• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”
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They Missed It; They Missed Me

An except from Twirling Naked in the Streets and No-One Noticed…

An Introduction: They Missed It; They Missed Me

     I am a survivor; an autism survivor.

I have been torn down, pulled to pieces, and have had my heart ripped from my chest slammed on the floor and stomped into the ground. But—I am still here to tell about it.

I grew up in a world before autism advocacy; born twenty years before Asperger’s Syndrome was acknowledged in the U.S. I now hear talk about autism being an epidemic. There are more autistic children being identified than ever before.  I’ve heard people say that they didn’t see many autistic children when they were growing up, but I am here to tell you that we indeed were in your mist.

My parents did not notice, my teachers were blind to it, and my doctor’s misdiagnosed it. When they noticed me on tip-toes, they made me a ballerina.  When I twirled round and round, I was only dancing. When I had imaginary friends, they said that was just what little girls did.

When the light bothered me, I was allergic to sunlight. When smells over whelmed me, I had a sensitive stomach. When I only ate a few select items, I was picky. When I could not stray from my rigid routine, I was hard-headed.

When I thought I was smarter than my teachers, I was obnoxious. When I couldn’t stand certain fabrics touching my body, I was being a princess. When I cried and screamed, I was spoiled.  When I rocked back and forth, I was concentrating. When I sat alone, I was in my own world.

When I couldn’t keep up, I was not living up to my potential. When I didn’t think the way others did, I was just too smart for my own good. When I didn’t connect with my peers, I just didn’t care about them. When I misinterpreted situations, I was inconsiderate. When I asserted myself, I was inappropriate.

When the children’s screaming hurt my head, I was a bad mother. When I could not keep them on a schedule, or keep the house in tip-top shape, I was lazy. When I could not stick to a budget, I was irresponsible. When I couldn’t understand, I was stupid.

When I stayed in my pajamas for days, I was depressed. When I was overwhelmed by the world, I was agoraphobic. When I was tired and frightened, I had an anxiety disorder. When I realized something was wrong with me, I was making excuses.

The one thing my entire life’s experiences screamed, the one thing that was consistent, was that everything was my fault.

No-one recognized my autism; no-one saw that I had Asperger’s Syndrome. How could they? Asperger’s Syndrome, Aspies—I – did not exist; not yet.

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.