This page contains an account of what it is like to have autism, from the perspective of someone on the autistic spectrum.
Please note that it is a personal view and does not necessarily represent the views of Research Autism.
I was giving a talk last year to assorted support workers when one of them asked me who, then, given my isolation in youth, I would turn to for someone to talk to and share my feelings with. Why would I want to share my feelings with anybody?
After four years of working in classrooms with autistic children, this person had not grasped what it means for someone to lack the drives necessary for instinctive socialisation — a thing I'm tempted to call a lack of socialism — but still went with assumptions about what autists think based on people in general. This is even more marked in people I know personally: as soon as the situation includes them they stop making allowances for me.
I call empathotypical people interactive tables; they display somewhat more complex behaviour, but they are objects in my world, a distinct group, but not special. They fail to stand out; this is in contrast to empathotypical behaviour, which gives people a special place in empathotypical thoughts and feelings — I don't know if I'm making any sense; I feel like I'm describing red to the congenitally blind.
I suspect that I use the same part of my brain to recognise all types of table, in contrast to the table-recognition skills of some tables (people), which are centred in a special area of the tabletop.
I lack instinctive socialism, but not a desire for social contact — I have been dogged by loneliness, driving people away through progressively more desperate attempts to attract attention. I lack instinctive empathy — at least for people — a lover of the finest craftsmanship, I don't own a Chippendale, but if I did, I wonder how the care I would lavish on it would differ. It would be less rewarding, more one-way, but would my affections underlying the care be the same?
I wonder if communication is a third thing, or just a consequence of socialisation and empathy. I don't lack ability with words, but I lack the impetus to learn in just the situations where I have most to learn.
I choose to concentrate my efforts in people; greater pros outweighing greater cons, but I recognise other autists who shy away from the problem of interacting, discouraged by the enormous effort which produces so little progress. It is a worthwhile and rewarding trek.