Autism and the generation it missed
I’m an 80’s child, most of my friends are. Some are 90’s children, but a high portion of them are from the 80’s. I dare say some are from the 70’s, or even the 60’s. Age is just a number to me. So I have friends of all ages, all generations, quite an eclectic mix if I do say so myself.
One thing that is becoming very apparent is that the younger a person is, the more likelier they are to be diagnosed with some form of autism. You see, in my day in age we didn’t have high-functioning autism, it was either run of the mill normal, or banging your head off the walls type crazy, and it wasn’t called that, they were called ‘retards’ or ‘mongos’ or ‘spastics’. Yet even then those derogatory terms weren’t specifically nailed down to one condition. Awareness was low, and you’d often find a lot of people cross categorising derogatory terms, or even using blanket statements.
Imagine how that felt as a kid, in my day? When anything you did that was a bit ‘out there’, that strayed for societal norms, was hounded by some local kid calling you a spastic, or a retard, or whatever the colloquial term for a disabled person was at that time. As 80’s kids, and I fear a lot of 90’s kids, I think we have developed super unnatural coping skills when it comes to hiding our innate weirdness. You had to, else you’d get bullied or laughed at or both. I remember back then, there being a really hard push to conform to the rules or normality. There was no in-between, there was an expected behaviour of us that I don’t think kids experience today. Kids are free today to express themselves and be weird and different, it’s really great.
And yet we still see these Facebook memes about how kids today are spoiled and all they need is a good kick in the teeth to keep them in line. I remember once my Mum admitted to me that her friend told her that I needed a good kicking to keep me in line! Really? And yet to this day she still talks to him. I swear, if anyone said that about Alex I’d head butt the bastard and kick him while he was down. But it’s not their fault either. More than likely they were brought up under stricter conformity rules than I was. When I started school, it was only a year after beating kids was outlawed. God knows what my predecessors went through.
And through this lovely flow of 2010’s and having more and more freedom to express one’s self without judgement I’ve come to a startling conclusion. I’m high functioning Aspergers. I’ve only managed to come to realise this through educating myself in the signs. I’ve also watched Alex, my Son in depth, and spot a lot of traits in him that I had as a child (he’s high functioning too), yet the beautiful thing we have with Alex is that we allow him to be himself. He often loses himself in a wacky dreamworld and when he zones back in to life he’s forgotten what he was doing. You know what? It’s wonderful, and fine.
We’re lucky as parents today. We have the internet at our disposal, we have free and raw information that we can digest and use to our advantage. We also have more aware doctors and charities and a plethora of other services. But that’s today. What happened when I was a kid, and before me?
Well, we just survived. If you weren’t running down the town naked singing “I’m a teapot” then you were just deemed as strange, weird, or sometimes retarded. I was a bit of a social outcast in my local area, communication was hard for me, I hadn’t properly grasped the art of communication by then, and kids used to really go to town on me. Most social queues I’d totally miss, and I would always be jealous of the boys that looked like they could work their way into anything and out of anything. They had it sorted.
And yet I feel there’s many others like me, many many others. I have two friends I could tell them right off the bat that I suspect they had Aspergers like me, but they won’t listen. You see, when you go through what I did as a child, and most (if not all) of us developed super duper coping skills. My big one was stimming, I would shout out something really strange like, “I WANT TO BUY SOME CHEESE” in a funny accent. To me, it was hilarious when I said it randomly, and it eased my internal anxiety. It wasn’t long before other people called me out for it, and I had to stop. So I hid it. I didn’t stop, I just started saying stuff, in private, on my own. That’s just one of many examples.
And like me, many, many others have repressed their naturality in favour of perceived normality. I find this sad because I’m more and more finding out that it’s fucking awesome to be myself at every time of the day. Screw what anyone else thinks of me, they either like me, or they don’t. Simple as.
So if you’re reading this and you’re thinking,
“hmmm, I do a lot of strange shit that no-one knows about, and I don’t like showing it for fear of being outed as strange,”
Here is a few reading resources for you:
Don’t feel bad about having a look. I once had a friend explain an invisible force that inhibits the act of flawless communication, and that he thought everyone experienced the same. So don’t be afraid, I’m sure you’re not the only one with these thoughts. I once thought it was natural to climb over a metaphorical mountain just to do a task I thought was a good idea. Apparently it’s not! Hah.
Autism and the generation it missed