I remember the moment of observing a 12-year-old child pace the floor, speaking language only she could understand, and at times, leaping with excitement. Her behavior was typical for her. The staff wasn’t surprised by it since they had seen the child do this more times than they could count However, they did wonder what was going on inside the child’s mind.
Her behavior was “normal” to me because I did the pacing and make-believing too. I still sometimes do. I just try not to do it in the public eye and I don’t leap anymore since my hips aren’t as young as they used to be. Although I couldn’t make out what she was saying to herself, I knew possibly a story with a cast of characters and dialogue was unfolding in her mind.
This moment was the beginning of my journey to a diagnosis of autism. Now that it has been almost two months, the newness of it is wearing thin and the sinking of it is settling in.
It has started hitting me that I am not a tourist on the autism spectrum. This diagnosis didn’t just drop in and pay me a visit. Instead, I learned the name of my companion I’ve unknowingly had from birth and will have until death.
On the job, my companion is constantly raising its head. I’m in the gym subbing for the P.E. aide. The sound of the children trying to raise their voices over another is sensory overload. I need to stim and I find a way to do that without attracting attention. The coach plays music while the kids play the games. The coach remarked I must like Michael Jackson’s music because I was swaying and stepping to it. I nodded “yes”, but the truth was, I was secretly “stimming”. Michael’s music provided me cover.
The mystery used to be why I was not in step with my companions. Now that I know why I am different, I have another mystery. What’s it like to be neurotypical? Or, in other words, to live off the spectrum?