Overcoming autism?


I often read this narrative online, “So-and-so overcame their autism and succeeded at something.”

It makes me feel uncomfortable.

It makes me worry that one day someone might say, “Rhi overcame her autism to write”, which would be to fundamentally misunderstand both me and my autism.

One of the positives of autism can be hyper-focus. When I find joy in something, or it piques my interest, I can put everything I have into it. Everything. I may forget to eat and drink, because everything else fades into the background. If I have to do something that would normally be outside of my comfort zone, if my focus is taking up all my processing, I’ll barely notice the issue. All my cobweb thoughts are being thrown in one direction. I’m entangled.

If I can force some structure onto it, then I can maintain that level of dedication relatively easily. So long as I’m making sure I eat and drink and wash and get outside for a time, I will be ridiculously productive for as long as my interest lasts.

That’s my autism giving me that. It’s not a savant-skill, it’s just the way my brain works.

My writing is how it is because of autism. I write because one of the things that my autism gives me is an intermingling of senses and words.

For me words are shapes and feelings and numbers, all rolled into one. Each sentence is a rolling undulation of balance and emotion. Writing is joy. Words are feelings. Not in a metaphorical or symbolical sense, but in a real and immediate way.

I write to empty my head of my constant cobweb thoughts. I write because my mind is never empty, and if I don’t let the words go then they start to echo. I write to understand myself better.

My autism compels me to write. It compels me to sing everywhere I go. It compels me to dance.

The idea that anything I do is done separately to my autism is being unfair to my processor. Nothing I do is done behind autisms back. I don’t sneak off and leave it at home for a while. I don’t send sneaky messages when it’s out of the room.

I’m autistic. It’s not something to overcome. Sometimes it’s annoying and gives me extra work to do. Sometimes it’s productive and let’s me do a day’s work in an hour.

I have never heard anyone say that someone neurotypical overcame their natural lack of hyper-focus to train and achieve something. But they do, every day, and I’m so very proud of them for it.

You don’t hear it said about stereotypical autism traits either. No one overcomes their autism to be good at maths. Should we be saying that those autistics who are terrible at maths (and there are many) have overcome their autism to be awful at it? It makes about as much sense.

I overcame my autism to finally make that important phone call that I’ve been putting off for weeks. I overcame my autism and got to sleep at a reasonable hour. I overcame my autism and bought a pint of milk. These are the times when I have to push back against my autism. Housework, self-care, sorting bills, going somewhere new, these are things that grind against my natural impulses. These are my battle-grounds.

It’s not that coping mechanisms won’t have been an important part of an achievement, but they’re to do with the audience or the lights and sounds. They’re to do with the construct surrounding the skill. They’re all barriers placed in the way of that person. They’re the bits that could be dismantled if anyone felt like doing it.

This blog is my place without barriers. There’s no filter between you and me. I haven’t had to network or build relationships with anyone. I haven’t had to reach out to people through phones or face to face. I haven’t had to speak to editors or publishers or agents. It’s just me.

Which is why I have files full of words that sit and gather dust. It’ll always be easier to write than to reach out.

If ever I do, if ever I get to a point of entering an inspirational narrative, don’t forget that what I overcame were the interactions. What I surpassed were the social games that I don’t understand. Never my autism. Never that.

This afternoon I shall clean my toilet in an inspirational fashion. I’ll add a flourish for good measure, and you can guarantee I’ll be singing as I do it.

27 thoughts on “Overcoming autism?

  1. Well that’s good too, lol, but I was thinking more along the lines of ‘Rhi overcame her autism to clean her toilet’. Actually can you come and clean mine as well, I’ve been putting it off for days.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. 😄 I’m clearly not inspirational enough. I’m aiming to get to a point where I can inspire everyone around me to clean my bathroom. It’s a very specific form of inspiration. Tricky to achieve.

