Today I am grateful to bring you this guest post by Lydia, who writes the blog Autistic Speaks and who is also a published author of two books, Living in Technicolor: An autistic’s thoughts on raising a child with autism and Interview with Autism. I hope you will click on the links to learn more after you read her story:
I’m living a life I never dreamed I’d have.
As a child, the single trait I could identify in myself was that I was smart. Ask anyone, and they’d tell you that… she’s bright, they would say. I could read before preschool, and by kindergarten had taught myself long division. Due to my intelligence, therefore, some, uh, not-so-minor things were overlooked. I didn’t know how to play. I didn’t have any friends. I had a huge vocabulary, but I couldn’t exactly communicate.
Fast forward through my childhood and teenage years, and many questions received answers when I was diagnosed with autism in January of 2009. I was 21. It was my final semester of college, and things were well on their way to falling apart. No more did I dream of becoming a doctor or a teacher… I just prayed each day that I would be able to leave my room and get through class without a meltdown. I still only had one friend. I made it through four years of college with nearly a 4.00 GPA, never having been to a party or sporting event due to my sensory issues.
I was relieved to receive my diagnosis, because I thought that a name for my issues meant that I could start to work on them. Right? Well…
Enter the sensory nightmare that has been my early 20s. I can’t leave my apartment without assistance, which I have through my state’s Adult Autism Waiver. I can no longer drive, because my vision and vestibular senses are so mixed up. In order to go to the grocery store, I need sunglasses and headphones. I feel lights and see sounds. Due to these sensory issues, my communication has further broken down. I am highly echolalic on a good day… and on a not-so-good day, I scream, or worse, can’t speak at all.
As if things weren’t complicated enough at this point, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis just last week. By the time I went to the doctor, I needed to walk with a cane much of the time and was losing mobility in my fingers. Now, when my staff isn’t here, I’ll be in intensive physical and occupational therapy as a way to try to avoid the heavy-duty drugs that would suppress my immune system.
Don’t worry, the downward spiral is finished there. Not exactly what I’d had in mind for my life…
But there is an angel in the form of a 35-pound black lab named Lexie. She is in training to be my service dog, and she will be the grounding force in my life. From trips to the grocery store to dealing with those horrible fluorescent lights in the doctor’s offices that I seem to be in more days than not, Lexie will keep me settled. She’ll sense the changes in medication levels in my body. She might even learn to sense fluctuations in my blood sugar (oh, did I leave that off? I’ve had type I diabetes for 21 years).
Lexie will make it possible for me to continue to live on my own, to do daily living tasks, and to… have a life! For me, she means freedom. Freedom not just to live a marginal existence, but to continue to live this life that is so much more than I ever could have dreamed of.
I told you that I’m living a life I’d never dreamed I’d have. I never said that it didn’t live up to my expectations… rather, the opposite! I am so much more… myself, so much more at peace with who I am, so much more in love with my life than I ever was before the spiral started. I’ve authored two books, with two more on the way. I’ve had a blog about autism for nearly three years, which now carries almost five-hundred posts. I travel locally and to neighboring states to speak about my experiences on the spectrum to parents and teachers. I may not be a doctor or a teacher… I may not even be able to cross the street without help… but I am beautifully, perfectly, autistically Lydia, and there is nothing else I could ever ask to be.
It is via Lexie that I will be able to continue to lead this life. She will make it possible for me to continue to do speaking engagements and to continue to live semi-independently so that I can continue to write. Regardless of my level of communicative ability on any given day, Lexie will be there for me. She’ll be my best friend. Now, I have no shortage of amazing friends, but the minor caveat is that I’ve actually never met the vast majority of them. Lexie will be a right here friend, something I yearn for deeply.
With this in mind, I wrote my second book, Living in Technicolor: An autistic’s thoughts on raising a child with autism. All proceeds from the book go toward Lexie. She is fully funded now (I want that to be clear, so you have the whole story), but she will need food and toys and vet visits, which, on my SSI budget, will be tight.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. Whether you want to buy a book, keep my puppy in your prayers, or just drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org), I appreciate it greatly!
Lydia (aka, Autistic Speaks)