for older members: what was it like to have autism back then

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ZombieBrideXD
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02 Dec 2013, 4:31 pm

this is for the older members of wrong planet

i want to know, what it was like, and how you were treated as an autistic person when the diagnoses was relatively new?


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Thelibrarian
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02 Dec 2013, 4:40 pm

I'm 51, and had never heard of AS until I was casually diagnosed with it about five years ago. Not knowing why I was so different caused me untold grief; I thought I was uniquely defective--a freak of nature. Everybody thought I was the way I was because I wanted to be, and I was alone as it is possible to be.

On the bright side, this unfortunate situation made me very independent, and able to stand on my own two legs. My parents made it very clear to me that I would either support myself or live on the streets.

I can also say that I realized I was different, and planned my life in a manner that worked for me, such as living far removed from other people, and saving every dime I possibly could. I was also relatively happy before I was diagnosed, since I had started to come to terms with who I am. Still, I will never forget the sense of relief I felt when I read about the symptoms of AS for the first time; it was one of the happiest days of my life to realize I wasn't completely alone.



redrobin62
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02 Dec 2013, 4:42 pm

I was only diagnosed about two years ago. I didn't even know about all this stuff till I started researching it two years ago.

Now that I'm on the spectrum, I can look back at all my hard and difficult times and see where the causes of it came from.

I know now why it's hard for me to make and maintain friends and why I will never see eye to eye with my own peer group because of the reason why I just don't fit in.



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02 Dec 2013, 5:02 pm

I'm 42 and so I grew up in a world where autism was a very rare condition indeed (sardonic laugh).

My chief memory is of being bulled by teachers who (for obvious reasons) couldn't understand why I wouldn't learn the same way as my classmates, and who (for less obvious reasons) decided I was 'rude', 'cocky', 'arrogant' and 'needed taking down a peg or two'. In fact, this process of being taken down a peg or two went on for so long that I am still surprised I survived it at all.

I also have dyscalculia, which was unheard of at the time. It meant that I could never remember which was right and which was left (Until my mother taught me to remember that: "You write with your right") and couldn't tell the time until I was ten, because no-one had bothered to explain to me which way round the clock's hands moved (so I was fine with 'o clock' and 'half past', but 'quarter to' and 'quarter past' defeated me entirely). This ended up with me resitting O-Level Maths three times, in a desperate attempt to squeak a pass (I managed a grade C on the third attempt) and led to me having to drop physics as one of my A-Levels because I quite simply couldn't do the maths (I had wanted to go to university to study nuclear physics).

I was hyperlexic though (spoke my first word aged five months, and taught myself to read 'proper books' by the age of two) so my reading age was well ahead of everyone else in the year.

Nowadays, I would have had a learning support worker and God knows what else.

As it was, it all just seemed part of the horrible school system.

I had fun growing up, but not in school.



Willard
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02 Dec 2013, 5:46 pm

Born in '59, grew up in the 60s and 70s, when High Functioning Autism was known as: "What the F__K is WRONG with you!?" :?

In the public school system, the word Autism did not exist. You were either Down Syndrome retarded or you were normal, there were no other categories. If you were apparently normal, but had any learning difficulties (like undiagnosed Dyslexia which was also unknown at the time), you were "stupid" or "slow," and got put in a remedial class with other "dumb kids."

For those of us with undiagnosed HFA, who seemed bright and intelligent, but quiet, shy and awkward, there were unofficial categories, like "geek" and "nerd" and "weirdo," but that only insured that you were excluded from most group activities (or at least picked last) and when you were included, you were ridiculed and humiliated for not being as competent or graceful at the activity as everybody else.

Parents and teachers, instead of being supportive, continually berated you for "being difficult" or "not trying hard enough." You allowed yourself to lose control of your emotions and engage in a Meltdown only if you were willing to endure the whipping with your father's belt that would invariably follow.

In my case, my parents tried for years to turn me into a normal kid, by constantly pushing me into social situations - of course, it didn't work. When I was 9 years old and my sister came along and turned out to be perfectly normal, I was finally allowed to retreat to my bedroom and be left alone with my books and records and sketch pads, but the message had been made abundantly clear: The person I was naturally was a bitter disappointment to my family and they had done everything in their power to "fix" me, but I was a miserable, irredeemable failure of a human being.

