After much deep thought, I’ve decided to write an autobiography of sorts as seen through an Asperger’s lens. It gets very personal and sometimes-uncomfortably deep, revealing feelings, thoughts, and events that I’ve rarely shared with people. Thank you–with every fiber of my being–for reading it 🙂 ❤
I’m writing this for (at least) three reasons.
- To give one example of what an Aspie female child might look like throughout her life (well, at least up to her late 30s) 🙂 Hopefully this helps counselors, parents, other family, and friends of–but most importantly–Asperger’s/autistic females themselves, or those who suspect that they might be on the spectrum.
- To serve as an outline for a “timeline”-like evaluation by any Asperger’s/autism specialists in case I attempt formal diagnosis
- Most importantly, in hopes that someone out there might see similarities and not feel as alone as they might currently feel.
Many Aspergers/autistic people have excellent long-term memories, myself included. My mom has filled in the gaps over the years, being very forthcoming about tidbits here and there of things I did when I was young. Here’s what I know…
(This post might get very long, and/or I might have to break it up into several posts; we’ll see. 🙂 )
My mom was “up on things” in terms of health, so she took folic acid supplements for about 6 months before my parents started trying to conceive, and also took them throughout her pregnancies.
I was born 10 days late. I was the firstborn, and my labor was unexpectedly fast and easy (only 2 hours!) FunFact: the birthdate that I gave out to Twitter/Facebook/etc is my original due date, not my true birthdate.
I remember my second birthday. I didn’t speak much at all until then. But when I started talking, it wasn’t baby-talk; mom said it was clear, complex sentences, constructed correctly.
Around that time, mom worked with me. She’d been a teacher, with an interest in Special Ed, so she wanted to see me excel. I learned to count from 1-10 in French; I assume I also learned to count in English, since that’s our native language. Mom and I got very close. She even placated me when I screamed until the lines on my knee-high socks were straightened out. My hot temper and sometimes-short fuse was already established, in full glory.
I think it was around that time when I started coming up with my own name for every animal, usually based on the sound it made. If I didn’t know the sound, my name for it was based on what it did. Birds were “tweets” and bunnies were “hop-hops”. Sometimes I knew the name for the animal but pronounced it differently; squirrels were “suck-whirls” Lol.
That summer, I remember watching my mother having to work outside, while I stayed inside with my Gramma. **TRIGGER ALERT** My mom was close enough to touch, but I couldn’t touch her. I cried and cried, feeling a deep sense of pain and longing. I didn’t understand why she couldn’t be inside with me. That’s still one of my most painful memories today. Also, by then, I was already a night-owl. **End Trigger Alert**
When I was almost 3, my mother tells me that I woke up from a nap, screaming that the books in the Great Library of Alexandria, Egypt were burning (and they have, on at least three separate occasions that I’m aware of).
I remember my third birthday, in my grandparents’ motorhome. I remember sitting on Gramma’s lap, playing with the stringy muscles on the front of her neck (Lol). My parents enrolled me in Montessori school, and I had already learned to read somewhere along the line. In school, I didn’t play with the other kids; I was happiest playing alone. I hated being pulled away from my activities. The teacher would come over, see how I was doing, make sure I was OK, and ask if I wanted to play with a group of kids. I always said no.
Around that time, I went through a phase of playing (innocent) mind games (Lol), where I knew the word for something but called it something else instead. Airplanes were “guys”. I also remember painting a perfect parrot, something I’ve never been able to duplicate. **TRIGGER ALERT** I remember my parents hitting each other, and I got between them to break them apart. They teeter on the brink of divorce. **End Trigger Alert**.
When I was four, I remember my mom holding me one day, and I asked her how old she was. She replied, “29”. Right away, I said, “oh. That means you had me when you were 25.”
When I was about 4 1/2, I went through assessment testing to enter school. I scored the equivalent of an average child aged 6-7, depending on the category. By then, I had all of the basics: shapes, sizes, colors, numbers, alphabet, addition, subtraction, and had an expansive spoken/reading/written vocabulary. I had also memorized–and could spell/write–all of my “pertinent information”: full name, parents’ full names, our address (including zip/postal code), phone number, birthdate, etc.
At age five I began my first year of kindergarten. Near the beginning of the year, I was given two hearing tests. I failed both. (New research links midrange (1-2 kHz) hearing loss to autism; so reliable is the connection that the hearing test may be used as one of the screening tools for autism.)
Also at that time, my sister was born. At the time, this was a big blow to me, because up until then, I’d been the only child and center of my parents’ attention. Once she was born, I felt I had to compete for that attention, and was very jealous of this new baby, because although I’m not Borderline Personality or Narcissistic at all (I’ve taken the tests, just to be sure), it was a huge disruption to my home life, and I felt everything revolved around her.
Suddenly she became the source of more criticism/discipline of me (“leave her toys alone”, “let her have that”, and the worst: “share with her”), as well as more responsibility (“make sure she doesn’t…”). When she was a baby, there was, of course, constant diaper-changing, and burping/spit-up, an assault to my senses. As she grew, she became a source of stress for me, because we’d fight a lot, or she’d get into my stuff. The explanation “she looks up to you” never assuaged my resentment; first, I couldn’t believe that anyone ever “looked up” to me, nor was this idolization worth having all my stuff gone through, messed up, broken, rearranged, or half of it taken.
Suddenly, I was forced to sit with other kids and play with other kids. This got dicey. They were disgusting. *Trigger Alert* Mucus coming out of their noses that they didn’t think to wipe with a Kleenex/tissue, and sometimes there were intestinal mishaps on the classroom floor after lunch (never from me, but from others, and these came with no warning!). I simply could not stand their smell (in general, and their digestive contents were pure torture to my senses). *End Trigger Alert*.
