Dear Autistic Kid, on school and isolation

Dear Autistic Kid, on school and isolation

Dear autistic kid,

I want to let you know that autistic adults are here. Autistic adults exist. Most of us have had tough experiences in elementary school and junior high school. Personally, I felt rather isolated growing up in school. Other students just knew how to talk to each other and make friends. I didn’t understand how they did that. I didn’t really know if I had any friends. Instead, I brought a book to school to read everyday when other kids were talking to each other between assignments. Focusing on reading helped me filter out the obnoxious noise of the classroom. I would brace myself for the school bell (trying not to grimace) because it really hurt my ears.

Being autistic growing up can be lonely. It can be really isolating when you think you’re the only one who has experienced bullying or exclusion, or feeling different, like a ghost or an alien (I’ve felt like both before, at different times). I can’t promise you that those feelings won’t be there in the future, but I can promise you that there are autistic people out there who have felt that way too. I’ve even made friends with a few of them.

I’m not going to lie – other students are going to judge you in school (some people just judge everyone!) no matter what. But try to focus on finding friends who are kind, nonjudgmental, and accepting of who you are, and forget about everyone else (or at least, try to ignore them as best you can!). I was bullied by an older girl at school when I was 13 years old, but I got through it, and life has gotten better.

I’d also suggest that if you’re ever worried about making friends, look for (and maybe attempt to approach and say hi to) other students your age who also don’t have a lot of friends. I had two really good friends in junior high only because all three of us were kind of excluded from other peer groups, and we all were really interested in sci-fi novels. My junior high friend wrote her motto in my yearbook in 7th grade: “Keep the weirdness alive!” We just decided we were going to be okay with being different. We decided that other people who judged us for being “weird” weren’t going to ruin our fun. And two really good friends were truly all I needed. There are some people who have lots of friends in school, but they don’t usually have as deep of a friendship as someone who has just two or three friends. It might be helpful to find some friends who have similar interests to you.

By college, for me it seemed to get quite a bit easier. People in general were less judgmental, and I wasn’t stuck in a room with random students my age for 7 hours straight everyday anymore. I could do my homework in my own environment. I didn’t have to be around people if I didn’t want to. I got to pick and choose who I spent time with. Also, in graduate school, you’re basically expected to talk a lot about your interests, and other people are actually interested too!

I tried to focus on my strengths in school. Autistic people and neurodivergent people in general have a lot of diversity! Lots of us are good at different things, and like different things. We’re not all the same, and that’s awesome! I hope you find an interest that you’re passionate about when you grow up (or you may have already found one). Many of us autistic adults are musicians, artists, scientists, writers, actors, comedians, computer scientists, engineers, and a lot of other things!

When you’re having a rough time, try to remember that autistic adults have been there and gotten through it, and we believe you can too.

an autistic adult

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