I realise this is a few days late, but such is life with a full time job.
Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve learnt a great deal about autism, and about why I am the way I am. This will be about the things I’ve learnt.
Sensory Processing Disorder
In Sensory Processing Disorder, senses are either heightened or lowered. I have heightened sensory perception. As a child, I enjoyed eating. In fact, I was mocked for being the “family dustbin” and having “hollow legs”. To me, food was always tasty. This recently became a problem. I am currently trying to lose weight, but I really like food. Despite this, I’m a few kilograms down.
I was in addition hyperactive, and burned up energy at a formidable rate. I also still enjoy having my hair played with.
The downside of heightened senses is that while pleasant sensations are more enjoyable, unpleasant sensations are considerably worse. Pain is more intense, the smell of burning rubber can turn my stomach, Malaria tablets taste utterly vile, and loud music is painful.
Misophonia literally translates as “hatred of sound”. It was proposed as a condition in which negative emotions, thoughts, and physical reactions are triggered by specific sounds. People who suffer from the condition are typically aware that they have it. I certainly know it.
Many years ago, my whole family were having egg rolls for Sunday breakfast. As we were standing around, my sister literally started slurping her egg roll. The sound so enraged me I bellowed at her “STOP SLURPING YOUR EGG ROLLS!” I then got yelled at for yelling. Deep down, I knew I was overreacting, but I was too angry to react normally.
I handle stress very badly. Worse than most people I know.
As an autistic, my social filters aren’t as well developed as a neurotypical person’s ones. As a result, I have to work hard to behave in an appropriate fashion. Stress causes my filters to fail. It is not atypical for me to start speaking very bluntly at the end of a hard day, to the amusement of my coworkers. I also behave strangely. Once, stressed out, I had nowhere to put an empty cup I’d finished drinking from, and decided to balance it on my head. Once people realised I had a cup on my head, the response was hilarity.
There is a myth that autistics lack empathy. This not only misunderstands autism, but empathy too.
There are two main types of empathy: cognitive and affective/emotional. The former involves working out what other people are thinking and feeling, the latter is about feeling what the other person is feeling. Autistics usually score below average for cognitive empathy. This has led some to postulate that autistics also have poor emotional empathy. This is completely untrue. From my own experience, I may find it hard to work out what another person is thinking, but once I work it out, I feel it intensely. From reading comments on the internet from parents of autistics, I know I’m not the only one.
There is so much I’ve learnt over the past eight and a half years. I believe there is still a lot for me to learn.