An Autistic Cinderella, if you will, Part I
by Jennifer E.B.
I had a very complicated childhood. And not just because of ASD, which has always been, in comparison to others, mild - (its influence made me a bit quirky, but I was never non-verbal.) I was hospitalised for months at a time, for in infancy, I was very ill. I am fortunate, because I cannot remember much of it at all.
I had early speech, even in comparison to a typical child, speaking in sentences at about nine or ten months old. I had a very large vocabulary at a very young age, even able to name animals even many adults were not aware of! I had some stims, almost exclusively walking on tiptoes since I was able to walk, flickering light switches, and fixating on lights. My eye-contact was also significantly poor.
My toddler years were my happiest. My mother watched the neighbors children, who I actually got along with. It was just two others, one much younger. I think its because my mother kept my things separated, as well as my own rigidness with rules, that kept things so peaceful. All in all, these simple friendships were some of the best I ever had. It was the last time in my life that I can remember being truly happy.
I was a very loving child, and very intelligent, so it was very frustrating to my parents how such a smart child could sometimes be so oblivious. I often had to be told things multiple times, always reminded to look at people, and constantly walked into things. I was very clumsy and had great difficultly with both fine and gross motor skills. I also had very exaggerated gestures and expressions, which I later learned made me stand out at school. No matter which school, program, or summer camp I attended, I never fit in. I could never understand why nobody like me - it was devastating.
I was interested in typical things, like dolls, though did not like playing with other children because I preferred each playtime to be repetitive, having everything set up exactly the same way and refusing to change names. I was like this with other toys, as well.
I also had interests less than typical for a little girl - I was obsessed with snakes!
And later in elementary school, I found a new love in Egyptology and, though to a lesser degree, world mummification. Most of my peers could not appreciate these topics, if you can imagine! (I once brought in a video tape, in fourth grade, on Incan child sacrifice!)
I was a very good child, never got into trouble. of course, no one is perfect, but I generally listened to rules very well - too well, in fact! I scolded my parents, teachers, other children. Even on a few occasions,
I went to lecture adults on their parenting skills! However, it was harder for me to control my angers when I began to see I was an outcast. This only accelerates with time, peaking in adolescence.
Middle school was hell. I was hoping for a new beginning, and wanted friends and to start dating just like the other girls. This, of course, was a failure. I ended up attending a small special school of about fourteen for two years, because I was so mercilessly bullied. I had no one to stick up for me either, or help me through my crisis. I was very, very sad. I ended up being held back a year because of all the bullying. I missed almost a month of school in attempt to escape my tormentors.
At the special school, I felt humiliated. The other children were either learning disabled, but more so, had behavior problems. Constant disruptions drove me crazy and more disappointed in myself - I didn't belong there. Even my teachers weren't sure why I was there. I was very smart and polite.
The only positive thing that came out of my time at the school was that I did make one friend, Susan, a girl with schizophrenia. She was very quiet and distrustful of people, alot like myself. However, we both understood each other. We were outcasts for different reasons, but we both felt the same. I always felt for Susan, because underneath her psychological problems, which often gave her grief, she was such a lovely person.
There was also a younger girl at school named Lisa, who was blunt, often unkempt, and also very lonely. Even though she could sometimes be offensive ("Your breath smells terrible! Sorry, but it's true!") she never seemed to be malicious - there was an innocence about her. She had a love of Japanese comics and anime, an admitted guilty pleasure of mine, so I invited her over a few times to watch some videotapes with me. It made her so happy!
When my mother found out who her mother was, she was pleasantly surprised. She was a high school friend's sister, both of which were bridesmaids in the woman's wedding. The two began talking, and her mother mentioned that Lisa had Asperger's Syndrome. My mother just nodded and didn't think much of it, at the time. Then a friend of hers, Rosalyn, gave my mother an abrupt phone call. She said she had been reading a book called 'Look Me in the Eyes' and had started crying. "This sounds like Jen!" she said.
Continue to: An Autistic Cinderella, if you will, Part II
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