My VERY MIS-guided “understandings” about Autism and Aspergers

When I was diagnosed as Autistic in about 2012, my reaction was anger and disgust “I’m not a f****** retard”.

I think I snorted when the Clinical Psychologist asked if I wanted to talk about it.

For the next two years I had no understanding of why he came to that assessment conclusion.

What do you know about Classic Autism, Aspergers, and Autistic Savants? It turns out I was incredibly mistaken and ill-informed.

I am articulate and I have a communication disorder. You can hear my stuttering, multiple false starts, and long pauses in this interview on the Yenn Purkis Autism Show.

I am intelligent, love learning, have an advanced vocabulary, am detail-oriented, creative, caring and compassionate, and enjoy quite a few passions.

I am nothing like what I thought Aspies were. Yet I am Autistic.

These were my very misguided “understandings/ truths/ beliefs” about Autism, Asperger’s, and Autistic Savants.

Autism/ Classic Autism

You are trapped in your mind and couldn’t communicate verbally or have extremely limited verbal skills.

We had to be wheelchair bound with limited and jerky movements.

Possibly could communicate with a device, and may need a helping hand to use one.

Can go to school but god knows what we do with that information.

In this case one “obviously looked” Autistic.


Aspergers, I thought, was once again “blatantly obvious”.

We couldn’t ever make or hold eye contact.
Every single thing we said was inappropriate.
We are very slow or resistant to learning social skills.

A limited range verbally, or noticeably low intelligence, or very slow talkers.
Can have echolalia (repeating words or sentences).

Possibly can be employed or volunteer, and extra special care needs to be given so we don’t get overwhelmed and throw a hissy fit or get aggressive.

Often desperate to make friends, but doesn’t care about their feelings.

Autistic Savant

Either a child (a boy or occasionally a girl) or a male professor/ scientist.

A savant was someone who said and did embarrassing things at work, home, and with their few friends.
Possibly noticeably eccentric and with zero or very limited interest in making friends.

They are extremely intelligent and organised in some areas – at work/ their passion/ gifts – but very disorganised at home. They needed a carer or a very supportive wife to look after them at home.

Who I Am

Autistic/ have Aspergers’-noticed-traits

As a child, I stopped speaking between the ages of four to six years old.

When overwhelmed it is possible to suspect that I am Autistic, “shy”, “a bit nervous“, or “just stutters sometimes”.

Please, for the love of cute kittens, remove the term “High-Functioning Autism” from your vocabulary. I identify as low to medium functioning. Or, you know, Karletta.

My Autistic traits are ignored by or hidden from observers – not myself (anymore) – for self-preservation.

Inexplicably Shy

I consider myself as outgoing, a networker, and a public speaker. It didn’t make sense to me why I would “turn shy“. Now, I know.

Humiliation or the threat of being  seen as “pathetic”, “over reacting” or “too much work” for others has me acting “shy”.

I need to recharge often

I have been taught in millions of heartbreaking lessons to be ashamed of and hide my “pathetic” characteristics and sensitivities. At a conference recently, I learned how freeing it is to wear foam earplugs and sunglasses out in public.

I know nowadays how important breaks are for settling racing thoughts, energy restoration, memory retention, and socialising.

Closing my eyes, and/ or keep my head down while listening soothes and rests my senses. At school, when I did that, teachers would clap loudly and demand I “wake up and pay attention.” All this would do is increase my anxiety, and lessen my attention and memory abilities until my next restorative rest.

The confrontation of being demanded to repeat what a teacher has just said got me defensive, and my thoughts shut down.

Inexplicably couldn’t work anymore

This masking and refusal of others to understand and happily fully support Autistic employees causes Autistic burn out and regression.

What I would love is Autism Appreciation month, as Tori Haar sugested recently.

I went through it, am still experiencing its effects a decade later. I thought I was the only one, and wrote a memoir about Autistic burnout. I made sure to collect experiences from others who’ve been or are burnt out.

Ryan Boran has an amazing piece on his blog with many references and quotes about burnout and its long-term ramifications.

I am intelligent, love learning, have an advanced vocabulary, am detail-oriented, creative, caring and compassionate, and enjoy quite a few passions.

I am nothing like what I thought Autism/ Aspies were.

I have worked full-time, part-time, and volunteered.

Historically I have had extreme difficulty finding and retaining a permanant home. Homeless, in fact, through couch surfing, living with family, in emergency accommodation, in supported accommodation, and stuck in unsuitable leases.

I have blossomed by being in a stable, permanent rental unit. I love living by myself.

Social skills

I am gullible and impressionable at times. I have learned to be wary of and recognise red flags of people and information.

I can be very shy/ Stutter/ Go MuteGo Mute due to multiple racing thoughts vying for attention and expression. I do this while talking with friends, tired, in medical appointments and emergencies, also when I am eager to not be humiliating to others.

I have to relearn all of my social skills and learned social constructs, since doing a self-development course that has you doubt *every single thing* you know about your self/ others/ life.

I maintain eye contact often and for significant periods. Especially when I know my role/ task/ goal in that activity/ place.

My Skills Come and Go

All sorts of my skills come and go depending on my physical, mental, and emotional health. It also depends on a situation and whether I have a purpose or role in an activity.

I need support to manage/ organise the many areas of my life, and at times am extremely self motivated and organised at home and at work.

Organisation and motivation for doing basic life skills is rare or comes and goes like a rollercoaster. I also suspect I have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).

Determined and resilient

I really like my values, skills, and that I keep picking myself up again.

I am resilient and like to experiment with many life skills.

I am nothing like what I thought Autism/ Aspies were.

Boy am I glad of the years of effort that Autism advocates and bloggers have made. You helped me understand myself, far, far more than any medical professional has.

Thank you.

I hope your words live on forever.