Then came adolescence and the challenge of talking to girls. 8O

Over the years, you developed coping mechanisms out of sheer necessity. You didn't function well, but you found ways to function adequately. You learned to fake just enough "normal" behaviors to keep from attracting stares and glares - which is to say, you learned to be invisible.

Now, keep in mind that all this time, you had no knowledge that anyone else on the planet was having similar problems. You might meet other freaks and geeks on rare occasions, but for the most part you were simply isolated inside your own head. Nobody understood what you were experiencing or feeling and nobody cared. You could clearly see that everyone around you was functioning much more easily and efficiently than you and you could only assume that there was just some defect in your personality that at once made you intellectually sharper than most of your peers and yet a completely inept disaster at connecting with other human beings. Secretly, you begin to tell yourself that maybe the defect is in them - that they simply aren't smart enough to "get you."

And that is how you slog your way through life. Until one day, you discover that your condition is not unique to you, its not a defect in your personality, it's actually a defect in your brain, shared by many others, and it's not your fault. I don't know if you can imagine what a relief that is after thirty, forty or fifty years of being a pariah. It's a tremendous unburdening, a catharsis. It doesn't really change anything, but at the same time, it changes everything. It can transform your sense of who you are as an individual, by - for perhaps the first time in your life - connecting you to other people. Not by doing anything to change your faulty social skills, but by knowing there are others like you. You're not the only alien marooned on this planet. That's an emotional game changer.



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02 Dec 2013, 8:18 pm

Thanks Willard :-) you saved me a bunch of typing. Your srory sounds like mine but different because I'm 19 years older (people were really clueless) and my first thought when the reality of my AS fuly dawned on me, two years ago, was relief because I realized, it being well known how "pink monkeys" are treated, why my treatment by others was just following "social norms."

Now, with the end of middle age hoovering just beyond the horizon, this helps me focus on matters of importance. And, best of all, helps to repair old relationships.

Denny



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02 Dec 2013, 9:17 pm

I'm 35; I don't know if this qualifies me as "older," but I finished school in 1996, probably right around the time the OP was born. Things were different then.

I was never really bullied by teachers. More than anything I think I dumbfounded some of them, while others thought I was a slacker and an anti-social. My one big teacher memory was in 12th grade, which was otherwise a good year for me as far as school went. I went through a period of time where I had no friends, at least during my lunch period. Instead of sitting table-for-one in the cafeteria, I opted to go to the library every day, but in order to do that I needed a pass from a teacher. I asked for a pass one day (it'd become a daily occurence), and the teacher told me (paraphrasing), "No. You don't need a library pass. You're a hermit. You need to go to the lunchroom and socialize." Teachers never understood me, there were no programs for weird kids like me, but this...this was a real shock to me. I felt as though I'd been smacked in the face.

My main problems were caused by other students who thought I was a "p****" and a "nerd" and a "dweeb" and a "dork," etc, etc, etc. The nerd thing was comical to me because I was never known as a particularly great student.

Anyway, those were my experiences. It wasn't until years and years later I'd heard of Asperger's or even had even a clue as to what Autism was.


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02 Dec 2013, 10:51 pm

I;m nearly 60. All I knew about autism was that they were much more of a tragedy than mongoloids [Down Syndrome] because they were either "that way"because of their evil mothers, or worse, because they had no soul.

I was an autistic who desperately wanted to fit in, but I could'nt, not even a little bit. The teachers and other kids thought I was mentally retarded and my parents thought I was a liar and lazy because I had been reading fluently before I was 3 years old.

My family gave dysfunctional a new name. I guess it would be "Vickydidit," because I was blamed and beaten for what everyone did. Even when my nearly 22 year old brother savagely raped [and impregnated] a 13 year old girl in our home. Somehow, that was even my fault.

At school I had selective mutism for 7 years. The kids would laugh at me until I ran to the bathroom to throw up.

