You read that title right – I was diagnosed with autism when I was two but I didn’t know about it until I was thirteen.
Let me attempt to explain how this happened.
As detailed in my last post, I was acutely aware that I was different from others for most of my life. And from my childhood perspective, that difference was a bad one – I was easily provoked into meltdowns when I didn’t understand things, constantly under a more-than-average level of adult supervision, I had difficulty making and keeping friends, and I recall feeling ostracized by children and adults alike. This isn’t to say I didn’t have any friends or positive relationships with adults or kids– I made some good friends during elementary school, and my second and third grade teachers as well as my sixth grade humanities teachers were supportive and encouraged my love of history – but I still felt like I was inherently a bad kid because of things I couldn’t control. I would constantly ask my parents “what’s wrong with me” and they would say things like I just had a hard day and they loved me and things will turn out alright, but I’d never get a straight answer. I basically thought I was descending into madness.
Then when I was thirteen, everything changed.
I remember that day clearly – I’d had another incident at school (these were especially common in seventh grade, as some of my fellow schoolmates figured out how to push my buttons and make me explode-typical middle school interactions, as I am now aware). I was asking my mother that familiar “what’s wrong with me” question when we pulled up to our house, and she stopped the car, turned to me, and said the words that changed my life forever:
“You have autism.”