I’m different, and you know this how?
Well, I believe we are all a little different. Everyone has some problems, quirks, or even kinks. If you didn’t you wouldn’t be you but only a copy of everyone else.
Since this is Autism Awareness Month, I thought I might share my story.
I realized I was different early in my childhood. Where most kids could read simple things by five, I had trouble. I had difficulty with sounding words, and putting htem (not a typo) together.
Yes, “htem” is how I normally saw the word “them.” It takes a great deal of concentration to type some days. I don’t hate my unique dyslexia or my backward speech patterns when I get mentally tired. I do hate people making fun of me or looking at me strangely when I make those mistakes. I don’t do it as often anymore, but when I get tired or upset, my mind freaks and then reading back words, numbers or even street signs becomes a crap shoot.
I was taught reading from having them read to me. If I couldn’t hear the word, I couldn’t read. No matter how many times I tried sounding words out few things worked. Phonetically, by syllable, or even having someone sound it out with me, my brain didn’t register the word in its usual form. After I had seen and had the word read to me a number of times, I could understand my visually seeing htem as them. Single letters and numbers weren’t a problem.
By the time 2nd grade came. I could do these things for most simple words but it took two long years of study. I could write the letters in the right order after I had seen them enough, but if I came to a new word, forget it. It baffled the teachers and back in the early seventies, the only things the doctors knew was mental retardation as a prognosis.
I would play for hours alone, away from others or play with only one other child. Socializing for me was extremely hard. I preferred to be alone. My mind ran at a hundred miles a minute with the sensory info I was getting. Complicate that by adding someone else and things get weird fast. They classified me as an introvert and tried to break me out of my shell, so to speak, at school but that never worked.
I rarely talked as I do today with others. When I did my speech was a jumble of words. at times. I would get physically or mentally tired and my speech would come out like this: ” I want drink to get.” I couldn’t make sense all the time. Trouble is, I still do this when exhausted or overstimulated.
Things slowly got better for me until around 6th grade. Due to an abusive teacher and other kids being bullies, I withdrew big time. My speech went crazy at times, reading was next to impossible and spelling took total concentration. Long story short, they put me in a special ed class for the year. My problems settled but never went away.
When 7th grade finally happened the same problems surfaced again. The school system wanted me in a special ed class again. My parents knew I was intelligent. Socializing was my biggest problem, they thought. After that was home schooled. I did the work and my parents graded it.
I excelled in my homeschool lessons and my parents like the idea I wasn’t getting sick constantly or having my speech and writing problems.
It wasn’t that the work was easy. It was actually harder than in regular school. The main reason I could do better was fewer distractions and people around me. I was safe and comfortable in my own place and my mind could work.
When 8th grade came up, the homeschool I had been going to didn’t have a high school for materials. I actually went to correspondence school for my high school years and one that was super hard. We didn’t know it until later that the books and lessons were actually college courses from the college and not high school courses.
I did the work and got good grades. I also learned a lot on my own from researching ideas and studying nature. I read every medical book I could get my hands onto on my father’s highest shelves. I also read a lot of books. All kinds of books. Everything from fantasy and sci-fi to the romance novels of my mother’s favorites.
All that time I was also learning to type and how to spell the words easier than ever. My fingers hit the keys in the right order from memory even if my brain told me otherwise when looking at them. I got my first computer and word processor. Then I started writing.
Things that take all my concentration are cathartic for me. Typing, writing, driving, doing physical things, and problem-solving are things that ground me.
Doctors today wouldn’t have told my parents I was probably “mentally retarded.” They would have diagnosed me as autistic with dyslexia. Psychologists would have diagnosed me as an introvert type personality with social disabilities in interacting with others. Psychiatrists would have told them I had a vivid imagination and liked to dwell in my own world rather than the real one or jump into a different projected personality when problems arise because my own personality was fragmented from family situations.
It would be more than twenty years later before they realized I was autistic and those other things. By that time, I was through college. I had learned how to cope with things on my own, but that doesn’t mean I always can.
Sirens, flashing lights, loud music, scents, and groups of people can overload me. They make me crawl back into my shell for days or create processes that make me wish to flee them. Loud shouting or fighting brings out the hermit crab in me.
Combine this with a constant and varying migraine with a ringing in my ears and you have a bad list for a day out if they happen. That’s a subject for another post.
Then there is something I don’t talk about that bothers me even more. I finally found a way around that. I wear gloves but tend to get frantic without them now. That is for another post too, I think.
Some days are harder for me than others. Most days I would rather shut out the world than expose myself to the myriad of sounds, smells, and experiences that assault my senses. I am most at home and at ease when in front of a computer with only my pet around me. I guess I’m still that little hermit crab.
I write my stories and explore new worlds, places, characters, and experiences all while trapped in my own little world.