If you have autism, it can be difficult to help those who are “neurotypical” (NT) understand what you’re going through. On the one hand, you shouldn’t have to explain yourself; society should accept you exactly as you are, without you having to change your behavior. However, society is run by NT people, so it can be a true advantage to be understood: People will alter their expectations in job interviews, in classrooms, and in health-related environments when they understand the different ways you experience the world. To get people on your side, here’s Special Strong‘s answer to “What does autism feel like?”
Autism Feels Different to Different People
Autism is more recently referred to as ASD or autism spectrum disorder — the operative word here being “spectrum.” This shift in language stresses the diversity for those who are differently abled in this way. There are those who have autism who can live independently (like you can), but then there are those whose autism can require assistance in most, if not all, areas of their lives. An important way to talk about autism, should you be asked about it, is to focus on how you experience it as an individual. Remind people that you do not speak for all those with autism.
Autism Feels … More
The way you feel or experience your surroundings, when you have autism, is far more intense than the way an NT person feels or experiences things. You feel more. Deeper. You’re more sensitive to sounds, textures, visuals. An ambulance going off down the street could be background noise to an NT friend, but it can completely rob you of your focus and sense of calm. You may be drawn to certain lighting displays that your NT peers may completely overlook. A scratchy tag on your shirt could be enough to ruin your day, but for your NT coworkers, it’s a minor inconvenience.
Sometimes it’s enough to explain that you have bigger feelings or sensory receptors than other people. Without this knowledge, the NT people in your life may not understand your behavior or reactions to these seemingly insignificant experiences.
Autism Feels Anxious
When sensory overload meets an inability to communicate frustrations, anxiety ensues. Who wouldn’t feel anxious, afraid, and frustrated in these circumstances: Something is wrong, but because you’re experiencing so many intense senses at once, it can be difficult to point out the problem. Being unable to identify the heart of the issue can delay the solution — or make a solution even seem impossible.
Again, being able to communicate this experience to an NT friend before (or after) an anxiety spiral can help them understand your behavior, which makes them more likely to advocate for you.
Autism Feels Focused
Nothing keeps you focused and centered like your autism. Others may see your special interests as fixations or obsessions, but in truth, you just have the ability to hyper-focus on the things that are important to you. NT friends don’t have the ability to stay on track with their passions and inherently stay true to themselves.
If you can combine your passions with a societal service, then you can become a major asset in your career field. For example, if you love video games, then you might consider becoming a video game developer or storyboarder. If you love problem solving, then you can bring a lot of value to a company by working in logistics.
Autism Feels Isolating
Sometimes it’s hard to have autism because other people don’t really understand where you’re coming from. It can be tough to describe how you’re feeling or explain why you think the way you do, which can make NT people dismissive. You just want to be yourself and be accepted for who you are. You want what everyone wants, really.
Explaining what autism feels like can be the first step in connecting with the NT people in your life. If people are asking you about your experience, that’s usually a good sign that they’ll be receptive to what you have to say. It’s OK to be your own advocate. When you speak up for yourself, you empower your NT friends, family members, and coworkers to become your advocates too.
It can be tiring to be someone’s main point of contact for all things autism, however, so you can refer people to different resources. That way, they can do their own research.
- Special Strong Blog
- The Mighty
- Autism Speaks
- National Autistic Society
- Spectrum News
- Autism Society
- National Autism Center
- Autism Society of America
- Autism Self Advocacy Network
- Autism Rights Movement
- Autism Research Institute
- Organization of Autism Research
- Autism Science Foundation
- Autism Europe
We Understand What Autism Feels Like
The personal trainers affiliated with Special Strong have unique training that helps them understand the symptoms of autism — the symptoms that can become hurdles to weight loss and overall fitness. By partnering with a trainer who is familiar with your sensory triggers, you can become the healthiest version of yourself. Sign up for private training sessions or boot camp classes today. We’re located all over North Texas and expanding into other states; find a location near you.