What Does it Mean to be “Different”?

teenMany of you probably know that I am an openly high-functioning autistic college student, and I am very proud of identifying with this. I am open because I want to make a difference and inspire others to feel the same way. I own my quirks, my strengths, and my weaknesses. I am a very proud individual. I know that unlike many others, I don’t have to put in the same amount of efforts to study as I absorb information quickly. I am a quick thinker and in most instances, and even quicker writer. I create art. I know how to make an impact without sitting there thinking, “How does this look on my resume?”

I have my moments that make me the person I am, too. Knowing where to sit in a lecture hall with 500+ students is a daunting task. I can’t handle the noise level of a basketball game because of the venue’s acoustics. I figure out what restaurants to go to because of my limited menu choices. I am very sensitive, and at times, shy. If you know me, these things probably don’t bother you. If autism is also your reality, you know there are many other different issues you could encounter. The summary I’ve given you is very mild-sounding and probably isn’t a big deal.

It IS a Big Deal
Being openly “different” in today’s society is not what I thought it would be. Given the support of other “different” communities outside of ASD and other Isms, I thought I would probably get treated with the similar love and respect that my peers have treated others with. Think of songs like “Same Love”, “Born This Way”, and all of those beautiful multicultural initiatives out there. I hate to say, often, I am not treated with that same acceptance and respect.

Treated Differently for Being Open
I never thought I would want to write the doom and gloom of this silent reality nobody admits to, but I want to start a conversation. No one flat outs asks you if you have a disability when it’s not exactly “visible”. I don’t LOOK much different than the girl who sits next to me in lecture hall. Many exceptionalities like ADHD, Asperger’s/HFA and some others often have this same issue. A peer will say to you, “But you don’t LOOK disabled”. I’ve had people say that to me or just assume every single Special-Ism is a physical issue. This is just an obliviousness or an ignorance. People forget that there are more than just physical disabilities, race, sexual orientation, and gender that could make somebody different.

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