It’s a problem. Not just having Asperger’s or, as the more politically and diagnostically correct phrasing goes, being on the spectrum. But also not being diagnosed.
I know I am autistic. My oldest daughter and two of my grandsons have been diagnosed as being on the Spectrum and we process information in a similar fashion — although often arriving at very different conclusions. The way we observe and process information is generally considered to be ‘unusual’.
Being different can bring a sense of isolation. For me, as a child, it began at home.
None of my family questioned the things I questioned, or perceived certain aspects of home and the society in which we lived, in the way I viewed and interpreted them. It made both myself, and my family think of me as ‘other’. I lived there, but I was different. Wrong. I didn’t fit in. And I found myself in a very similar situation in school.
I honestly would not be able to tell you how I was different from the other kids. That was a secret only they knew.
Not knowing how I was different made it impossible to adjust my behaviour to conform.
I loved my mother, but in my opinion she lived a very dull, uninteresting life and I was determined to not grow up to live a similar one. On reflection, my mother faced a great many challenges. Raising a family and working outside of the home in the 1950’s and 1960’s when women were bombarded with media messages that their place was at home, could not have been easy for her. But I was too young and too involved with my own dilemmas to truly understand hers.
Then, when I was eleven, a neighbour began to notice me. An adult, he was a close family friend. My dad, my grandmother and my aunts all liked him. As he was frequently in our house, he found me an easy target for his perversion. Familiar with our household routines, he could easily determine when I would be home alone and thus vulnerable.
My autism contributed to my sense of helplessness in dealing with this neighbour’s twisted mind.
The isolation I felt from my parents, the sense of being ‘wrong’ and not knowing how I was wrong. The strict rule in our house that adults were always to be obeyed … I couldn’t sort out how I was supposed to alert others to this situation.
When I made tentative inroads into conversations about this problem, as with every other serious conversation I tried to have with adults, I was shut out.
It was the 1950’s. No one wanted to hear ‘that kind of thing’.
And, no-one knew about Autism, other than Hans Asperger in Germany and a few of his cohorts. We didn’t know about stimming, the social skills deficit or the neurology that would have unveiled my condition. So I stood alone.
I have been criticized for writing about this period in my life as I experienced it, rather than focusing more narrowly upon my autism.
The social deficits were, and to some extent still are, real and pervasive. The sense of isolation, the astounding lack of connection to others. Pleasure in solitude. The foreign-ness of other people’s thought processes.
I cannot make up autistic traits. I was different. Socially awkward, and a loner. That’s my truth.
And as an author who is autistic, the truth is the most powerful narrative I can offer you in a memoir.
The sometimes horrifying, sometimes touching and sometimes humourous truths about what it was like to be socially challenged in the late fifties, early sixties, attempting to ward off a sexual predator while trying my best to figure out how to be normal in a world that seemed so completely foreign to me, is my story of growing up on the spectrum.
Unforgiving. The Memoir of an Asperger Teen is available on Kindle and in paperback through Amazon Books. Read for yourself. I told my truth.