I have always thought of autism as a different language to English

Jack


I am 19 and from Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire, UK. I was 15 when I was diagnosed with a type of high-functioning autism. When I was four I saw a speech and language therapist because I was having difficulties learning words and containing them. I would babble a lot; it was like reading a piece of writing with all the punctuation taken out.

Throughout infant and primary school I didn’t have any particular problems with integrating because it was very small so I found it an easy environment to deal with. I wasn’t aware that I was different but I would be taken out of class quite regularly to do chalk drawings on the playground.

Getting bullied at school
When I moved up to a mixed comprehensive secondary school I experienced a lot of problems with bullying from other pupils. The bullying started within a couple of months. As I am a hyper emotive person I absorb things at full-tilt, such as if someone is frustrated, angry or mocking. When certain people realised that, the problems started.

Sometimes I would have people walking directly behind me and trying to trip me up, and poking or teasing. I struggled with not knowing the barriers between sarcasm and genuineness, and I would take things to heart. If a boy or a girl came up and hugged me tight it would feel like a flame rippling through me because of the sensitivity of my skin. It was highly distressing but I didn’t feel brave enough to say anything because it may have ended up in a confrontation.

'People called me crazy'
Because of my perceived demeanour and because I have autism, which people didn’t know at the time, a lot of people thought I was gay. I was quite eccentric at the time and a lot of people had also called me crazy. Occasionally it would provide some relief because I was hyperactive and that was a label I could fit into quite well. It was like hiding behind a caricature. I’d be hyperactive and then I’d exaggerate it to make them laugh and that stopped them from winding me up.

I started to think, in Year 8 and 9, that maybe they had a point. That’s when I went to my parents and said I’d like to go my GP because this ‘craziness’ might be something else. My parents went with me to the first GP appointment and he recommended I see a specialist at a young people’s health centre that helps young people with autism. At the health centre they gave me and my parents a good deal of literature about Asperger’s Syndrome, autism and the autistic spectrum. They asked me to read through and underline things that I thought related to me, which was really useful as within the first couple of pages I was underlying things everywhere. I was convinced of having Aspergers.

My diagnosis
Two years after my referral my paediatrician gave me a diagnosis. At that point my understanding of reality and fiction were a little bit blurred, so finding out I didn’t have Aspergers but higher-functioning autism was like an exciting plot twist at the end of a book. It helped me understand the spectrum and that’s when it started to click that I’m not alone in this and there are other people I can interact with.

I have always thought of autism as a different language to English. English has its colloquialisms, and to speak in England as an autistic person you have to top up your English as you interact with people. When I fire out loads of conscious thought I think of that as my mother tongue and by being around different people I have adapted English as a second language. Learning German for A Level engaged me a lot because I was using those skills and applying them to my social development, which was incredibly helpful.

Expressing my autism through creative writing
I have been interested in creative writing for a long time and wrote my first story at the age of eight. I also do creative projects with friends, like writing scripts and poetry, and am a cartoonist. I am in my second year of a BA in Creative Writing at the University of Marjon. A lot of the time it helps me express certain elements of my autism that I can’t really describe.

Last summer I started fundraising for Ambitious about Autism at university and I would love to turn that into some sort of career, potentially doing freelance creative community-based work with young people in primary and secondary schools.


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