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Autism Information Library

Autistic Adults and Adolescents

Autistic adolescents and adults are people you might encounter every day but not know it. There are many things you might think about us, but often they are not true.

Some of us may appear selfish or self-absorbed or egotistical because we do not respond adequately when someone says something, or because we talk on and on about one subject with little regard to the rest of the conversation.

We may look childish in some or all situations because we seem to overreact to things that other people would not react to at all. We may seem gullible and naive, and some people out there will take advantage of that. You may wonder why we never seen to learn that there are people in the world we can't trust.

Others may appear almost paranoid, trusting no one at all. Some might seem "psychotic" because of our eccentric behaviours or suspiciousness. Some of us might talk to ourselves out loud.

Some of us might seem changeable or "fake". This is because it is fairly common for autistic people to develop a coping mechanism of a "normal" looking persona with which to interact. Some of us have more than one such persona, and hence seem changeable. Sometimes this persona is fairly convincing, and other times it looks false and "put on".

Some of us might appear like loners, or eccentric loners. Some of us might appear as the opposite -- people who try hard to be social but don't know how.

Some of us might appear "eccentric", and others might appear, in the common language, "retarded". You might love us or hate us or like us or tolerate us or dislike us. You might keep your kids away from us because we might look like there is something "wrong" with us.

We might look heartless because we do not have the same emotions you do, or maybe just don't know how to show them. We might look too sensitive, or too insensitive, or both. We might seem too immature or too mature, or both.

We might do things we have done since we were kids. When we were kids, adults might have thought of some of these things as "cute", but we are now adolescents and adults who are too old for "cute". Now, such things might be irritating or annoying, at best.

We might have so much skill in one area that we seem to be deliberately trying not to understand another area. We might seem to be manipulative when at one moment we can do something "complicated" like fix your computer, recite things, or do complex mathematics, and the next moment cannot see that you are upset, or what to do about it.

We might seem to ignore you, or seem to ignore your feelings. We might not know when to stop talking, or when to start. We might not be able to talk, or might talk oddly or in short repeated phrases. We might talk what seems to be normally.

Some of us may have been diagnosed as children with autism. Some of us may have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. Some of us may not have been diagnosed with anything at all, or held other diagnoses. Some of us may have been called "psychotic". Some of us may have facial tics left over from decades of antipsychotic medications that did us no good. Some of us may have facial and other tics for no reason other than our neurological makeup.

We might now be undiagnosed, be diagnosed with autism, Asperger's Syndrome, atypical autism, or things that have nothing to do with developmental disorders. We may have additional diagnoses of depression, anxiety, psychosis, personality disorders, epilepsy, or many other things. We might think of ourselves as "cured", or might look forward to "cure", or might hate the idea of "cure". We might have "a few autistic traits".

We come from all different backgrounds, and have all different appearances. We are classified as high-functioning, low-functioning, anything in between, and any combination of functioning levels. We may obviously have something different about us, or might just appear odd in some ways. Some of us wouldn't appear different at all until you got to know us. We may have been lower-functioning, or higher-functioning, or the same level of functioning, as children. We present our autism in as many ways as there are autistic people, and have as many opinions about it.

We may have high-paying jobs, or low-paying jobs, or no jobs. We may live alone or with our parents or in a group home or with roommates or have families. We may be students or work in any of many fields. We may live in a house or apartment, or be homeless.

The thing we all have in common is that we are autistic. We may not always appear like the child that so many people have heard of, who rocks and bangs his head on the wall and does not make eye contact and is completely mute and will never speak and lives in an institution. We may not appear like the "Rainman" savant who does complex calculations in his head but is otherwise autistic. But we are autistic. We share some of the same difficulties and the same advantages in being autistic. We have differences, yes, but we do have that in common.

The next time you think of autistic children, remember that children grow up. The next time you think of someone who you get furious with because they just "don't get" something simple even though they can do some things that are complicated, remember us. The next time you see someone walking down the street flapping their hands in front of their face and making odd noises, remember us. They may not be autistic, but you never know. Autistic children grow up, into autistic adolescents and autistic adults. We do not appear always the same as autistic children, though we may have a lot in common with them that may or may not be visible.

Autistic adults exist, and live in this society, but not necessarily connect to it, every day. We are out there, trying to live. Remember our existence.

Copyright © 1999 Amanda


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