They said to persevere. I began to perseverate. They discouraged me.
Be joyful they said. I flapped my hands with joyful feeling. Not like that, they said.
They used a lot of words whereas I had not many. They said I needed to speak like them, and when I did, they said it was the wrong words.
You need more friends they said as they forced me into the circle of bullies they called my ‘friends.’
You need to be independent, they said. So I tried. No, not like that. No, you cannot possibly do that.
Share your interests, they said. So I did. We do not find that very interesting they said. Stop repeating yourself!
You are in your own world, they said. And with that final statement, it occurred to me—their world is not kind. Why is it better? Why must I be as them?
So whereas they refused to embrace or understand my world, I was forced to assimilate into theirs, each day giving up a part of my very being.
It was then I decided to be empowered, to embrace that which they refused to embrace, to be as I was, am, and will continue on to be. And I sought to share a piece of my world with those who dare might understand.
The word autism was derived from the Greek word autos or self. It literally means ‘selfism’ originally thought to be a departure from reality and connected to schizophrenia. We must see that selfism does not imply selfish and that a departure from norms is not necessarily a departure from reality. Those in the autism spectrum create a world which buffers them from their extreme sensitivities. They think and feel deeply. They struggle to ‘fit’ into the mainstream. Maybe that is the evolution of the puzzle piece for some who would force them to ‘fit’. Selfism entails an isolation, an alienation from peers but we must realize we live in alienated world where interactions are often superficial.
Those in the spectrum are able to break through to a radical authenticity when they do forge connections. The strategies adopted by those in the spectrum are those which seek to preserve the self from threats real and imagined. The communication of those in the spectrum may appear to be one-sided or focused on their own interests without reciprocation. But a co-presence and joining in approach can create a bridge between cultures.
Dr. Dan L. Edmunds is a psychological associate and psychotherapist in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Dr. Edmunds received Diplomate status from the American Psychotherapy Association. Dr. Edmunds has been a frequent speaker on various radio programs and at professional conferences. He is the author of Being Autistic: An Approach Towards Understanding and Acceptance and Meeting of Two Persons.
This article was featured in Issue 55 – Celebrating with the People We Love