By Jessie Evelyn Crutchfield
Autism is one word trying to describe millions of stories. I saw this saying once and it has always stuck with me. Everyone I have ever met that is on the spectrum is unique in their own way. This is my unique story. I am a high functioning autistic individual who views the world differently from others. I can function like the so-called normal individuals around me, but I have my quirks and flaws that make me stand out from them. My quirks include creating my own schedule and routine that I can work with, being the most organized person in my household, color coding things in the order of the rainbow, and organizing each article of clothing by length. My flaws include being too obsessive when it comes to organizing, having sensory issues, having a black and white mindset (I hate when things fall in a grey area), hating when my stuff is messed with, and becoming overwhelmed by the smallest of things. My early years were pretty much chaotic and draining for my mother. While she has many stories, the one that always stood out was when she realized there was more going on with me than just the usual toddler tantrums. We were at Hobby Lobby and I started crying and screaming because I became overwhelmed by my surroundings. It got to the point where my mom had to leave her basket and walk out of the store with a child who was scared of everything around her. My mom notes another time when I was playing with a trash can instead of playing with toys like the other children played with during a playgroup meeting. (There is more stuff that happened with me and how it led to my diagnosis of Autism, but I’m planning on writing about it in a novel about my life with Autism.) When it comes to school, I have my ups and downs. Certain areas were very grey for me and I would get upset because of how I could not understand something and how frustrating it was for me to not understand it properly. I started early intervention at 22 months old after my developmental pediatrician referred me to speech and occupational therapy since I had stopped talking. On my third birthday, I started PPCD (Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities) in our school district. I was with other children who had disabilities like mine and this helped me socialize with others. We were separated from the other kids and did things differently from a normal preschool. I attended speech therapy because I struggled with words that start with c, s, and t. I would be taken out of class and taken to a different room where I would practice how I said certain words. I went to speech therapy the whole time I was in elementary school. In intermediate school, I was forced away from my friends in elementary school and had to attend a different school from them. I started lashing out from how upset and angry I was about the whole situation. My parents started having me see a counselor outside of school (who I still see today). I expressed how I struggled to make friends with people because most kids had friends from their elementary school that they knew. I felt like an outcast and kept to myself. Eventually, I started opening up little by little and talking to new people. I started to play violin in 5th grade and this helped me make friends. I did not have to do speech therapy in 5th grade, but started back in 6th grade. By then, I had made so much progress, but still had some areas that needed practice. I started to discover stereotypes and how I wanted people to be my friend because of how loyal I am. I began dressing like how the popular girls dressed and tried to be like them, but that did not work out. Those years were difficult for me, but I got through them. In junior high, I was reunited with my friends from elementary and my friends from intermediate joined me there as well. I feared that both sets of friends from different schools would not work out for me, but the opposite happened instead. I got comfortable with being in a new school and having my friends by me at all times. It was also my first time experiencing being in a relationship and falling in love. Some may say it was junior high romance and it does not mean much, but it means a lot to me deep down. As I continued school, I started to take my mental health more seriously and practiced self love. Everything was going well until the middle of my 8th grade year. Something had happened with an old friend of mine and some other girl I befriended. They started lying about how bad of a person I was. My mental health went downhill fast, and I started having panic attacks during school. Isolating myself made the problem worse and I became really depressed. I felt horrible and dreaded going to school every day. Soon, I started to get myself together and started focusing on my grades rather than the drama that was about me. It was very helpful and my parents were happy that my grades were going up. I also started reading more books and it helped block out all the bad people around me. I suffered the last few months there until summer started. I graduated from speech therapy in 8th grade after having to do it my 7th and 8th grade years. That made me happy because of how I did all that work myself over those years and it paid off. It was during my mental health downfall that I graduated so this made me and my parents proud. In high school, I felt like I did not belong anywhere because of how different I was. My school was all about sports and popularity so I did not fit in really well. There were a couple of students like me and I enjoyed spending time with those individuals. All I cared about was my mental health, my happiness, and loving myself. I did not care about pep rallies, football games, spirit week, the mums, homecoming, and prom. I enjoyed staying home and catching up on school work so I could have plenty of free time to do whatever I wanted. I did get a job in fast food my sophomore year and it was a challenge to balance that with school and my personal life. I did get into a few relationships during high school, but they did not work out. One relationship became so toxic that I became very ill. I got my second job at a pizza place and learned how to balance school and work better. I completed my senior year and graduated in May 2020 despite the pandemic. I was so happy to not have to attend a big graduation that would take hours to get through since my graduating class was so large. I had a small graduation party in my front yard with my old teachers, neighbors, and family members. At the time of me writing this, I am currently in community college and working with children through the YMCA. I plan on majoring in Special Education and my dream job is to work with special needs children to help them become successful individuals in their future. I want to inspire them and let them know they can do what they want when they grow up. Society nowadays can be so negative and harmful towards people when it comes to what they want to do. If someone says you cannot do it, prove them wrong. Show the world what you’re capable of doing and be your best at doing it.