It’s getting cold again. It’s definitely hat weather up here – even Rafferty, my adorable giraffe, is getting in on the action.
But I’ve had something of a rough day today and I wanted to talk about something.
Being borderline is painful.
I should explain I’m dyspraxic. I may have mentioned this before. A few facts here. Dyspraxia, also known as Developmental Co-ordination Disorder, is at it’s heart a motor development disorder, which often goes hand in hand with mental difficulties as well, like organisation difficulties, speech and perception, and planning; I call it a lack of processing power. There are days a person will say a simple sentence to me, in perfect English. I will hear that sentence, and will have to spend a good couple of minutes to work out what the hell that person meant. I am no less intelligent than anyone else on a Masters Course, but I look at things differently and sometimes more slowly than the rest.
I am also borderline autistic. Borderline meaning I have all the major traits; delayed speech, delayed social development, stereotypic hand movements and a real aversion to eye contact and intense stimuli like bright lights and sudden loud noises – just not enough of them to warrant the full diagnosis. The way they teach it, and the way that a lot of publications write (academic and otherwise) focus a lot on early development and autism in young children, because this is when it’s most salient. It’s pervasive, though, and continues into adulthood. But I don’t get why every autistic person portrayed in the media, especially documentaries and the like, is either a genius, or in need of permanent home care. It is a spectrum, and a long one at that.
The nice part of it is that I’m seeing more and more news crop about about shops and airports and cinemas becoming more autism-friendly. Autism friendly cinema viewings, for examples, have lowered lights and loud noises to stop sensory overload. The music and announcements are turned off in certain Asda and Toys R Us stores to allow children and adults with autism to shop in comfort. And I’m happy for them, if that’s the right phrase. Delirious, in fact. I’m only borderline, and every time the fire alarm goes off, I have a little panic attack (especially in the case of our halls fire alarm, which includes not only a siren, but flashing lights and an announcement declaring there is a fire in the building. Well no shit). It’s like a stimulus sensitive person’s nightmare. I can’t imagine what it must be like for those further along the spectrum.
It’s irritating as all-get-out, because as much as the dyspraxia diagnosis felt like it fit me (and it does, it fits me like a glove), every time someone talks about autism as a condition or their personal experiences of high-functioning autism, I feel like that fits me too, especially when I was younger. I’m autistic but I’m not. I’m dyspraxic, but sometimes I don’t know where the line is.
About this time last year, there was a fantastic blog post (which you can read here) which cropped up on my Facebook about having mild autism/Asperger’s Syndrome. This is essentially how I feel a lot of the time, diagnosis or otherwise. And there’s a lot of hate out there about it being ‘just an excuse for shitty parenting’ and a fake diagnosis. It isn’t. I made the massive mistake of clicking that option on a Google search earlier, and now I honestly feel physically sick. Later ranty blog post alert. Blogs like the one above, and a hundred thousand others will tell you it’s not like that. These are real people with real experiences.
In some ways, I’m not really qualified to talk. I’m sort-of autistic, not absolutely autistic, and either way I’d be high-functioning. High-functioning autism is defined as having an IQ of over 70 (which is the average for people on the spectrum). This basically means that people with HFA have a greater capacity to learn things like social skills and ‘scripts’ (even if I’m still reeeeally bad at new situations. Seriously, new situations; I lurk like a creepy lurker). Still autistic. And dyspraxic. And a trainee psychologist, and a horse lover and a knitter and a walker and a consummate nerd who like Rooster Teeth way more than she should, who is head over heels for her boyfriend and want to go inter-railing next summer.
Not being Aspie enough for the full diagnosis, and yet experiencing everything a person with Aspergers does, is not easy. Plus dyspraxia means I spend most of my days walking into doors. It’s a crazy-weird thing. And I’m not sure I’d change the way I think. I just want to be able to manage it right.
I am capable. But sometimes I feel no-one seems to think I am.
For more about dyspraxia: The Dyspraxia Foundation
For more about Autism and Aspeger’s Syndrome: The National Autistic Society
A short note here; for the love of God, don’t go via Autism Speaks. They do not speak for us. Trust me.
Also a brilliant friend of mine works for the NAS and she’s quite frankly amazing, so; cheeky plug.