November 2018 marks one year since my “official” clinical diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. When brainstorming what I wanted to write about, I was finding it difficult to come up with anything meaningful or interesting. For the last 6 months of doing Seeking Sara, I’ve been doing 98% of the talking, and I thought it was time to turn to loved ones in my life for their thoughts and insights on my Autistic experience.
The interviews will be with:
1) New friends
2) A high school friend: Anniversary Interview 2: High School Friend
3) My wife: Anniversary Interview 3: My Wife
4) My parents: Anniversary Interview 4: My Parents
Then, I will share my reflections on the experience. Enjoy!
Note: These are all people who have been actively trying to learn about Autistic people and how to better interact with and support us. Please be understanding and forgiving of anything like using person-first language (“person with autism”), using functioning labels, or anything of that nature. All of those being interviewed are being gracious enough to agree to put themselves in a vulnerable situation, and I really appreciate that. Thanks!
New Friends: Ivana and Nicole
1) What were some of your initial thoughts when I told you I’m Autistic?
Ivana: I don’t think you told me directly. I think I read it on your blog. To be honest I didn’t think much of it. I know other people with autism and know about it. I know there is a huge range as far as traits go. I was very impressed by how open you are and that you are using your experiences to help out and reach out to other people. I also thought you were a great writer!
Nicole: Initially I was surprised and curious to know more about your diagnosis. As someone who works with children, I’ve had some experience with children who are on the autism spectrum, but these interactions were typically with youth who are “low functioning” or fall on the more “severe end” of the spectrum. My Mom also has worked for several years as a classroom aide for elementary students with IEPs, very often those with “severe autism” included. You didn’t seem to meet my perception of what autism looked like, hence the surprise and curiosity! I don’t think it would have ever occurred to me that were an autistic person if you hadn’t told me.
2) How has your perception of me changed since I told you? What do you notice about me now?
Ivana: I did notice sometimes when we have been talking you might look away and focus on something else. I assumed that helped you when there might be too much stimulation in the environment. I also noticed how you sat at the end of the table at the [wedding] rehearsal dinner, because I know that’s something I do as well to cope with my anxiety. 😊
Nicole: I don’t think my perception changed all that much, but that is at least partially due to the fact that I didn’t know you for very long before I knew you were autistic. What I notice most may be your behavior in social interactions— your comfort level and engagement with others can vary and if you seem to be taking some alone time, I respect that. Reading your post about small talk and eye contact was really interesting to me and something I keep in mind if we may be socializing together.
3) Is there anything about me that made more sense to you after I told you?
Ivana: I think I got a better understanding why you and I connected so easily & quickly. I have social issues that I struggle with.
Nicole: As I mentioned before, since I didn’t know you very well before I knew you were autistic, I don’t think I had the opportunity to really notice any differences or reflect on behaviors.
4) What kind of positive changes have you seen in me in the last year? How have I grown or changed?
Ivana: I don’t think I’ve known you long enough to really answer this, but I know as we’ve gotten to know each other better you have opened up to me much more. Every time we see each other I feel like I know you more.
Nicole: You’ve become more confident in yourself! You have grown more comfortable in your communication with others and in sharing your personal stories and experiences, both in person and via the blog (of course).
5) What do you think of Seeking Sara? What kinds of things are still unclear to you? What would you like me to write about in the future?
Ivana: I think your blog is wonderful and I know I’ve learned things from reading it. I’m not sure if you’ve already written about this but I’d like to know more about how you started writing. Did you already have a blog before your diagnosis? What really makes you want to share your experiences? Were you hesitant about sharing in anyway?
Nicole: I think Seeking Sara is wonderful and applaud your bravery to share so much about yourself with others! You have really opened my eyes to the variety of experiences and struggles those with autism can have on a daily basis, and I’ve gained a better understanding of what it means to be an autistic adult especially. Your post about sensory issues with foods specifically really made me think about how such a basic task such as eating can be a challenge.
I truly appreciate that your writing makes me think about many everyday experiences that I take for granted, or don’t think about at all. I’d love to hear more advice for how I can be helpful and supportive to those with autism, as well as more about your personal experiences from day to day.
A huge, huge thank you to Ivana and Nicole for being so gracious and agreeing to do this interview. You’re both awesome!!
The next interview will be with one of my high school friends.
Thanks for reading!
[image description: A picture of red tulips with a big white rectangle placed on top of it. Text on a blue box reads, “Interviewing My New Friends About My Autistic Self.” The words “New Friends” are written in red while the rest is written in white.]