. Researching his condition helped me understand more about myself.
What Kindness Means to Me
Some things done in the name of kindness can be harmful. Here’s how such experiences have impacted autistic friends, family, and myself.
My Lived Experience
Asking me to talk about ‘my experience of autism’ is as odd as being asked what my experience is of having blue eyes.
Masking has become much more talked about as understanding of autism grows. But what is it, why do we do it, and what is the impact?
An Undiagnosed Autistic Life
A childhood full of confusion and fear. Loving family, but so often misunderstood.
What knowing I am autistic means to me
After 39 and a half years of not knowing what made me tick, why I communicated and behaved the way I did, I finally got confirmation that I am autistic.
My Autistic Journey
For years I have struggled to comfortably fit in, understand people, and be myself.
Growing Up Undiagnosed
I was diagnosed as autistic eleven years ago at age 21. I had spent my entire life feeling different, not quite fitting in, but not knowing why.
Trusting What Remains
I struggle to trust my processing of this world, but I’ve found other feelings to rely on.