Class was pure hell. The teacher was a short-fused bitch. The work consisted of repetitive worksheets, over and over and over again, the same shit I had already learned a few years ago. When my mom taught me and I was 2-3, it was fun and interesting. At 5 years of age, I couldn’t understand why I had to do it AGAIN. Examples include tracing letters or shapes along dotted lines, etc. I yawned, stared, and daydreamed a lot. I had a rich fantasy world, with fantasy friends, and names for fantasy places. I always found myself in trouble, and it always surprised me. I never knew what I did wrong. No matter what I did or how hard I tried, it was never good enough, and I was always getting scolded.
Kids made fun of me, too. I knew it was ethically wrong, and I looked to the teacher for help and support. But the response shocked me; the teacher didn’t seem to care. It got to the point where, on the bus in the morning, I would get butterflies in my stomach and feel an urge to pee. I knew I was extremely nervous. That’s probably why I was a night-owl, and already had been for several years. Recess was the best. I got to go off and play by myself. I collected rocks; my favorite ones were the quartz and granite (we didn’t have anything any more interesting than that in our region).
One day, I got kicked out of kindergarten. I couldn’t understand why. I remember that my dad came to school one day, told me to get all my things together, and that we were going home and I wasn’t going to have to go back to school anymore. Yay!! Relief at last. I felt like I was being released from prison.
But that relief was short-lived. I found out that I had to go to a different school. This was….PRE-SCHOOL. WTF??
When I was six, I started my second (and final) year of kindergarten. A fresh start! With a different set of kids, who didn’t know my previous problems, and a different teacher. This teacher was much nicer. But I still got in trouble for not doing my daily work. Kids started making fun of me then, too. I did fight back once. A boy kept taunting me and wouldn’t stop or leave me alone, so I grabbed a pin that was fastening a piece of construction paper to the wall and I ran after the kid with it, jabbing it into his back. Got in trouble for that, too. Apparently, I could do no right.
Finally, I got to advance to Grade 1. I was seven by then. I had to take another “assessment” test to see which “group level” I was going to be placed in for different subjects. I found myself in the “high reading group” (that couldn’t be ignored), but the “low math group”. I was surprised. I remember that I been confused by the instructions for the math portion, but too shy (or afraid that I’ll get in trouble again) to speak up and ask. So even though I knew my math, I may not have completed the test correctly. They thought I was just inept at math. So, I’m sent the message that I’m slow in math, and of course, that kind of message makes its home in kids that young, so I adapt my ability accordingly, and become “bad at math”.
Grade 1 also saw some short-lived behavioral issues, mainly involving spitting into the air and catching it in my mouth (I know–ew!) During this year, my parents come close to divorce for the second time. They entered marriage counseling instead, and Dad entered an outpatient program for addiction. My sister (then 2 years old) and I started pediatric counseling, which was stormy and unstable at first, but fortunately, the counselor was an extremely intelligent, capable, and kindhearted lady.
My Grade 1 teacher was kind of a bitch, too. She mistook her teaching degree for a doctor license and decided that I must have epilepsy because I keep staring into space for abnormally long periods of time. She demanded that my mother bring me in for an EEG (electro-encephalogram, an evaluation that screens for disruptions in brain-wave output). I pass, with no abnormal activity. My mom scoffed at this teacher, completely unimpressed, but she’d brought me in so that she could confirm her position that I was not epileptic.
Grade 2 was more of the same. The only class I could stomach was Super-Silent Reading, where we got to pick a comfortable spot in the classroom and read a book of our choice for an hour. Yay!! I picked up the Reading books for the different grades and advanced through them quickly, reaching Grade 9–and still finding it easy–before the end of the school year. I also discovered Legos, collected them voraciously at home, and started building. Sometime during this year, I went through a short-lived stint of stealing. That was discovered and quashed quickly.
By this time, I had already become intensely afraid of parent-teacher conferences. My tests and abilities were not the problem; my “daily work”/”homework” was. (Side-thought: on what planet is it permissible that an otherwise-bright kid who aces tests and loves to learn has to be scared of parent-teacher conferences?? Please pardon my french, but how fucked up is that??)
I caught Chicken Pox near the beginning of Grade 3 (age 9). Home for a whole week!! Awesome!! But I was incredibly bored (daytime TV sucked), so I taught myself how to play the piano. By the end of the week, I’d learned Greensleeves and Scarborough Faire. That was a blast. Started composing my first songs right away. Legos and the keyboard quickly become my favorite pastimes and my best friends. (I did have three “people” friends by this time, both female (!!).)
Also in Grade 3, I developed a problem with lying. Again, this issue was short-lived. I also noticed the first signs of puberty during that year, and knew that I was going through this change much earlier than the other girls. I was not ready for that. This shook the foundation of my identity at its core. I began grieving for the loss of my childhood already.
My last year in that horrible rural school was Grade 4, when I was 10. By then, my entire bookcase contents had been read several times over, and so had the entire fiction section of the library at school. (I would check out 5-8 books, read them all, remember it all, and bring them back the next week, exchanging them for more.) So, I turned to my mother’s extensive book collection, which consisted of a lot of psychological self-help and metaphysical subject matter. I read them cover-to-cover…and I understood them.
After that, much to my joy, we finally move to the city. Stay tuned for Part 2 🙂
(Note: Please check back on this post often; I’m sure I’ll have typo edits to make, and I’ll also probably think of things to add that I’d forgotten in this original draft.) 🙂