Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Interview with Kelly J.- Autism Acceptance

This interview is with Kelly J., who is 33. Kelly's site is here: http://OneQuarterMama.ca 
Kelly, thank you for interviewing with me.

I only got a diagnosis last year , but I know I've been living my whole life feeling like the odd one out. I blamed myself for what I thought were failings as a person. Now I know it's not because I'm a bad person, but because my brain is just different, not wrong. I was also diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder at the same time. My mother is in denial (about both me and my son), but I feel very liberated and am learning a lot more about myself. Diagnosis and acceptance are a wonderful gift.

What is your life like as an Autistic person?

I notice it every day, even if it's not a daily struggle. I have a lot of sensory issues and anxiety. If I do not take care of myself (set boundaries, eat well, sleep well) I can spiral into a meltdown, clinical depression and anxiety attacks. I have more recently become more gentle with myself. I can feel pressure/anxiety building and calm myself down to an extent. I listen to my body more and take steps to eliminate or avoid triggers. I find it much easier to say no or leave situations that make me uncomfortable now. At the same time, I also have some renewed energy to try more things and not be so scared.

Otherwise, I maintain a marriage, own a house and keep a full time job. I'm in a very understanding workplace (I recently disclosed my diagnosis) and it's the longest I've stayed at full time employment without any leaves of absence.

What is the most difficult [you can have more than one!] about being Autistic, for you?

Being misunderstood. Being seen as anti-social, smug or aloof. I've worked very hard to not come off as a know-it-all (I know for sure I used to) and I've toned down my sarcasm. Social situations are just the worst! I'm good one-on-one with people, maybe even a group of four, but after that, it's just horrid. I hate having to say, "no thanks, I don't drink. No, I really need to leave now and get to bed." People really don't understand the fall-out of not taking my limits seriously.

What is the most joyful, fun, exciting thing about being Autistic?

My sense of humour - I laugh easily and like to make others laugh. Some people say I'm "child-like" and they like that youthfulness. I enjoy silly little things. I feel music intensely. I feel physical sensations intensely. I wouldn't want to give those things up and be dulled to the world.
I'm also hypergraphic and love writing and languages. I see patterns in shapes/numbers/words and that eye for detail helps me in my work.

How has the Autism Acceptance Day/Month effort over the past three years affected you personally? If you were not aware of it until recently, what meaning does Autism Acceptance Day/Month have to you now?

It means the difference between "awareness" and "acceptance." We don't need more awareness - everyone knows about autism now. But do they really understand it? With understanding, acceptance can come and that only comes from having an open mind. The more of us who come forward, the more we cannot be ignored. And the full spectrum of the rainbow can be seen - all of us, different and beautiful, with our talents and our limits.

What is one thing about acceptance that would make a difference in the world?

It means I hope for a day where I won't have to explain myself so much. Where people won't stare at, be mean to or be afraid of people who are different. I already have enough discrimination in my life: I'm female, mostly androgynous and a person of colour. I don't need to be judged for my brain as well. One day all of those things won't matter. That's my hope.

Do you have children or other family members who are Autistic?

My four year old son was diagnosed at two and a half. He was also diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of Speech. I believe if it weren't for that, the autism part wouldn't be a big deal. I see a lot of myself as a child in him. The difference is I accept him for how he is, rather than the abuse my parents engaged in trying to change me. He is a cheeky and happy guy. He sings and dances a lot. He has made me laugh or smile every single day of his life. He is extremely intelligent, like an old soul. We need to talk through everything we're doing because he seems to be prone to anxiety like I am, but I find him really easy to take care of otherwise. He's a really good kid - I lucked out!
I believe my father was autistic also, now looking back. He understood me well, even though he didn't always accept me. He died when my son was 16.5 months old and before that, neither of them could really talk, but they just adored each other. I think my dad knew, and by the time he was dying had become more accepting.

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