Embracing My Autism
I am a 24 year old autistic man from Long Sutton in Spalding, Lincolnshire. Following the success of a new BBC series on television, there has been a lot of coverage about autism in the media. This has been a great opportunity to open discussion about the positive aspects of living with autism. However, it took me some time to embrace these positives.
As a young person, I was in an environment where I wanted to engage but I found my surroundings too difficult to inhabit. Poetry in its written form saved me. I was bullied because of my hair. My thought processes were considered deviant in comparison to the norm. I was bullied because of what would later be clinically diagnosed as my Tourette's and my autistic identity. Note how I put 'my'? That is because I own those aspects of my identity.
Illustrating my autistic identity in school, I was not one to indulge in casual relationships and preferred the idea of being loyal to one partner and this difference isolated me from my peers. When looking at forms with a question relevant to learning disability, as a young person I thought I should be putting something but do not actually recall doing so. I physically ticked, and still do, due to stress and just to feel good and people in secondary school were not positively receptive to this. I resented the majority of my mainstream educational experience.
Family members and friends voiced their opinions on me throughout my adolescence. It was a difficult time punctuated by a fear of leaving my house as I thought I would be attacked, my parents' divorce, depression and a brief encounter with suicidal thoughts. However, being autistic, for me, is now a wonderfully fulfilling state.
My creative outlets have enabled me to improve my confidence to such a degree that I can finally give back to communities and feel a part of them. When I began to embrace my autistic identity I was able to achieve things that I previously believed were impossible. It was not thought of as possible for me to have a relationship partner but, lo and behold, I now have one! We met on an online dating website and we are steadily progressing through life together.
Living with autism does present challenges to me. I can be extremely anxious quite frequently due to wondering what my partner is thinking and this is an ongoing difficulty. I am lucky that she is extremely supportive and willing to work through things with me. My father is also very supportive and always has been through my schooling, notably showing patience when I have not understood an instruction and his patience and understanding of me continues into daily life.
Poetry evolved out of my personal struggle. I am currently showcasing my journey through performing wherever I can. It is also because of my journey through transformative alternative education that I campaign and connect with communities via speaking engagements and consultations. I am launching a social enterprise later this month called Spergy. This will be an arts-based platform for people living with autism. I aim to measure the success of my venture by facilitating awareness, creating acceptance and witnessing improved life chances for autistic and neurotypical people.