A journey for sure…

I proudly wear a Âû as a part of my name, to get to that point has been a journey for sure. Less than two decades ago all I really knew of autism was a vague idea about locked away children and Rain Man. I was truly ignorant about the reality of autism, even though I am in fact autistic.

That journey led me to the discovery of Aspergers Syndrome and how it is autism, the discovery that one of my children is autistic.

I discovered Tony Attwood, I did some reading and a few years later discovered that my youngest child was also autistic.

Of course, my own mind was wondering, my own thinking was all over the place. It was assisted in a way by subtle or not so subtle hints from my partner, that funnily enough I mostly missed.

But there was this concept going on inside of me, that there was a lot of the ways my kids were identified as autistic that applied to me.

Different Not Less

Throughout this time I learned that autism was just the way one was, that it really was a neurological thing, not an affliction but a different way of being wired. I can’t express my greatly enough how thankful I am for this understanding to my wonderful life partner Andrea. At this point in my journey, I could easily have wandered down a curebie road. But thanks to Andrea, that was never an option.

I recall one day, vividly, standing in a room at home, and saying to Andrea, I think maybe, I could be, perhaps, what do you think, that maybe, I might be, a bit autistic. I had spoken the words I had been thinking. The words that had been so hard to get out of my mouth, that every time I had tried they refused to be formed, I could see them on the screen of my mind but not get them out. But now, out they were.

The response was loving and caring, essentially summed up the message was like well duh. Of course, what do you think I have been hinting at all these years…

Fast forward through a process of jumping online and finding online tests, as many as I could find, completed a number of times each. All saying likely autistic, aspie etc.

Procrastination for some time…

Finally finding someone, I hadn’t really felt comfortable with the self-diagnosis identifying thing, though I totally support any who are.

Autistic you are…

Assessment and diagnosis happened. I am autistic. I have the “official” diagnosis.

For me what followed was a genuine sense of loss. It was unexpected and difficult to negotiate for me. I think this was because as far as acceptance went I had already done that in regard to my children, but, somehow it was now personal and I did have to work that through myself.

I could firmly assert that autism was neurological divergence, different not less. But somehow I was having difficulty appropriating that for myself.

I went through some months of heightened depression and lack of self-worth and feeling I was wrong. I went through some times of feeling guilty for bringing this on my family and others. It was a somewhat dark and difficult time, and so, I get it when parents talk about a grieving period.

As time went on, I guess the reality of all the things that made sense started to click into place, the clarity of how I was right all along, that I really was different. That I wasn’t crazy all this time, that I really was different, and there wasn’t something wrong with me, but there was, in fact, a reason why all the social norms were so hard to get and how I would become so overwhelmed in situations for some unknown reason, turned out to be sensory impacts.

I moved to acceptance. I joined some groups on facebook, I connected with others like me. I started to see people with this Âû after their name. Then more people, and I started to wonder what on earth it was.

What’s this Âû business

I discovered it was an autistic identifier. I was directed to Autistic Union’s page. I found this:

What does the Âû after my name mean?
1. I am Autistic. [or] I support those who are Autistic.
2. I embrace my Autism as a very significant part of my identity.
3. I embrace those who would sacrifice to protect all Autistic life.
4. I embrace the belief that Autism does not need any “curing”.
5. I embrace the self-advocacy goal of “Everything about us, with us”.
6. I embrace the definition of Autism as a neuro-social difference.
7. I embrace measures directed at protecting Autistics from attack.
8. I embrace a person-centered approach to all Autism issues.
9. I embrace rigorous scientific approaches to co-occurring conditions.
10. I embrace Autistics leading their own welfare organisations.

I could embrace all of these things. I could hold onto every one of them. I suppose I was looking for community, for identity, and of course connection. I added the Âû to my name and I have not regretted it.

The idea of being a part of a union of others is a powerful thing. The idea of a union of autistics standing for acceptance, inclusion, celebration and empowerment is inspiring. I am proud to be able to be a part of it.

The above 10 points are clear. They are for autistic acceptance and the embracing of the neurodiversity paradigm. For the full participation in life of autistic people.

Over the next posts, I am going to write about what they mean to me, and how they are important and how they have an outworking in my day to day life. How it is that I continue to embrace them and continue to wear the Âû with pride.