There are many misconceptions about autistic individuals including that they are savants, lack empathy and have a high affinity for anything technical. Whilst there are characteristics that are typical of autism, they are expressed in each individual in differing ways and to varying degrees. Just like any other person, autistics are all individuals, with unique interests, skills sets and personalities and no two autistic people are alike.
In this section you will find personal stories from autistic individuals illustrating not only how diverse they are but also their experiences of the working environment.
'If you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism' (anon)
My name is Cédric and I am a teenager on the autism spectrum. I wrote this poem to give a general idea of what it is like to be autistic. I do not really think I am an alien. It is just a humorous way to convey how I feel. The original version is in German.
Am I an Alien?
I feel as if I don’t fit into this world
I understand everything, except people, who I don’t hate
Suddenly everyone’s laughing, I’m just standing there, which you don’t forget so quickly
And of course I understand people who are sarcastic.
I nearly sweat when someone talks to me,
my heart beats faster, I don’t look into their face,
I can’t breathe, I talk fast, want away from here,
Now I’m alone, calm…no one’s here, want away from here.
Am I an Alien?
Sent here, to report on this planet?
I want to learn constantly about it, about the countries, the histories,
the politics, the nature, how everything works,
in a world, that doesn’t respect my strength.
I see everything, I hear everything, I notice everything around me,
the conversation there, the bird up there, every single step,
I can’t, not without trying, turn it off,
Even when I want to keep the loud music away.
Maybe I’m not a human
The world wasn’t made for autistic people like me,
If only I could show my emotions visually,
to show that I can feel like others,
and I don’t have to show my emotions through force.
Because I like being around people,
this, with everything put together, doesn’t make sense.
When thinking about this, I have the tendency,
to ask, “Am I even a human?”
Everything around me is a weapon, not only for my leg,
everyday a new danger,
as if I hadn’t been here before today,
I don’t like being in pain all the time.
Maybe I’m not a human
Want to talk to someone, can’t manage it.
I try it, even though it hurts.
Suddenly I say something that isn’t right,
A small mistake that everyone hates me for.
“Obvious”, that’s a funny word,
I hear again and again here and there,
It fits everyone, except to me,
Maybe I’m not from here.
Maybe I’m an Alien.
I’m never still, always moving
So I don’t rest a single moment,
And my brain become a chest
On information to save.
I’m only here, to take in information.
I can’t put my thoughts into words,
But store them in my brain in masses,
And it grows with every day.
I think I’m an Alien
I learn everything, to report on it,
Observing and learning are my tasks.
I don’t understand people, I’m not like them,
Because I come from somewhere else in the galaxy.
Is there a ship out there, waiting for my report,
to attack us way out of sight?
Maybe that’s soon and I brought on the end.
Well, those are the thoughts you have at night…
My name is Patrick Samuel. I am an artist and public speaker living in London. I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and ADHD late in life. When I started my daily art therapy in December 2016, I did so at first to develop coping mechanisms and learn social skills, but meanwhile I have come to see painting and drawing as my calling, and my neurodiversity as a gift rather than a disability. Usually, I finish one piece a day, so I have produced quite a large portfolio with a wide range of styles and media so far.
Since getting back into art, I have had five solo exhibitions. I have been travelling around the country with my carer giving talks at autism shows, conferences and in schools and community centres about how I experience my autism and the world. I use my exhibitions to tell something about my condition too. As someone with synesthesia, I also compose music, and this goes together with my art quite well.
Before I had my formal diagnosis and support, I tried to ignore an important part about myself because for so long that is what others were doing to me. Now I have embraced that autism and ADHD are part of who I am, and from those I have met at my exhibitions and at conferences, and because of the media coverage I have received, I realise how important it is to be visible and vocal. There are many others like me struggling to get support, and are afraid of what being autistic might mean, or simply do not understand it.
A disability does not have to be a disadvantage. It can give us unique viewpoints that we can use to our advantage and that is what I am doing through art, music, poetry and in my talks.
My name is David Breslin. I am 29 years old and was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of eleven. I have worked in an administrative capacity for a period of 10 years before setting up my own business, “Speaking Literally”, which I now run and market completely independently. Due to a deep, personal and insightful knowledge of my condition as well as a passion for expressing that knowledge and imparting it to other people, I now give talks to, and do workshops for, professional organisations on the topic of Asperger’s Syndrome. I am also currently studying for a B.A. Honours Degree in History and Classics.
Like many with an Autistic Spectrum Condition I have had to face many obstacles trying to enter the world of employment. Too few employers knew what Asperger’s was. I experienced not only hidden discrimination but, also, blatant discrimination. I am determined, and motivated, to ensure that young people with Asperger’s are not the victims of poor understanding and misconceptions about the condition. Employers not only have to be made aware of what Asperger’s is, but also of the advantages and benefits to their business of employing individuals with the condition. These individuals are often very high functioning and have skills that are underused and unappreciated. Through my work I would like to raise the profile of people with Asperger’s in a positive manner.
My name is Juraj and I live in Switzerland. My parents come from former Czechoslovakia and left there in 1968 to start a new life in Switzerland. The many stages in my life – school, university, employment, marriage and becoming a father – have all formed my character, but I am particularly passionate about writing. I started at the age of sixteen and over the years have written various books, from science fiction to historical and fantasy novels, novellas and essays as well as an autobiography. My latest book, ‘Mein Leben in einer anderen Welt’ (My Life in Another World), was published in 2016. With my writing, I address topics such as slavery, war and the meaning of life, or simply lose myself in a fairy tale.