Being Autistic and growing up with so many struggles, but eventually the good comes out and you experience the good qualities of what being autistic is known for. Swinging between these two factors can play tricks on your mind, specifically your self-esteem and knowing that life is worth living. Many times it can be so hard to see the good in yourself even though those that support you can see it clearly because they have been through the trenches with you.
Growing up, getting through each day was many times a struggle. There was many times I struggled with knowing who I really was and whether I was being who I truly wanted to be, Life and societal norms program what is kind of expected of us and what we growing up were expected to do, So I did just that and seemed to manage, I spent a lot of time as a teenager masking who I really was and how I wanted to be because it wasn’t what was normal. In the beginning of the iconic movie Forrest Gump, Forrest’s mother, played by Sally Field asks the school superintendent just “What does normal mean anyway?” when her son doesn’t meet the normal IQ score for public school. While what she did to get her son into school was unethical by all means, it shows that she made her son know not to let anyone tell him that he was no different than anyone else.
When we fall into what is expected for us, it can be hard because we are given expectations to live by that can at times seem scary and very unreal for us. I remember the day of my high school graduation, my mother took me around town to look for jobs, many of them I knew that I would;t have a chance of getting and would never be able to perform to the expected standard that was required. Even beating the odds of going to trade school and while during the evaluation process, I didn’t qualify for the program that I wanted, I got into a program that I excelled at. I was a minority because I was a guy in the program, but I did well and graduated with honors. After that, the state office of vocational rehabilitation tried to set me up with various interviews, I think I succeeded at them, but I feel that for one reason or another, I didn’t meet the expectations that were expected for the jobs.
While I are nearing 12 years at my present place of employment, I think that it is the place that meets the expectations that I need in order to be successful. My coworkers accept and understand my needs and when I am well and not well. They know what I need to be successful and get through the workday. They understand the holidays are rough and I may need extra support to get through them and to take a break every so often. I think this has been all made possible because of my ability to use the skills I used in all my post-secondary training and education and while the level and capacity of work isn’t what a “normal” workload is, it is what is needed for me to be successful and a productive member of society.
The same can be said for what society thinks we as adults are expected to do in our personal lives as well. We as autistics are expected to do things that are outside of our comfort zone and make us feel uncomfortable, like go to parties, have families, be in relationships, own a house, have children and a career for ourselves. While many autistics have one or all of these factors in their lives, we must simply accept that we cannot expect all adults, not just autistics alone but those with other challenges to have these benchmarks in their lives to be valued for who they are. In fact, many autistics can be satisfied doing what they have done all their lives because it is what they only know and have the ability to understand. We as a society must have the ability to not set our expectations when autistics and other individuals with mental health come of age into adulthood and expect them to do things that we know that without the proper skills and training will set them up for failure and possible regression, While we often recognize the individual for their challenges, we must see their abilities and craft their abilities with their talents so they can be a member of society that is acceptable for them and those that care for them.