      Liked by 5 people

  2. Have you tried the Jedi mind trick whilst waving a hand in front of people faces? Fill two needs with one deed there, the autistic one and the Jedi one 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It was already a great blog post, but when I got to the last paragraph I completely lost it–laughing my head off.


  4. Hurrah for inspirational toilet cleaning, I say! 🙂 That’s a lovely post, as ever. I love the articulation of not sneaking off behind autism’s back.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It is so, SO much easier to write than to reach out.
    I’m currently crowdfunding my debut solo album. The writing, the singing, the recording…those are the easy parts. Telling people about it and asking them to order CDs…that is the terrifying part. Somehow I’ve almost succeeded. Next I need to figure out how to get gigs to promote the album. That will involve talking to people and there’s an infinite number of variables in that conversation…
    I’m still working on that part. Perhaps I shall clean my toilet while I panic about it 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah yes, so much easier. I’m very impressed that you’re putting yourself out there! That is no small thing.

      One day I’ll stop putting things back on the shelf and starting another.

      This is definitely the bit where the non-Autistics have the advantage, they have more contacts and aren’t as exhausted by the interactions needed to get help.

      I’m trying to get to a point of putting aside the variables (?!!!) and focusing on what I need out of interactions. If there is a fixed purpose then maybe I can convince focus to overrule variable-control? It’s a work in progress 😄

      Look forward to hearing of your enormous success 😊


      1. I want to respond to this but my natural reaction is “someone’s being nice to me. I don’t know how to deal with this. I shall hide under my metaphorical box”. So I’ve written this silly reply so you know I’m thinking about replying even though I can’t work out how to just yet…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. 😄 one of my favourite types of replies. I often send similar ones. It’s amazing how often just describing exactly how you feel is the right response. Or at least it is to the people who I like!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Well my crowdfunder reached 100% and then 2 days later my mother-in-law died. Actually it would be more accurate to say former mother-in-law, because my ex is basically estranged from the entire family. She knew she didn’t have long, though the end was very sudden, and she wants me to officiate the funeral. I’ve said yes (far easier to do that because I’ll know exactly what I’m expected to do at all times). If I were a 1l bottle, I would currently contain 990ml of emotions and confusion and almost everything extra is sending me to the verge of a meltdown and over. This isn’t relevant. Sorry. I just needed to say it to someone who’ll understand without needing to describe it as well.
            But that is the reason that I didn’t figure out a more interesting response during the last week.
            Oh, and if its okay to share my site, its here: http://carysmusic.com/news/

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I’m so sorry, I can’t imagine how overwhelmed you must feel at the moment. I hope you can manage to take some downtime, and rest as much as possible. You must have meant a lot to her for her to ask you to officiate.

              Whatever you do don’t beat yourself up for any of your reactions. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to someone else. When you’ve got more energy you can seize the world by the throat and sing at it (I’m not sure that imagery works, but you get the gist!), until then, just get through this bit and let yourself feel all the feelings.



                  1. I’ve just realised I never thanked you for the dragons! I loved them – I do love them! All is well in my life just now, I’ve just recommended your blog to a lifelong friend who is currently partway through a formal ASD diagnosis. Thank you again Cx

                    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve never seen a description of what words are that resonated with me like this.

    I guess this was written years ago so i’m sorry if it is too late to post or if you don’t like when strangers try to post things on your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve tried to explain to people about the beauty of words and how they flow together. Its one of those things that you learn not to talk about because everyone will get this weird impenetrable look across their face and the conversation will sort of slip around you without addressing what you just said and suddenly you aren’t included in it anymore.

        Seeing something that is such a huge part of my world but so alien to the people that I love written down so matter of factly gives me this fluttering sensation in my chest like some part of me that has been frozen for a long time has started to move again.

        Thank you for writing this and thank you for letting people respond

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you for sharing. We are the lucky ones to have that feeling towards something so every-day to everyone else. I can’t imagine a world without that movement in it.


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