I bloomed really late, really fast, and Dolly Parton huge on a tiny body over one summer. When I returned to school in the fall the boys shoved metal hangers under my clothes to force the "toilet paper" they thought I had stuffed with out. They used the hangers because they did not want to get their hands on 'the disgusting cow." When I had my mastectomy, I was relieved that those scars were gone.

Long story of how I got the job, but I worked as a Playboy bunny in the Denver club when I was 18,. It was only for a few weeks.I have never been beautiful, by any stretch, but They loved me so much because I seemed so pure and innocent. I WAS so pure and innocent. Those polaroid cameras were brand new, and I had someone at the club take pictures. I sent them to many people who had laughed at me for being ugly and voted the "girl they wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole". The only thing I have stolen in my life is a bunny outfit. [my family still does not know I was a bunny, because I was afraid that they'd call me a slut, which they already did]

I was not unhappy as a child because I had a dream of becoming an adult and escaping, I was going to have babies who were loved. I thought it would be so much better, and it was. I was in my late teens before I realized that I needed to put on an act to be accepted. Normal like the others was way too hard, but dumb blonde was easy to do, and I had the equipment. I don't really know what you all want to hear. Maybe specific questions would be good.



Samian
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02 Dec 2013, 11:35 pm

Hey Willard, I can really relate to what you wrote too!

I'm a few years younger but the story is much the same. I tried really hard to fit in and it largely just caused me more anguish - in hindsight I should have just joined the computer club and hung out with my own kind.

I think the teachers must have thought I could somehow be cured of the behaviours they didn't like but I had no knowledge or control over any of that.

can't complaint though - I have relatively few issues to worry me these days.



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02 Dec 2013, 11:43 pm

When I was young only severely autistic people were diagnosed and then they were probably institutionalized.
Young autistic people today are taught about social cues. They know why they have problems.
I never heard of social cues. I didn't pay attention to other people enough to notice. I didn't imitate other people.
I didn't know how to act like a human being.
People were always telling me there was something wrong with me.
My mother told me I was sick in the head. My brothers wouldn't have anything to do with me, they told me I didn't know how to act. My father thought I should go to finishing school to learn how to act like a young lady.
My parents pushed me into situations where I got abused by boys who got me drunk and I didn't even care. I didn't even know enough to care and I didn't know how to defend myself or stick up for myself. I didn't understand people or their motives. I believed everything people told me. I was very immature.
That was all a long time ago. I survived and I'm a grandmother now.



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02 Dec 2013, 11:48 pm

Everything except the dyscalculia and the problems that are particular to girls could have been pulled from my own history.

Willard wrote:
Born in '59, grew up in the 60s and 70s, when High Functioning Autism was known as: "What the F__K is WRONG with you!?"

I was born in '57. When it wasn't "What the F ..." (et cetera), it was "For someone who's supposed to be smart, you sure are stupid". My IQ was somewhere around 140 in the third grade, and I was reading at the 12th grade level, but I could not explain any of my thoughts and feelings without a lot of hand-waving and vocalized sound effects. I would freeze and go mute if I had to speak in front of the class, and the teachers seemed to delight in ridiculing me in front of the other kids. However, my writing style was "too mature", and some teachers accused me of plagiarizing because the themes in my short stories were "too dark" and "too involved" for a child my age. I stopped writing by the time I reached high school, and did not take it up again until I was in my thirties.

I could go on ... but that's material for The Haven, not G.A.D.



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03 Dec 2013, 12:24 am

Before I start I have posted versions this story a few times. There are a few additions and some rewording.

Like others have said in so many words "What diagnosis?" Diagnoses was something that happened to me this summer just before my 56th birthday. Like Fnord I was born in 1957.

In the 60s and most of the 70s the description of me by adults were variations of worse then expected and disappointing. My IQ was high (don't remember the number) my grades were barely enough to pass because I hated school. I was unlike the druggies/stoners which was the mainstream in the 1970's and my pedestrian grades meant I did not belong with the smart kids either. Willard had people yelling "What the f**k is wrong with you". Nobody said anything much to me, the other kids they just sat as far away as possible or attacked me. There was no internet never mind internet forums to vent and find like minded people.

