Age 2: I scream when you’re trying to dress me because lace feels like steel wool, tights feel like fire, and shoes feel like sand paper.
Age 3: I refuse food because my brain sees everyday food as disgusting and inedible. It’s like eating a muddy shoe.
Age 4: It’s confusing for a little kid when trusted adults encourage and even force me to do things that feel threatening, like watching fireworks or having my hair washed.
Age 5: I sit with the teachers at recess because I don’t understand what the kids saying to me or the rules of playground games.
Age 6: I’m embarrassed when anyone makes fun of me when I talk too loudly. I can’t hear my own volume! Just quietly correct me, and I won’t cry…maybe I could even start to learn to recognize it.
Age 7: I don’t want to sit out of gym class because it lowers my grade, but the volume and echo during games overwhelms me and my body can’t work like I want it to.
Age 8: I just figured out this new thing–did you know you can say things that are not based in the real world? Just be sure to remember that lies don’t work if someone else was there and saw what actually happened. Oh, and this is important: Laws still have to obey the laws of physics. Bikes don’t fly no matter what words you try.
Age 9: I only know two things about myself: I am smart and I am smart enough to know better. But please tell me…What is it I’m supposed to know?
Age 10: Assume I hear everything. I take in so much more than you may think. Years from now, you’ll be shocked to find out just how much of everyday life I remember and how much I was taking in about what went on around me.
Age 12: I don’t always know why I’m scared of things, like the number three, my grandma’s friend whose hair you said is tinted pink, tunnels, my bathroom at home…
Age 13: I don’t clean my room very well because I can’t follow directions to “clean up.” If you would tell me to pick up my dirty clothes, fold my clean cloths, throw away papers, make my bed, and vacuum, I could do it. I want to do it right–I just need different instructions.
Age 14: I don’t like being “difficult.” It really hurts my feelings when others joke about it.
Age 15: I refuse to sleep in my room or in the dark because I saw a movie when I was 11 and have been terrified for years. I tried to say no, I don’t want to watch it, but everyone else did, and I didn’t know what to do.
Age 16: I have friends from school but not at school. I chat online with lots of people and know them very well, but I cannot speak a single word when I pass them in the hall or even if I have a class with them.
Age 17: When I won’t go to school and say I don’t feel good, I really do mean it. But it isn’t a cold…it’s because my body will freeze and lock me inside all day in the loud, bright, crowded halls.
Age 19: I love the courses at college, and I soak up the learning–but everything else is happening way too fast, and I’m not ready for the big jump into adulthood yet, not at all.
Age 20: I don’t get mad very often, but nothing makes me angrier than when I had a rational reason for a decision that I intended to do good, but it turns out wrong and everyone thinks I’m selfish and thoughtless.
Age 23: I am so proud when someone says I remind them of my mom or dad.
Age 27: I’ve seen other autism families to have to learn to drop their need for a certain image…but I’m lucky to have an extended family that never hides behind pretentious walls. It’s something I’m happy I don’t understand.
Today: I have an amazing life with amazing people who know how important it us to listen to my voice even when it isn’t easy to hear.