Saturday, April 1, 2017

Interview with Jean Williams-Autism Acceptance Day 2017

This first interview for Autism Acceptance Day 7 is with Jean Williams, who is 62. Jean was the first person to return the interview questionnaire this year! Happy Autism Acceptance Day, everyone! Jean writes:

I am a married female software engineer, who was diagnosed as Autistic at age 19, but then never received any assistance or treatment. 

What is your life like as an Autistic person? 

It was a very hard road, and I struggled a lot. I always felt out of place in every situation, and the work environment has always been stressful. I was okay when I had a well-defined task that I knew how to do, but any new assignments, or meetings always trigger a lot of anxiety. I have always had a hard time in social situations. I do not understand the "rules" of relationships, though I love people tremendously. I have always so wanted to have real and meaningful friendships, but never knew how to facilitate that happening. My only escapes have really been nature and music, the only two things that have always given me a feeling of security and being grounded. 

What is the most joyful, fun, exciting thing about being Autistic? 
To me the best thing (and sometimes worst) about being autistic is that I notice everything - and I take nothing for granted. As much as my emotions can go lower than low, they can also go higher than high. When I love something (or someone), I love it (or them) with my whole being. Love - of all sorts - is the most joyful thing - yet among people the difficulties I have in understanding how to build the relationships which will allow me to share that joy is also the hardest. 

What is the most difficult thing about being Autistic?
To me the most difficult thing is the social aspect. I believe I can read people's "soul" pretty well - I know to the core who they are quite readily. It is just what to do about that, that becomes hard for me. Whereas I know so quickly that I am drawn to someone, the oddnesses and complexities of me seem to make other people keep me at arm's length, and that is so hard for me. I just want to tell them, "don't you see, I have a good heart, and you can trust me, and I love you, and please just believe that, and let me..."

How has the Autism Acceptance Day/Month effort over the past seven 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 has not (yet) really affected me personally. I think the effort is much less visible here in the US, and as such people as a whole still have a big stigma attached to autism.

What does “moving beyond awareness” mean to you?

I have this idea in my head that there is wonderful in everyone, and that accordingly there are also faults or differences in everyone. I personally look at others and chose to concentrate on the wonderful. All I wish is that others could look at everyone who is different and choose to see what is good in them, and what gives them commonality. People are social beings - and it is so hard to feel left out of life just because I might approach things differently than others.

What is one thing about acceptance that would make a difference in the world?
To me acceptance goes beyond Autism, it goes to anyone who is different. People often seem not look at others to understand them, or support them, or accept them - or most specifically to love them. I think the world needs to adopt a posture of love, and put aside differences - and table all the looking out for #1 talk - and realize that we are ALL in this together, and that ultimately the world succeeds together or will fail together. Too many people's lives are lost or wasted because society did not look to realize their potential, and work to help each individual succeed and (as someone I know and love stresses) to shine. That recognition of the need to work toward lighting a light of capability, of love, and of caring among each individual is what will ultimately go beyond just awareness, beyond "acceptance" to allow EACH individual in the world to contribute to the betterment of everyone. So really - it is not good only for the autistic individual to support and facilitate them - but for the good of society as a whole. 

Thank you Jean. It is a real pleasure to get the chance to interview you and post your thoughts.

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