Things changed radically the last two years of college into my early adulthood during the late 1970's through the 1980's. That is when I remember the words "geek" and "nerd" coming into use. They were not compliments by any means but at least it was some sort of description for me. Around that time came what we loosely called "New Wave" music the beginnings of alternative or indie rock. I loved it immediately. A lot of the New Wave musicians were geeks or nerds especially in the early years(Gary Numan is a self diagnosed aspie). There was David Bryne lead singer of the Talking Heads his vocals to me sounded like a guy surrounded by toughs about to get beat up. I could relate. You had Devo and Elvis Costello they look, sounded and preformed like spastics just like me. And they even got a little bit popular meaning there were others who if not like me were "different" and doing ok. In 1982 a radio station in my area changed their format to New Wave and their slogan was "Dare to Be Different" what could be better? I became a computer programmer because it was a solitary job and as un sales as can be. I did fairly well. I got along with co workers. I was accepting that I was different even if I did not know why I was that way. There was no social media, much less multitasking and much less team work then today which was was a good thing. At the time I had thought I had outgrown the nightmare of my youth. Nobody was calling me disappointing anymore. As Cyndi Lauper sang back then "Money Changes Everything". But looking back the signs were still there. For the most part when I went out I did it myself and did things my way. Romance etc why bother? The whole dating GAME process seemed like a nightmare I wanted no part of. I knew even back then I knew I was too incompetent to do it. I would only hurt (not psychically) the poor girl and myself. Luckily I am one of those Aspies who have no great need to have friends and more.

Fast forward to the 1990's my 30's, early 40's. Alternative Rock was mainstream but now I was too old. My career was gradually declining. I stayed 5 to 7 years in positions but if there was a downsizing or merger I was the one let go. Even with the booming economy of the late 1990s it took me almost 2 years to find a new position and I had no clue why. After all they all said my resume looked good. Now I realize because I know NT's do not say what they mean what they were trying to tell me was I was the problem not my skills. Autism? that was "Rainman" not me. In my early 40's "Daring to be Different" was not cool anymore.


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Last edited by ASPartOfMe on 03 Dec 2013, 2:56 pm, edited 7 times in total.

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03 Dec 2013, 12:45 am

I was born in 1969. The doctor told my parents to discipline it out of me. I am not sure he intended "beat" it out of him, but that's how my folks interpreted it anyways. The teachers at school used to throw chalkboard erasers at me and one repeatedly threaten to beat me up. School concessions, extra help, IEPs were all non existent unless you were intellectually challenged. Beat and told to suck it up. What a horrible generation of people.



cardinality
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03 Dec 2013, 1:34 am

SG78 wrote:
I'm 35; I don't know if this qualifies me as "older," but I finished school in 1996, probably right around the time the OP was born. Things were different then.


Same here, was born in 1978 & just turned 35 last month. Finished high school in 1997. (Where has the time gone?! :eek:)

Quote:
I was never really bullied by teachers. More than anything I think I dumbfounded some of them, while others thought I was a slacker and an anti-social. My one big teacher memory was in 12th grade, which was otherwise a good year for me as far as school went. I went through a period of time where I had no friends, at least during my lunch period. Instead of sitting table-for-one in the cafeteria, I opted to go to the library every day, but in order to do that I needed a pass from a teacher. I asked for a pass one day (it'd become a daily occurence), and the teacher told me (paraphrasing), "No. You don't need a library pass. You're a hermit. You need to go to the lunchroom and socialize." Teachers never understood me, there were no programs for weird kids like me, but this...this was a real shock to me. I felt as though I'd been smacked in the face.


Oh, yes, this!! ! I did this too, wolfed down my lunch as fast as I could and then bolted to the library for the rest of the lunch period. (We didn't need a pass, luckily.) I'd had a computer w/ Internet access since I was 13 (so approx. 1992?) and I spent most of my library time catching up on bulletin boards, reading about special interests, or teaching myself HTML and learning about web servers.

