Thursday, 28 February 2013

Autistic Females

Females with ASDs often develop ‘coping mechanisms’ that can cover up the intrinsic difficulties they experience. They may mimic their peers, watch from the sidelines, use their intellect to figure out the best ways to remain undetected, and they will study, practice, and learn appropriate approaches to social situations. Sounds easy enough, but in fact these strategies take a lot of work and can more often than not lead to exhaustion, withdrawal, anxiety, selective mutism, and depression.
Dr. Shana Nichols

Honestly, every time someone with a PhD tells me something about autism, I cringe a little bit.  It's a reflex.  It's not to say that there are no experts in the field of autism.  It's just that, as an autistic person, it's sometimes hard to believe that there is anyone in the world who can understand my brain better than I can.  I know from experience that every autistic brain is unique, and I'm certain that I would not be an expert in anyone else's brain but my own.  So sometimes, it takes me aback when people - despite high education - make generalized statements like this about autistics.  Because it's so important that we remember that all autistics are unique.   

However, I'll admit, this quotation describes me perfectly.  I have done - and continue to do - every one of the activities Dr. Nichols mentions.  I mimic, I watch, I camouflage.  I study, I practice, I learn.  It is a constant struggle, it requires constant analysis, and it means that my brain is always "on."  For years, I was exhausted from analyzing everything and trying to make sense of the world.  I was anxious any time I had to be around people, because it became a job to try to understand them.  When I am very frustrated, I communicate only in sign language or by writing.  I have experienced depression for years.