Another Autism Spectrum Awareness Day is coming up on April 2 to remind me that we have been keeping a secret from you. Autism spectrum in adults can not be seen or even observed by someone who doesn’t know it. It still exists for people on the spectrum, affecting every area of their lives.
What is autism spectrum disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that is caused by differences in the brain. It can lead to deficits in social skills, emotional literacy, executive function, and mind blindness – which is difficulty in understanding one’s own and others’ mental states. People with ASD may also experience anxiety and depression.
Autism is a complex condition, and every person with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is unique. The spectrum ranges from high-functioning individuals to those with severe impairments. As Stephen Shore said, “If you’ve met one individual with autism, you’ve met one individual with autism.” Adults on the autism spectrum have been living in a world that is vastly different from theirs for many years, and they deserve recognition for their strength and courage. They have learned to mask their condition to fit in with others, but their inner struggles often remain hidden.
Jakob and I have known each other since grade 7. We were part of the same teen group, and our relationship grew from friendship to love and marriage.
Before we lived our daily life together, I did not see or suspect anything different in him from me. We were both more quiet, loner people (or so I thought).
Soon after our marriage, though, I noticed something about Jakob that I had not seen before. In fact, I had not met anyone before who saw life the way he did. He was also not shy, as I had known him for years; there was something about him that I could not even comprehend.
When our children joined our family, they were just like their dad; with that, I did not think much about it. When our daughter started to speak and show her personality, it helped me to understand my husband better. She did not mask yet, and would plainly say what she thought.
I did not even consider a disability. I was daily surrounded by very intelligent, straightforward, strong-willed people. We learned to live with each other, and things seemed okay if there weren’t a whole other world outside our home that thought and felt like me. Right alongside my family, I learned to mask, sandwiched between them and the outside world. My family has challenged me beyond what I thought possible in so many ways.
One day, I was randomly watching YouTube videos, and a channel I followed for recipes had a video about her boyfriend’s high-functioning autism. Had the video been on another channel, I would not have watched it. Autism was not on my radar. What I heard from this couple blew my mind. For the first time, I heard someone else talking about what was common in our family.
I did more research, and I found exactly what we had experienced. Could it be that my beloved family members were on the autism spectrum?
We did some Online tests, and our grown children got a diagnosis. We finally had a name for our situation, and we were not alone. Estimates indicate that at least 5 million adults in the United States are on the autism spectrum. The hidden number worldwide is much greater. No one really knows how many families live as we have lived for so many years.
When we first found out about the autism spectrum in adults, I thought I would go public right away. Knowing what autism is has changed our lives so drastically, that not sharing seemed rude. Looking back at our family’s experience, the hardest parts were not knowing what was going on and trying to fit into society.
Eventually, step by step, we created a simpler life at a much slower pace for ourselves. Now you know the real reason why we like a simple life so much.
Keeping it secret
Alongside learning more about autism, I also learned that there is little to no tolerance for being different than everybody else. If someone is not fitting the norm, we call it a disorder that has to be fixed.
After over 30 years of marriage to a person on a spectrum and raising two children on the spectrum, I would not agree that high-functioning autism can or needs to be fixed.
People with autism are different, and there is no question about that. They are lovingly sometimes called coming from another planet. This thought is not that much off. But we do not know either what causes autism or why it is more and more common.
People on the autism spectrum have brought us many of the conveniences that we enjoy. Here are 20 famous people on the spectrum.
I also know that Northern Homestead, as a homestead and blog, would not be what it is if we were not on the spectrum. The geodesic dome greenhouse we built before there was much information on it, and the alternative heating and cooling, alongside many other things, were all brought into being by a very focused man on the spectrum. So, finally, we are taking the courage to share our secret with the world, and we are sure there are people out there who will be very grateful we do.
It’s time for change
I want to raise awareness by sharing this article about people who are different, such as those with autism, ADHD, or other neurodivergences. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of us; we just need to learn to accept each other as we are.
Integration is much more valuable than separation. Equality does not mean sameness. We are all different, and each one contributes to the whole. It is arrogant to believe that only neurotypicals are normal and everyone else has to comply with our norms.
The number of children that are born with autism is rising. We can disqualify them all as disabled in a world that IS very challenging for autistic people. Or we can start listening more and change to make it a better place for everyone.
I will leave it at this and would love to hear your questions.
Would you like us to share more practical content related to neurodiversity?
How many of our readers are impacted by neurodiversity?
Or maybe you are hearing about high-functioning autism in adults for the first time?
Let us know your thoughts, and remember – let’s be kind to each other.