Voices of Autism: ‘It’s Sort of a Good Thing’
Every day throughout April–Autism Awareness Month–we have featured a different reader-submitted story about living with autism. We received nearly 200 submissions, each of which tells a unique and moving story of children and their families struggling with the most difficult of circumstances and rising above their challenges. We thank everyone who shared their stories with us.
In this, the final installment of the series, we are featuring a true voice of autism: the transcript of an interview conducted by Emily Willingham, author of the blog A Life Less Ordinary, with her 9-year-old son, T.H., who has autism.
For obvious reasons, many autistic children are unable right now to articulate their lives. My son T.H. and I have discussed this issue before, and he has expressed a wish to let people know what autism is like, at least for him. (Responses are verbatim with non-sequitur interjections and vocalizations not included).
Q: Why do you hum?
A: It helps me get all my energy out. When I’m excited, I do that the most. It can also help me concentrate.
Q: When you make the “eeeeeee!” noise, what’s that about?
A: It’s when I feel good.
On Eye Contact
Q: Do you have trouble looking people in the eye?
A: Sort of.
Q: Why is that?
A: It’s sort of scary for me because I haven’t done it that much.
Q: How do you feel if you try to look somebody in the eye?
A: Weird. Tingly.
Q: When do you think you make faces the most?
A: When I’m excited.
Q: What does making faces do for you?
A: It makes me feel good because I sort of like doing it. I guess I have a lot of energy so I do all that stuff.
On Hugs and Contact
Q: Temple Grandin apparently didn’t really like people to touch her, but she liked being squeezed by
non-people things. Do you mind when people touch or hug you?
A: When someone touches me, it feels really disturbing. When someone hugs me, it’s a little bit better.
Q: You squeeze my arms all the time. In fact, you are doing it right now. Why is that?
A: Because I like you. And I like squeezing things.
Q: Why do you flap?
A: Because I’m excited when I flap. It makes all my energy go out.
Q: Do you think other people notice it?
A: No. (I loved this answer. Obviously, people do notice it…but he doesn’t care).
Q: Is it hard for you to understand other children?
A: Sort of.
Q: What do you find hard to understand?
A: What they do, basically. I didn’t like being in big groups. It made it confusing.
Q: What is it like when you meet new people?
A: It’s sort of scary. It’s embarrassing. If I meet people out in public, it’s embarrassing the most, and I don’t even know why. It’s just extremely embarrassing.
Comments on Being Autistic
Q: Do you like being autistic?
Q: What do you think about autism?
A: I think it’s sort of a good thing.
Q: Why do you think it’s a good thing?
A: Because I like it. You can be smarter about some things, and you’re also better at some things, like being excited, getting all your energy out. You can smell things really good. Another thing is that you see really good. I can list a ton of bad things about being autistic.
Q: What are those?
A: It’s sort of hard to do things in class, especially first grade. Another thing is that you’re being bullied. And it’s sort of hard to concentrate.
Q: Why is it hard to concentrate?
A: Because you’re so distracted by other things that are more exciting.
Q: Like what?
A: Like just looking out this window (he points to a large window through which much vegetation and many birds are visible) and forgetting everything else.
To read the entire Voices of Autism series, click here.