Itsy bitsy spider has always been my hero, of sorts. He thought it was okay to have compulsions and rituals too.
Hi. My name is Daniel Hawthorne and I have a rare disorder known as high functioning autism. I was speech-delayed as a child. In fact, I was almost 7 when I spoke for the first time. Although I could understand speech coming from others fairly well, I could not make the proper sounds myself. Also, my sense of hearing was so very sensitive that even my own voice hurt my ears, so I was reluctant to even try to learn. Once I first spoke, my speech, though awkward at first, slowly but steadily improved over the following years, albeit with considerable difficulty.
However, this was far from being the only way in which this disorder affected me. Since I was unable to interact with others even on a most basic level, I was unable to identify with them. In short, I felt no sense of bonding. I found the human face much too complex to grasp, making it quite uncomfortable - even painful - to try to look at others directly. Thus I avoided doing so as much as possible.
I soon found that the world outside my bubble to be chaotic, confusing, and ever changing. My rigid mind could not accept such a world. Out of this need for order and sameness came my compulsions, my rituals.
Continuous numbness until the age of ten, was for me the norm, due, no doubt, to the endorphins raging through my system at the time. Even when I broke my wrist at the age of six, my limp blue hand looked odd, but did not otherwise hurt. I frequently, therefore, craved the sensation of touch. I had to feel something, anything, to gratify this need. Even rubbing my hands on the bark of a tree provided only temporarily relief.
I went undiagnosed for most of my life, my original "diagnosis" being that I was retarded, and too lazy to say what few words I did know. My mother was thankful I did not have a tumor on my vocal chords. Without knowing the truth until I was well into my adult years, my body became to me a perennial mystery.
Unaware that the disorder had a name, or that anyone else anywhere had these same enigmatic, confusing traits, I felt like a freak, unable to tell anyone of my needs. After all, how could I explain to anyone how crowd noise could cause such confusion among my senses that I could not distinguish as to what information came from what sense? Or how it could, even temporarily, cause me to have such a stupor-like state?
All too often, I found myself at social settings, filled with people innocently talking, and me totally unprepared for the un- welcome assault of meaningful noise on my senses. Unable to simply ignore it, I found myself forced to listen in on and try to make sense of every single conversation going on within the room. It is no wonder, then, that without some protection on the order of ear plugs, my entire nervous system would be quickly and easily overwhelmed, rendering me unable to function.
In June of 1995, after months of intelligence testing, I received the diagnosis, based primarily on the scatter on the test results. I then researched it on the Internet. The traits sounded so much like me, especially as a child that, frankly, I felt violated. Everything suddenly came together, though, and I was relieved. My disorder had a name and a biological cause. That my mother had contracted a "harmless" case of rubella during pregnancy no longer seemed mere coincidence. I also graduated with honors that same month from the University of Arkansas, with a BA in Business Administration.
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