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October Special: A Person’s Letter to the World

As we move through Disability Awareness Month, Starfish Savers is proud to feature someone who gives a wonderful perspective of Autism Spectrum Disorder to the world through a letter:

“Dear world,

The subject of autism is definitely a hard thing to understand, but I hope that I can share, from my perspective, what it’s like to have it. My name is Lauren Vogel, and I’m not exactly what you call the most eloquent of people, or the most learned of people (I am only in college, after all), but I have been living with autism just about my whole life. I am currently twenty-three years old and going to community college, and I am relatively successful. I have dreams of becoming a published author one day, and am working on my original fiction. I write to you right now because there are people out there who have autism and are frequently misunderstood. Autism is unfortunately one of the last acceptable targets — people on the Internet are frequently mocked for it, the media demonizes those with autism (Leigh Alexander, I am looking in your direction) as harassers of women never mind that there are women with autism, and not all people with autism harass women, and autism is frequently seen as an excuse for people to behave unacceptably. I am not a psychologist, but I can at least provide my own perspective on having autism. I was diagnosed with it, if I recall correctly, when I was two years old, and I stopped talking. In terms of autism symptoms, this is considered a classic case, and I was fortunately helped out by a fantastic teacher who didn’t give up until I learned how to talk. It’s safe to say that according to my mom, we apparently had a fantastic relationship, and she even taught my sibling (who prefers to be referred as such) and I how to swim. It’s safe to say, also, that I had my share of fantastic teachers who encouraged my passions and talents for writing, and I had my share of teachers who seemed to take my problems as a personal affront to them. I can recall a teacher who encouraged my talents in writing a great deal, and I can also remember an assistant teacher who once sent me to the principal’s office because she thought I was laughing at her (for the record, I wasn’t; she took my issues paying attention, and their improvement when she once called my mom into the classroom to see what a bad kid I was, as a personal affront). I can recall switching schools twice, once when I was about to start sixth grade, and once when I was in high school. I can’t say what caused my autism, whether it was genetic or not. For all intents and purposes, it was as random as, say, a meteorite falling on my house. There may have been an uncle in my family with a learning disability, but I don’t know whether or not he was autistic. In the absence of not knowing where my autism comes from, I must learn to live with it, and embrace it as a part of me. Autism is not a curse or a disability; it’s something that’s simply a difference. I might as well tell you, also, what it’s like to live with autism. I am a woman myself, and I have never harassed a woman on the Internet in my life. (I would, in fact, suggest that there are some in anti-GamerGate who have their own issues, such as defending a pedophile, and ridiculing a domestic abuse victim, but that is something for another letter without a doubt. Full disclosure: I am neither pro-GamerGate nor anti-GamerGate; I have been out of this conflict for quite some time) My interests tend to be relatively intense — my current interests are Star Wars (more specifically, The Force Awakens), horror movies, and writing. Since I was little, I’ve been writing a lot about strong female characters, as it seems unfair that women don’t get to go on the same adventures that the men get to go on. I seek to one day become a published author, though currently I would consider myself as only having published one story on Wattpad for NaNoWriMo. I would consider myself socially awkward without a doubt, but I would not consider myself a harasser. Society tends to treat non-extroverts like they’re freaks, which is not true in the slightest. If anything, I tend to overanalyze my words, and worry about saying the wrong thing too much. It does occasionally feel like I’m in a minefield of social etiquette that I occasionally misstep in, ironically, sometimes when I’m trying hard to not misstep! Mostly I prefer to keep to myself — another trait of those with autism is sensory overload. I can recall a story that my mother told me that when I was one year old, I was put in the babies section of a daycare for the terrible crime of not being able to eat my food the correct way, and I was instantly overwhelmed by the sounds there (as we all know, babies can be incredibly noisy), causing me to scream as well. I still have problems with noise and overstimulation, such as the matter of too many people being around, and there being too much noise for me. I tend to be rather reclusive and keeping to myself, though sometimes when I need human contact, I can venture out of my shell. I think it helps that I was all but dragged kicking and screaming into social interactions when I was a small child. Back then, I would have preferred to be alone with either a book or a computer, and while I wasn’t necessarily friendless, I didn’t make friends as easily as others did, I didn’t interact well with others. As much as I had issues with authority, teachers were also more relatable to me than other children my age. Social interactions are still admittedly intimidating to me, and writing is definitely more comfortable than talking. It’s always been. In all though, I would say that if there’s anything I can share about having autism, it’s that it’s not what others make it out to be. Autism, for me personally, is just a part of my personal fabric, as much as the street where I grew up and the school that I went to. It’s not the end of the road for me. Those with autism, like me: it does get better. It’s not the end of the road. You can live, and more than that, you can thrive. My own story isn’t finished yet, but the fact that I have made it through to college is definitely an accomplishment in and of itself. You can do that too.



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