By Becca Lory
It has been three years since I got my official Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis and quite a bit has changed in my life since, not the least of which is that I have adjusted my life to accommodate the specific challenges that my ASD presents for me. But getting here was no easy task. It took work, and a lot of it. I had to take on the challenge of understanding and accepting myself as an individual on the autism spectrum, and I had to decide what I was going to do with that information. For me, that meant learning new tool sets, deciding what, and who, I wanted to keep in my life, and how I would incorporate my diagnosis into my future. Thus far, all of this work has yielded some pretty big successes. I am now actively advocating for adults on the spectrum, speaking publicly on topics related to ASDs, a proud member of the AHA office staff, writing my own memoir, and bi-annually writing the very column you are reading right now. That is not to say I don’t continue to struggle on a regular basis with the challenges that my ASD throws my way. Trust me, my sensory processing issues are quick to remind me that there is still work to be done. The difference is that now I have a working tool set on hand and a vocabulary to use when the challenges of my ASD make themselves known.
While this is all well and good at the moment, does that mean that I never again have to re-evaluate how my ASD fits in my life? I think not. Moreover, I hope not. That would imply that I am done growing and evolving as a person. And, frankly, I find the very thought of that depressing. I would like to imagine that I haven’t even come close to reaching my personal potential at this point in my life, that there is still more to learn and more goals to reach.
On this note I started thinking back to the early stages post diagnosis, when the world seemed like a new place and the psychological digestion process had just begun. There was so much happening and so fast. I had to cope with the feelings my diagnosis evoked and deal with its implications on both my past and present. Though that time will never be again, I will surely have to go through that same process at various stages in my life. There will be times when I have to re-evaluate how my ASD fits into my life; maybe in 10 years, and then in 20, and so on. My ASD will most certainly be going nowhere but I will be aging and changing. And that means being prepared to have a constant working relationship with my ASD because as I change, so will how I incorporate my diagnosis into my life.
In fact, it’s really a personal responsibility to regularly check in with yourself about how you are feeling about your ASD. How is it affecting your life? What kind of self-talk are you practicing? The answers will be different at 12, 24, 44, and so on. Having an ASD will remain something you simply cannot change about yourself. Much like the year in which you were born and the color of your eyes, your ASD will always be one of the many things that make you, you. So it is imperative to spend some time thinking about how you are dealing with your ASD and the challenges it presents at all stages of your life. This is especially important during periods of change and transition, not just through the school years but also during transition periods in adulthood: change of job or career, relocating, returning to school, a marriage or divorce, the birth of a child or grandchild, the death of a parent or spouse.
The fact is, at various times in your life you may like your eyes, dislike your eyes, or not consider your eyes at all. No matter, you must accept that they are and always will be your uniquely special eyes. And so it is with your ASD. It is uniquely yours for life, so be sure to keep that a functional working relationship.
Becca Lory was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in her midthirties. As a result, she has become an active advocate for individuals on the spectrum. She has published multiple articles and speaks publicly helping to educate and inform on what it is like to be an individual on the spectrum, a female on the spectrum, and how to make the most of a diagnosis late-in-life. She is currently writing her first book with plans to return to school for a graduate degree. Additionally, Becca is a proud member of the AHA staff and Managing Editor of On The Spectrum.
AHA Association • On The Spectrum • Spring 2015 • ahany.org
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