Adults on the Spectrum Blog, Part 1: Accepting Difference

M is an adult with autism spectrum disorder. In this new weekly series, M will share thoughts, discuss issues affecting young adults with ASD, and contribute a unique perspective. 


Adults With Autism Blog #1 – Accepting Difference


“Far too many people on the spectrum spend most of their days with people who carry around memories of, and are often too overwhelmed by incidents of, prior misinterpretation. This is no fun. In travel you can start over, and reinvent yourself. If somehow a relationship gets weird, you can leave and go to the next town, the next block, or whatever the case may be, and try again.”


– Michael John Carley, Asperger’s From the Inside Out: A Supportive and Practical Guide for Anyone with Asperger’s Syndrome


Coming to terms with an autism diagnosis can be devastating for a family, especially for the parents of a child with ASD. However, as children on the spectrum grow up and approach adulthood, they too must be aware of and gradually come to grips with their disorder. For many adults and young adults on the spectrum, these processes are ongoing. Maturing into a young adult can lead to a greater understanding of one’s strengths and limitations, whether they be sensory, behavior and communication-related or otherwise. It can also lead to painful isolation as adolescents and young adults with ASD realize that they have many differences from their peers. Their norm is not “the norm.” 


Joshua Muggleton, a young adult with Asperger’s, puts it like this:


“For me, and many like me, the diagnosis is much more than a label. It can be a source of pride; a badge of honor for surviving in a world that, for us, seems chaotic, overwhelming and downright scary. It can also be a part of our identity. When I meet a fellow Aspie, I feel a sense of fraternity with them. This person, unlike the other 99% of people, sees the world in the same way as me. We face the same challenges, we think the same way, and we often have to campaign together on issues affecting us. I’m proud to call myself an Aspie.”


And indeed, many of us on the spectrum do feel a sense of pride, for being survivors, for getting by in a world that in many ways is unaccommodating to us. But complete self-acceptance and the acceptance of our disorder can be a struggle. A lifelong struggle. For some of the ASD population, it remains a constant internal battle — a raging inner war. For others, receiving a diagnosis (especially in adulthood) may do the opposite and and provide a much longed for explanation and feeling of relief. For every individual, the reaction is different. As goes the saying goes: “if you’ve met one person with autism, then you’ve met one person with autism.”


So, for this week, which marks the midpoint of Autism Awareness Month and Autism Acceptance Month, let those in the autism community come together to celebrate our differences and encourage acceptance. And for those on the spectrum that feel positively about their diagnosis to share their pride with those around them, locally, nationally, and even globally.   


As George Orwell might say, simply: “Happiness can exist only in acceptance.”


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