My Experiences With Autism

One Student Shares Her Personal Narrative Around a Misunderstood Disorder

Rachael Rosenstengel, Editorial Contributor

The brain is a three pound organ responsible for the complex inner workings of the body and mind. When brain functioning conforms to what society sees as normal, this organ is ignored most of the time. It is when the brain is wired differently that changes come into focus. What I’m talking about is Autism Spectrum Disorder–Autism for short, which is what I have.

A giant umbrella of a term, Autism characterizes a large range of symptoms and conditions that can make socializing difficult. Keep in mind that Autism is a giant spectrum–some people with Autism can function in the common world with a few quirks intact. Others need varying levels of support, with aid such as Individualized Education Plans or 401Ks. Lastly, there are individuals who are unable to live independently at all. More often than not, Autism comes with Sensory Integration Disorder where the brain struggles with processing signals traveling through the five senses. As such, daily sounds such as plastic bottles being squished, usually filtered out by most people, may be painful for others. 

The mixture of Autism and Sensory Integration Disorder may explain the common symptoms you may see–arm flapping, sensitivity to common noises, and difficulty in conversation. Of course, symptoms are diverse for every person with Autism. I have a friend who enjoys stickers with a passion, while I despise them. Additionally, I would put rocks in my mouth, but never swallow them. 

Pressure is another area where individuals differ. When I was three, my parents knew that something was wrong. For instance, I would lick the walls several times and stop (only continuing if the wall was a different color), I hardly interacted with my peers, and I had language delays. I was progressing normally nine months after birth languag- wise, but I started to regress. That was how my family knew something was wrong. I was taken to the doctor at three with my mom’s concerns that I may have Autism. However, the doctor did not believe her, for I was huddled up with my Mom. I was directly seeking pressure. Most children with Autism are pressure-avoidant. She then moved to another doctor who diagnosed me with Autism. 

Afterwards, I was surrounded by my family and school professionals. Physicians and therapists provided my family with needed resources. At school, I was usually the only girl in special education classes. By third grade, I moved onto a regular class with an aide.

For me, Autism is like a computer with vastly different programming than other computers; different functionalities, skill sets, and limits, but in no way inferior or superior to other programs. Sure, there are difficulties and challenges to overcome, but having Autism is no excuse to treat others with disrespect. 

I am immensely thankful for all the help and early intervention I got. Without these resources, I would not be here right now in high level classes, driving, or going to college.