I am Autistic and it has become a positive aspect of my life. I am a voracious researcher. I can recognize patterns in chaos. I am a natural mediator and leader. I am able to make associations between seemingly unrelated things. I’m an out-of-the-box thinker who is diligent and forthright. I am comfortably able to spend long hours focused on tasks. I can build and design unique items and create full-functioning blueprints in my mind. I see and understand human behavior in ways others cannot. I am an auto-didactic learner and can teach myself complicated tasks and skills and I have a natural and intense attention to detail. This is a long list of positives and it is still only the tip of the iceberg.
The positives of autism have been realized through the challenges set before me. I was diagnosed after experiencing Autistic Burnout in my late thirties and when I was given the diagnosis, it was as if someone whispered the secrets of the universe in my ear. Things that I could never understand before made perfect sense. Being diagnosed late in life also meant living a long time without knowing why things felt out of place and why connecting with others was nearly impossible. The moment I received my diagnosis, I finally realized I wasn’t broken.
Growing up I could never quite understand social communication, so I became a natural observer and interpreter of body language, cloaked messages, and micro-expressions. The outcome of being an outsider who was desperate to understand others allowed me to see things from their perspectives. In turn, this provided me with an exquisite ability to relate to others even if I couldn’t communicate that to them. Observing my behavior and that of those around me for a lifetime, contributed to a highly developed understanding of human behavior and a keen desire to know where it grew from. Being autistic played a large role in my pursuit of a psychology degree, though I didn’t know it at the time.
Having many special interests has been one of the best aspects of being autistic. I volunteer in my local community as a Board Member and Music Director at our local radio station. I play the trumpet, birdwatch, sew, knit, crochet, and love planting and gardening. I grew up riding four-wheelers and spent my twenties racing cars. I enjoy building things out of wood, played a major role in renovating our home, and volunteer with Habitat for Humanity when possible.
Finally, along with many autistics I lack a self-identity which made it difficult to know myself and what I wanted to do in life. I began using my love and skill in research to understand autism and in the process, I learned two sad realities: there is a lack of research about women on the spectrum and nearly 85% of autistics are unemployed or underemployed. These realizations motivated me to use my own experiences to become an advocate for women and my degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology to focus on increasing neurodiversity in the workplace. Ultimately, the most positive aspect of being autistic is that my diagnosis guided me towards my life’s purpose.
Connect with Nicole at https://www.linkedin.com/in/nseaward/
Grit & Flow is proud to announce they have contracted with Nicole to help with research for creating programs to support the differently-abled and neurodiverse community. Welcome to the team, Nicole!