“I am more like you than autism can ever make me different.”

An Autistic Weighs in on Friendship

By Judy Endow

Dawn Inclusion Making (Endow, 2013, p.115)

I am a professional person who works as an autism consultant to various school districts when I am not speaking and writing. I have an autism neurology myself so I enjoy the privilege of being able to see and experience autism from a variety of viewpoints. One thing that greatly pains me is the continuing wrong assumptions professional people make about autistics and how those wrong assumptions often get interpreted as fact.

This past week I again ran into the erroneous assumption that autistics do not want or need friends. The truth is we do want and need friends just like any other human being. Our autism neurology means that making friends in conventional ways on conventional developmental timelines often presents difficulties for us largely because we have a different neurology – not a flawed humanity!

It took me many years to understand friendship. It wasn’t until I started my 50th decade of life that I started enjoying meaningful friendships. When I was growing up there was no support for kids like we have today when they have difficulties due to autism. Even so, I was able to slowly figure out and develop meaningful friendships on my own.

I want to share an excerpt from my book Paper Words: Discovering and Living with My Autism that clearly illustrates autistic people not only want friends, but can be friends with other people. It is one way for me to counter the erroneous belief I met up with again this week. Please share widely to help dispel the faulty idea that autistics do not want, need or have the ability to participate in friendships. Autistics do have real friends and here is the story of how that looks in my life.

“One thing all my very close friends have in common is that, besides having time for me, they allow me to be their friend. Most people who imagine themselves to be my friend are very kind and giving people and like to be known for being helpful to me, an autistic person, but they do not ever make the space for me to be their friend back. Thus, it is not a true friendship because they do not find me to be necessary to the core of their being.

My closest friends and I have reciprocal relationships. Both of us find the other necessary in our lives in a way that is not demanding. I find my close friends necessary, because when I am with them I can be my very best – the person I was created to be. I am able to be who I am and it is O,K. And they report similar feelings.

We know each other’s faults and flaws and can love each other through them. This means that our faults and flaws don’t become each other’s pet peeves. We are all limited and imperfect and are O.K. with that in ourselves and in each other.

This is how it is with my closest friends. We find each other necessary and care deeply for one other. When I’m allowed to show my caring however I want, I am able to freely spend the gold of my soul, often with abandon, on my friends. I love it and would not live my life any differently.

The meaningfulness of life for me, an autistic, is in the reciprocal relationships of my everyday life. So, all in all, when it comes to the truly important stuff of life, I am more like you than autism can ever make me different. Imagine that!” (Endow, 2009, p. 173).

The School Bell Was My Enemy

January 4, 2015

by Kevin Hosseini

What I remember first about school was the bell in the hallway. Any time it rang and I was close to it I became agitated and scared. The bell hurt my ears. It startled me so much I got angry and felt like kicking or hitting or yelling. I wanted to take the pain away and give it to somebody else.

Everyday I’d go to the cafeteria for lunch. There was also a bell by the cafeteria. The bell rang and hurt my ears. I’d cover my ears and I couldn’t eat. The bell made me angry and I felt like kicking or hitting or yelling.

The bell was outside the boy’s bathroom. I didn’t go to the bathroom because I was afraid the bell would ring. My mom tells me it wasn’t until I had therapy for my ears that I was able to go to the regular boy’s bathroom at school. I held my pee and went to the bathroom at home.

The teacher told me the bell was for a reason. It told the kids when it was time to go to class, time for recess, time for lunch, and time to go home. For me the bell was the most scary thing at school. I thought the bell was used to hurt my ears. I thought they were punishing me.

One day the bell went off and wouldn’t stop. It seemed to go on forever. All the kids got up and it was chaos. The teacher told me to get in line. The bell didn’t stop. I covered my ears. I wanted the bell to stop so I kicked a girl in line. “Fire Drill” someone told me. I didn’t know what fire drill meant. That’s when I learned that the bell went off if there was a fire in the school. Sometimes we’d pretend there was a fire but there wasn’t a fire. The bell still scared me.

Another day we had a fire drill in the morning. It made me agitated. It rang and rang and rang. Now I knew that bell was for fires! Then I went to lunch and the bell rang again. I screamed. I thought we were having a fire. I yelled and yelled and yelled. Somebody grabbed me and held me so I couldn’t hit or kick. I screamed more because I thought the school was on fire.

They called my mom to pick me up. I was happy I was safe.

The bell bothered me until I was in the 6th grade.

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About Kevin:

Kevin Hosseini is 20 years old. He’s living in supported living home and is writing his impressions of being on the autism spectrum. His website is www.kevingallery.com.

Debra (editor and Kevin’s mom) comment: It wasn’t until having a long conversation with Kevin while driving to Mexico this week that this story came out. Until this week we thought Kevin was agitated in the cafeteria because of all the kids and the unstructured time. Kevin had auditory integration therapy when he was in 2nd grade that helped with some of his sound sensitivities. Auditory integration therapy is a ten-day listening program that helps with hypersensitive hearing issues.