My teachers usually loved me because, hello, I was smart and nerdy, but I never "worked to my potential," and was constantly told that I just needed to try harder, that I wasn't studying enough, etc. I'd be bored out of my gourd in class because I'd already read through the entire textbook, it took me 5 mins or less to understand an entire lecture period's worth of material, etc. I also fit the profile for NVLD (non-verbal learning disability) along with my ASD, so none of my teachers could understand why I seemed so articulate and gifted but could barely do basic math. I was always kind of a space cadet, off in my own little world, and being a wee gothlet back then, I wore some pretty outlandish getups to school. :) I was bullied mercilessly from the day we moved to the school district, when I was in 6th grade, until the day I graduated. The school district really didn't do much to punish those involved, but one girl in particular did get the fear of G-d put into her by her parents, and she eventually sincerely apologized to me. That was about it for me in terms of justice for the PTSD-inducing psychological torture I experienced in that damned school district.

My high school guidance counselor told me that I "probably wasn't a good college candidate since I was so anti-social," and meanwhile, I had excellent grades in English, art, social studies, etc. A**hole! (I still hate that guy!) If someone had actually helped me figure out what to do about college, I might've been a successful writer or artist by now, but I ended up going to community college and flailed around there for the next 6 years, going alternately full- or part-time depending on how I was coping at the moment. (I did eventually complete a bachelor's and most of a master's, bailed before I could finish my thesis bc of stress/anxiety & funding issues. My professors always loved me and I always got to participate in crazy fun research projects, along with being a sought-after tutor.)

Oh, and the worst part was that I had such a terrible fear of public speaking...still do to this day. I literally shake from head to toe, my voice quavers and sounds breathy, I get cold and clammy, can't breathe, and generally just want to cry. It's so humiliating to be struggling that hard just to speak and have the whole room laughing at you because you look like a fool to them. :cries: I pretty much chose my college classes based on likelihood of public speaking and level of math difficulty. :( I wish someone had thought to at least test me for a LD back in the day...I mean, it isn't normal for a high school kid to test in the 99th percentile in nearly everything except math! I always wanted to be a biologist or ecologist, but because I never got the learning assistance that I needed, I had to give up on that. I also wish someone had identified that I have ADD-ish issues, because I've had to put so much energy into managing my scatterbrained-ness over the years.

I spent my entire life feeling like a defective freak and that I was "just smart enough to know how I'm stupid." What is the point of being good with language and processing information if you can't even do ridiculously simple math and can't keep track of stupid details? :(

I just got diagnosed last month and I seriously cried in the office when I got the results of my assessment. I finally understand why I am the way I am, after all these years. I can stop feeling ashamed of myself for not being able to be the way the world wants me to be. That's been an incredible source of healing and relief for me.


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03 Dec 2013, 1:40 am

I'm in my mid 40s and as a child I was considered fairly normal despite showing traits that could today be classed as Aspergers. My parents did send my and my brother to a psychologist. My brother had a speech delay and was classed as handicapped back in the early 1970s while I was considered to have a mild learning disability. We both grew out of these and considered ourselves NTs until my daughter was diagnosed...



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03 Dec 2013, 1:44 am

What diagnosis? If you were unlucky enough to get some kind of mental or physical diagnosis you were removed from the regular schools and put in the "special school" for the confused and downtrodden. If you wound up there life pretty much ended. Today this sounds completely politically incorrect but this was the reality in the 1970s.

People like me were considered to have "emotionally problems" for which the treatment included just shutting up and avoiding confrontation with the teachers who would hit you for saying the wrong thing. It was conform or die mentality and the teachers were the leaders of it.

If you also had a behaviour problem you were sent to the "alternate" school which but this was for the violent and stupid kids, not people like me who were apparently intelligent but were lazy and didn't apply themselves.

Towards the end of the decade the Brain Doctors started on the path of drugging us because we were "depressed" which basically made you a zombie. It didn't matter what the mental condition was, they just drugged you into oblivion. My parents couldn't afford the meds and didn't think that was the answer so luckily I just went without which to me was a good thing.

I was just the weirdo loner kid at senior secondary school who occasionally could be taunted into meltdown for the students and teachers' entertainment. The best day of my teenage life was when a new Teacher doing her practicum and a group of her favourite students taunted me to meltdown (seeing red, you know the type) during social studies and I got violent. It was near graduation so I was excused from classes for the remaining two months, was given assignments, left in the library and only had to write exams to finish school.


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