This guest story is by Mike McDonald, a young man on the Autism spectrum from Massachusetts. He spends his time working as a Graphic Designer at home. Also, he holds a part time job at a liquor store, in which he enjoys learning about the different kinds of wines and beers that come in. He hopes one day to publish his poetry collection that he has been working on and to hopefully publish a novel as well.
My name is Mike. I was born on May 9th, 1987. I have two older siblings: a brother and a sister. I am very close with both of them. I was diagnosed with autism at the age of six. I never really thought of myself as different at all. Honestly, I thought I was like everyone else. However, I had trouble connecting and becoming friends with my classmates. No one invited me to play on the playground, and no one really wanted to hangout with me. Throughout my childhood, I had trouble making and keeping friends. I never knew autism was the reason I had so much trouble. The friends I managed to have would do things without my understanding. For example, they would laugh, and I would get upset because they were laughing at me, or whenever they did something, I found rather rude or inappropriate turned it was them joking around. It was frustrating, and it bothered my mother to see me struggle with friends. This struggle would continue all throughout my school life (elementary, middle school, high school and even college and even now I tend to have a hard time with it).
In June 2001, I moved to a new town in Massachusetts. Moving is hard for everyone, but for someone with autism, it’s an even bigger challenge. New town, new house, meeting new people, new school, etc. People living with autism have a hard time with changes, so you can imagine how this was for me at that time. When I started high school, that was when my parents told me about my autism. Regretfully, I was not accepting about it because I felt like I wasn’t different than anyone else. I was wrong. I was bullied, made fun of, mocked, and teased. It was very difficult. Looking back, I masked the fact I was autistic and tried to fit in. Sadly, that didn’t work at all. I tried acting like other people around me, and it was not good. Everyone there felt like I was a weirdo. Eventually, I learned to accept and embrace about living with Autism. I am glad I did. I acted more like myself and even made some friends along the way who I still am friends with even today.
All in all, I wouldn’t trade my autism for anything in the world, despite the hardships it has brought me. I feel like it’s been a gift to me as well. Some of my friends have told me it is even a super power! Living with autism, I feel it gives me a responsibility to help people with the condition, and to help everyone else who struggles to fit in society and find acceptance in their lives. The most important lesson I learned being autistic and accepting my autism is that it’s ok to be different, there is nothing wrong with it at all. It is definitely not a bad thing at all, and it most certainly is not a curse or something to cure.