My Autistic Daughter

Today is my Darling Girl’s 22nd Birthday. I had BIG PLANS to post this earlier today but true to our chaotic lifestyle, today was chaotic.

Jude decided that he wasn’t going to school, so I attended Grade 3…..it was about as awesome as it sounds. We came home after recess and then I had to leave for an appointment with our psychiatrist regarding Jeremy moving towards adult supports. It was epic. As soon as we got home from that, I threw dinner in the oven for Gelica‘s Birthday’s Dinner and then ran out for a chiropractor appointment. We’ve finished dinner, sang happy birthday and now I’m banging this post out.

I asked Geli to share a bit about living as a autistic women. She self-identifies as autistic and I guarantee that if we knew more about how Autism presents in girls that we would have had her tested, when she was younger. In hindsight, there are SO MANY indicators but we just didn’t know. It explains SO much and would have been incredibly helpful information as we parented her.

Without further ado, to continue on with Autism Awareness Month….here is Gelica sharing about what it means to her, to be Autistic. It’s not a bad thing, or something to hide or be ashamed of. She’s incredible just as she is. She just happens to have a brain that processes things differently than a typical person’s brain…..and that’s okay! In fact, it’s fantastic!

I am Autistic.

It’s not something I usually lead with.

If I do, people are generally confused. There’s the whole “you don’t look/act autistic”, “don’t worry, I don’t think you are”, “are you sure…?” statements. I’ve gotten quite a few of these, and I only started self-diagnosing, like, 2 years ago.

But I am. It was a puzzle piece I didn’t know I was missing. But once I got that piece, so many things started making sense.

I look back at my childhood, and I just remember being a confidently quirky kid. I knew I was different and weird, but it’s who I was. So I ran with it.

But knowing that I’m autistic has just shifted a few things into clearer focus.

Horse Obsession

Like how I could wear the exact same outfit, every day, for almost 2 years of school.

Or how I was reading grade 11/12 books in grades 2 and 3. Which is frustrating when you go to a traditional school that filters what it puts in their library and you end up with 5 books in your reading level; or you can take three Geronimo Stilton books home and finish them all in one day and have to go back the very next day, because you can’t take out more than 3 books at a time

Or how I was obsessed with horses. (Mentally.) They used to actually frighten me a bit in person as a child

If you ask my mom, she has a whole list of things that actually make a lot of sense when you look at them through Aspie glasses.

I think being autistic played a huge part in me being able to stay caught up in school while going through cancer treatment

I can remember in elementary school, asking the teacher for more homework. I believe my mom even has video proof. But I can remember the homework I was getting wasn’t ever really a challenge. I had heard the information when it was first taught to us, so I didn’t understand why I needed to regurgitate the information onto worksheets. And so, I didn’t put any effort into making sure the worksheets were correct, so the teacher had no proof that I deserved more challenging homework. I was told to put the effort into the work I was being given, to aim for 100% if I was so smart. But I figured that was wasted effort, and so I just continued on with the boring homework.

But, because I wasn’t challenged or moved up a grade or anything, I was in a decent spot to teach myself grade 8 while going through chemo. In fact, I taught my tutor math, so she could teach her other stuck-at-home students

Granted, the school only gave me the bare minimum of all my coursework, and I don’t know how much of any of it actually counted towards the school barely passing me through grade 8. But I had done enough work that when I returned to school, it didn’t take too much extra effort to catch back up and raise my grades back up to almost A’s.

Currently, I think the biggest thing that discovering I’m autistic has given me, is the information.

I have an explanation.

For my introversion;
for my small-talk aversion;
for the way I think; the way I communicate;
the way I process;
the way I experience emotions and empathy.
It explains why I can not be a receptionist, but why I am amazing at my current job.

I don’t mind coming to this conclusion in young-adulthood. I think if I had been diagnosed as a kid, I would have been challenged more in school, and maybe moved up a grade. I would not have been able to keep up with my class through chemo, then.

But the one thing I think I did miss out on, was a more serious effort to teach me social skills. I seemed to always have at least one friend. But as a kid, I put no effort into making new friends. People came up to me, and made me their friend (and then they were stuck with me). So I pretty much always had someone to play with, but it was never intentional on my part; I would have been fine to sit and read by myself, honestly.

When I finished with cancer treatment, and re-entered society, it was a bit of a culture shock. I had been diagnosed as a pre-teen, when I was most upset about not being able to join a baseball team, because games were on Sundays and my parents were assistant pastors. So when I got back to school, and all that the girls were interested in were boys, make-up and grad dresses; I could not have cared less. But there was suddenly this huge, noticeable divide between myself and all the other students my age. And I suddenly actually felt like I was different.

I spent the rest of high school trying to figure out exactly how and why I was different. And nothing seemed to click just right. And forcing me to go to the church youth group was not going to suddenly fix the problem.
What I’ve come to realize, is that I was never taught social skills. I was never taught how to make friends. So now, as an adult, the one thing I wish I could go back and change, the one thing that might have made an earlier diagnosis more worth it, would be the ability to make friends. Because learning these skills as an adult, is really really hard.

I don’t know if I’ll go through with getting an official diagnosis. I’m still contemplating that. But I definitely am Autistic. And I am so thankful that I now know.

Author: Patricia Culley

I'm the ringmaster of my own circus. Just trying to stay one step ahead of the monkeys.

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