The Hiram G. Andres Center near Johnstown, PA, USA

We Just Want to Fit In

 I have been doing a lot of reflection this week on autism and the things I do to get by on a day to day basis. While certainly no one is perfect, nor is there one fix all to todays societal problems with autistic individuals such as myself, I personally feel like one thing is in common with us…We just want to fit in.

Even today as 35 years old, myself being very articulate can at times have very low self-esteem simply because I just don’t feel like I fit in a certain place in the community. COVID has put a hampering on that greatly because of the inability to get out as has the winter blues such as the loss of daylight and warm weather. Sometimes we just want someone to connect with us and say hello and ask how our day is. I may talk your ear off in the process, but it makes me feel great that someone actually cares about me and how I am.

Now, I don’t want to discount the fact that I don’t have connections. In fact, my immediate family is super supportive. Its just that I have learned over years that I have to grasp the fact that I cannot rely on them as my primary source of entertainment. I was working on that in the last independent situation, then I had to move back in with my parents where I believe I regressed back a bit partly because of the changes with the move and COVID and because I was trapped in a 30-year old vacuum with a side of not medicating properly. I know I am seeing a little light in the COVID tunnel and hopefully with warmer weather it will come forth sooner. But I have to admit that It is indeed a struggle to manage.

Now I know that I have a pretty good life and I don’t forget that at all. But sometimes you just want to be accepted for who I am and be who I want to be. I have been reading a host of news articles shared by fellow self-advocates about education, seclusion and inclusion. I have went to school several decades ago and inclusion wasn’t incorporated until years after I graduated public school. It has its pros and cons, if implemented properly and staff such as paraprofessionals are educated well.

The Educational environment needs to be a place that gives the individuals with needs the ability to be included in as many things as they wish and have feel as if someone actually wants to interact and accept them for who they are. I understand that many individuals on the spectrum can be considered as scary to their peers but the simple thing is that they may not be aware of how their brain works. It didn’t take until the time I went to Senior High School until I introduced to some of the keenest instructors who what and how to implement things I liked to do. For what I thought would be the last three years of public-school hell was mostly one of the best because of great advocates such as my parents and the instructors who saw my talents than how I was, and believe me some of them saw me at my worst.

Now I have to admit it was a mix of segregated and inclusive elements and I wholeheartedly understand the need for inclusion in both youth and adult settings, however sometimes many autistic individuals I know experience sensory overload when experiencing situations of close and larger capacity as a result of this deficit. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to do it , its just that its not the right element for us for it to happen.

I like many realize that COVID has taken a toll of our social interaction and we are struggling greatly as a result of all the changes, etc. We as autistics have to become creative in how we get social with others because in a world where so much has been taken away from us, we don’t want to be without the interaction of others. I personally cannot wait for the day we can at least socialize with other communities without the restrictions or the fear of being sick.

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