Every now and then I come across something that really hits close to home. As an adult women on the spectrum – who was diagnosed late – the following post REALLY stopped me in my tracks.
Yes, she’s a little on the “quirky” side, but on the whole, she seems to be coping; you’ll just leave things as they are. Besides, you don’t want to “label” her unnecessarily.
Thing is, though, we’re always labeling people.
Clever. Talented. Bright. Inquisitive. Curious. Compassionate. Kind. Funny. Sociable. Chatty. Tomboyish. Earnest. Bookish. Quirky. Eccentric. Precocious. Gifted.
Those don’t sound too bad, do they? Sure, you might be more keen on some of these “labels” than others, but on the whole, there’s not a lot to worry about here.
What about these?
Bossy. Opinionated. Controlling. Aloof. Selfish. Rude. Shy. Anxious. Naughty. Irritating. Antisocial. In your face.
Is it that you don’t want to label your girl, or is it simply that you don’t want to label her as “autistic”?
She’s fine now. She’s coping, as you say. But what about in the future?
As she grows older, other labels might start to creep in.
Withdrawn. Lazy. Lacking in application. Arrogant. Inconsistent. Over-sensitive. Away with the fairies. Disorganized. Teacher’s pet. Uncooperative. Defiant. Difficult. Out of control.
And it might happen that you seek out professional help on behalf of this girl, who may seem to be so brilliant in some ways, but to be struggling so desperately in others. And then, other labels might be used.
Bipolar. Borderline. Obsessive-compulsive. Clinically depressed or anxious. Anorexic. Bulimic. Suicidal.
Some of these will be wide off the mark. Observed autistic behaviors will be wrongly categorized, and a wrong diagnosis applied. And the struggles will continue.
Other labels might be correct. She might feel pain, confusion, frustration, stress, and exhaustion from puzzling over her identity; from trying, or at times refusing, to fit in, in a world which she doesn’t understand and which doesn’t understand her. From the onslaught of overwhelming information and sensory input. From trying to “cope.”
At times she may try to “mask.” And if she does so, sometimes she will do so successfully. And at other times she will get it woefully wrong. And either way, it’ll be stressful to keep up, year upon year upon year.
She might struggle with education and employment.
Or she might still do well in life.
But even if she does, something inside will never feel quite “right.” Something will be missing. The key. The glue. I hesitate to use the words “puzzle piece,” they’re too loaded and emotionally charged for many of us; but perhaps they’re appropriate here. This girl is not the puzzle, but she isn’t getting the full picture. Something that should be identified will not be.