The Maine Millennial: For me, autism has its upsides

A lot of times when we talk about autism, we talk about the negatives of the condition, the areas where autistic people struggle, where we need to focus help, support and accommodations. And there are many things autistic people struggle with, due to a combination of the autism itself and the way society is set up. After all, I didn’t seek a diagnosis until I was having trouble getting along as usual. But to wrap up World Autism Month, I’d like to talk about some of my autistic traits that I really like. My autism means I don’t always get double meanings or see through vague hints or excuses. On the one hand, this occasionally causes communication breakdown. On the other hand, this has been known to bring me a great deal of inner peace. I don’t look for meanings that aren’t there unless I’ve been told to (thank you, English degree, for that skill set). So if, for example, my girlfriend asks me to be quiet for an hour because she has a headache and is waiting for the painkillers to kick in, I take that at face value. In the same sort of situation, I’ve seen a lot of neurotypicals start worrying that the other person is mad at them or something. I don’t take things personally unless they are clearly directed at me. With me, friends and family can ask for their needs to be met directly without worrying they’re going to violate some sort of unspoken social contract. Speaking of the unspoken social contract, I land at the point on the spectrum where I can usually (usually! Not always, Lord knows) tell if there is a social cue I’m supposed to respond to or a role that I’m supposed to play, but I also don’t feel bad for ignoring the cue if it seems like there’s a good reason. I truly believe that awkwardness can only be present if all parties agree to it and invite it in (sort of like a vampire). You know when someone tells an offensive joke at a party and you look around and everyone is thinking they want to say something about it but they don’t want to ruin the vibe? I’ll speak up and not feel bad about it. Most social rules exist for a reason, and I respect that, even if I don’t always personally see the point. I have enhanced sensory perception. I like to think of it as my “Spidey senses,” but I don’t use it to fight crime. Actually, I haven’t found much use for being able to physically feel the difference between a stack of five sheets of paper and six sheets, but it makes me feel cool. Plus, I can plunge my hand into a disorganized pile of clothes at a yard sale or thrift shop and immediately feel the good stuff. I’m extremely routine-oriented and have no problem doing the same things in the same way and the same order every single day. This is good news for me and young children I might end up having, since kids thrive on routine and consistency from caregivers. And dogs thrive, too. Unfortunately, I don’t conform to a television stereotype of super-genius autism; I didn’t get the Sheldon Cooper-type autism, I got the substance abuse version. On the other hand, I have a semi-photographic memory. I can’t control what it takes pictures of, so it’s not actually useful in my day-to-day life, but it’s a neat little party trick. I don’t get tired of foods I like, and I can eat the exact same things day after day and never get sick of them. I haven’t gotten tired of a food yet! So I can buy stuff in bulk or on sale and eat it ad infinitum, which saves me a lot of money on food. The downside is since I buy the same things all the time, I immediately notice even the smallest percentage of inflation. Some people think of autism as a disorder. Others, myself included, think of it as just another way of being and of moving through and processing the world. And while every autistic person’s list of welcome traits may look a little different than mine, I’d bet my bottom dollar we all have a few silver linings.

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Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at: Twitter: @mainemillennial Send questions/comments to the editors.

This content was originally published here.