Monday, March 30, 2015

I'm Not Autistic in the Woods

There is some division in the autistic community about whether autism is a disability or just a different ability. In my opinion, it is both.

I first noticed that my autism did not feel like a disability when I started hiking on weekends. When I am alone in the woods, I don't feel autistic, and by that, I mean disabled. Suddenly, my hyper-awareness of sounds, smells, movement, and light makes sense. It's as if my senses were designed to excel in an environment where noticing every little thing going on around me aids in my survival, rather than causing me pain and anxiety.

It made me start wondering if at one time, autistic neurology was the norm, and then as people started moving towards more densely populated communities, natural selection started to favor what is now known as 'normal' neurology. It does seems like a possibility. Because it seems that 'normal' people have very dull senses. They don't seem to be able to hear the buzz of the lights or notice that they are flickering wildly. They don't seem to notice that one light is pulsing bluish while the other is pulsing orangish, and it is extremely distracting because they are sitting side-by-side.

Allistics seem to have a need for constant social feedback, because they don't seem to be able to see all those micro-muscle twitches that we do, so they don't know when someone is paying attention to them. They have a constant need for eye contact because their world is centered around a culture of 'white lies' so they never know when to trust each other.

I started to think about a question I heard that asked, 'What is the difference between an plant and a weed?" The answer, "A weed is just a plant out of place." I often feel that way with my autism. I am very functional in the woods, or when I am alone working on code. In those times, I feel like my autism gives me superpowers. But in a social environment, or when I have to try to work in a loud, busy office I am definitely out of place and disabled.

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