Emma Davies, a young autistic advocate and friend of AsIAm, recently delivered a speech to her school about autism. The following is the transcript of the speech in Emma’s own words.
Have you ever felt like an alien on a planet that you don’t understand and find impossible to fit in? Have you ever used the phrase “a fish out of water” to describe your place in society? Have you ever asked yourself, “Why does everyone else understand the joke except me?” People with ASD ask themselves these questions all the time. I know this because I have ASD and my life has been plagued by these questions and more.
ASD stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder. “What is ASD?” is a very commonly asked question. It is also incredibly complex to answer. The National Institute of Mental Health in America have defined it as “a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior.” However there is no definitive answer to what ASD is. The umbrella of ASD consists of autism disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Rett’s Disorder and ADHD.
Because I have been living with Asperger’s my whole life, I find it impossible to imagine life without it. My life has been plagued by many dark moments as a result of anxiety and depressive thoughts. One such moment is when I decided to watch the film Coraline in order to conquer my fear of buttons, which I thought was a ridiculous and abnormal fear to have. However, the impact that film had on me scarred me for life. The imagery and the concept of the film petrified me and as result I had to go to regular therapy sessions to talk about this problem.
When I was nine, my parents decided that it was time to tell me something that would change my outlook on life forever. They told me that I had been diagnosed with Aspergers’ Syndrome, a condition that causes an individual to think and behave in a different way. At first this revelation shocked me to my core. I feared that this meant that I was mentally disabled. However, I am not. And while that moment was a shock for me at the time, it is also the moment in my life where I began to realize that everything made sense.
I now realize how lucky I am to be diagnosed so young because I am aware that females who are on the Autistic Spectrum can mask their autistic features and therefore can be misdiagnosed. Some don’t even receive a proper diagnosis until they are in their 60s and older. The method that is used to diagnose autism is made more to identify the male features than the female. I have met women who were diagnosed in their later life and they have told me of their struggles and their feeling of disposition in life.
One even told me that when she was in her teens, she had attempted suicide due to her feelings of confusion and misery. Upon hearing their stories, I decided to become an advocate for ASD awareness for everyone, but particularly for women. Over the years I have come to see my Aspergers’ as not an illness or a disease like I used to, but as a super power. It has provided me with amazing levels of concentration and determination. My ability tor complex information has come in handy on more than one occasion.
Meeting with others who are on the spectrum, that feeling of loneliness and isolation, while far from completely gone, has faded largely over the years. Knowing that there are others who are like me is a comfort far greater than one can imagine. It makes me feel that I am not alone in this world. And no one should feel that way. Because, while we all have our quirks, being different and being ourselves is what makes the world a much more interesting place. It is what makes life worth living.