Veterans of the Spectrum
I have it on good authority that prior to my birth, planet Earth was covered in salt mines, where the entire population worked 25 hours a day, 8 days a week. And they had to crawl to work because legs hadn’t been invented yet.
Okay, so it’s easy to take pot shots at my elders. Despite their claims to the contrary, I’m sure they did the same to the generations preceding them, all the way back to “in my day we didn’t have this newfangled fire business, we had to wear hollowed out woolly rhinoceroses”.
But without any hint of snarkiness, I whole heartedly doff my cap to those people on the spectrum who grew up before autism was a widely recognized condition.
Asperger’s Syndrome as we know it didn’t make its public debut until 1981, (as a frame of reference, that’s the same year The Empire Strikes Back came out) and wasn’t standardized until the 90s. Consequently, many people who grew up prior to this went undiagnosed until they reached adulthood, or even middle age. Some were never diagnosed at all. My grandpa turns 80 in a few weeks, and while I’m 95% sure he’s on the spectrum, he was never evaluated.
The support networks in place today simply didn’t exist thirty years ago. Spectrum folks had to go it alone, to navigate the minefield of neurotypical society without a map or a metal detector. That they managed to make it through unassisted is truly admirable.
There’s so much focus on young people with autism that I feel we often overlook our seasoned veterans, those who truly have overcome challenges beyond my experience.
To these remarkable warriors of the spectrum, I salute you.