I think it is funny, in an ironic way, that so many people try to tell us how to identify and refer to ourselves. They say we shouldn’t use identity first language when we say we are autistic. We should say we are people with autism because we are people first.
We all behave. We all use behaviour as a form of communication. We all have opinions about other peoples behaviour. We all make assumptions about what constitutes “good” and “bad” behaviour. In the context of disability support, behaviour is a much discussed topic, and very often the word “behaviour” is preceded by the word “challenging” or followed by the word “management”. More and more though, I want to precede or follow the word “behaviour” with the word “stigmatised”.
“Meltdown” is a pretty commonly used phrase these days. When I use it I don’t just mean that I lost my shit because something didn’t go my way. I am referring to the frightening, overwhelming, out of control experience of an overload induced meltdown. We most commonly refer to children as having meltdowns, but autistic (and other wise neurodivergent) adults experience them too.
Sensory overload is becoming a commonly used term, and not just in groups of neurodivergent people. In this article, I’m going to talk briefly about the sensory systems humans have, and then talk to you about how I experience sensory overload as an autistic person.
Some days I wake up feeling good, I am productive and get to the end of the day feeling pretty good. Some days I wake up feeling good, but somewhere along the way things go a bit off and I abandon plans in favour of resting to avoid overload. Some days I wake up and nothing feels right, the whole day is a struggle and the best way to describe how I feel is just “wonky”. Wonky days are difficult to manage, but I am getting better at it.
“Just be yourself”, they say.
“Be proud of who you are.”
“Everyone has something to offer.”
“Be fearlessly authentic.”
So here I am, becoming autistic. Not literally, of course. I have been autistic my whole life. But I am figuratively becoming autistic as I learn to recognize in myself the things I do to move through the life I want.