By Hannah Croston
The autism spectrum is wide and no two people with autism are alike. I always fear when someone asks me what autism is like, I’m going to create a certain “guideline” as to what it’s like to be autistic. Our challenges vary. So please don’t forget, I can only tell you about what autism is like for me.
Touch, Smell, Taste, Hear and See
I personally lack taste. There aren’t many things I can actually enjoy when it comes to food. For me, Foods’ textures determine whether I enjoy eating something or not. For instance, mangoes; I like the texture of mangoes so I have quite an obsession with the fruit as well as the fresh juice. I don’t like the texture of tomatoes, soup, and mushrooms, so I tend to avoid these foods.
My sense of smell isn’t great either. I enjoy lighting candles and watching the wax melt but for me to be able to smell their scents I have to light six to nine of them. Most people can smell strong scents like garlic, bleach or candles but these are things I can’t detect myself.
My sight is quiet sensitive. Bright lights physically hurt my eyes and head. I’m not just talking about the sun. While outside it may look quite dull, it’s still too bright for me so I still need my sunglasses. Light causes me physical pain.
Sounds are awful. I walk into a shop and I hear everything! I can hear the cashier counting coins, the plastic bags moving around, the wheels on the pram squeezing, every conversation, someone scratching their head, the humming of the lights, children screaming and the self-service machines telling people to please collect their items or that there is an unexpected item in the bagging area. Every sound comes in at the same volume.
Touch is a strange one for me. Sometimes if someone comes up to me and shakes my hand or pats me on the back, I feel a burning sensation especially if I’m not expecting it. I’m currently going through physiotherapy after a recent car accident and my therapy feels like someone put a boiling hot water bottle on my back without the fabric cover on. It hurts.
Beyond Sensory Struggles
I also often struggle with:
- Social communication
- Difficulties reading facial expressions
- Trouble making eye contact
- Difficulties viewing others perspectives or understanding sarcasm
- Fear of change
- Obsessive behaviours
- Continually speaking on and on about a particular subject
- Inability to cut out sounds
My Greatest Strengths
But with my challenges I also have some incredible strengths:
- I am great at art, crafts, writing and engineering
- Anything “hands on” comes easy to me
- I like to learn facts and figures
- My best trait is my honesty
- I’ll always be loyal to friends, family and an employer
- No one is more punctual than me
- I’m a qualified mechanic
Not many people understand autism. I don’t believe people ever will understand it unless they live with it themselves. I get told “you don’t look autistic” or “you can’t be autistic, you’re talking.” Autism is an invisible disability for me. You could walk past me on the street and have no idea I am autistic.
Everyone on the autism spectrum is unique.
We all have our different struggles. We all have our sensory differences. We all have our different coping mechanisms.
What we do have in common is the gift of autism.
Even though, in my opinion, being autistic is a real struggle for myself, I wouldn’t change it. It’s a gift to see the world differently. It’s made me who I am. Autism doesn’t define me, but it sure as hell plays a big part in my life. Though I listed my struggles, it’s my strengths I focus on and I wish the rest of the world would too.
Follow Hannah’s journey and discover more of her amazing art on her Instagram @autisticbrain
If you liked this post, you may also like:
- What is Autism?
- Autistic Self-Care including Sensory Processing
- Autistic or Person with Autism?
- Read more personal autism stories
*Artwork by Hannah Croston