Nine-year-old Cadence shares with the The I CAN Network what Autism means to her – it’s challenges, benefits and what her perfect world would look like.
When did you get diagnosed with Autism? Have your feelings towards Autism changed since then?
I was diagnosed Autistic when I was little. It’s something I’ve always known, so I don’t know what it’s like not to know I have Autism.
Some people call my Autism ‘Classic Autism’ and they think it’s a bad thing. But the dictionary says ‘Classic’ means outstanding and highest quality. That means I have a very high quality, outstanding Autistic brain.
How do you explain Autism?
Autism is a hard thing to explain. It’s how my brain works differently and understands differently from most other people, and why I need to do things differently. Things that I can see make sense to other people, don’t make much sense to me. Like the way my friends play and things they say and do with each other. Things that I see don’t bother other people, my brain doesn’t cope well with. I get panicked when I don’t know what is going to happen next or when something is different from how I was told it would be. My brain is not very good at starting – stopping – starting again. If I was saying the alphabet and I got interrupted at the letter ‘g’, my brain needs to begin again at the letter ‘a’. It’s the same if I am acting out something or trying to tell a story, I need to start right at the beginning every time I’m interrupted or get distracted. Somethings my friends can do, I can’t do, like how if they want to tell someone something, words just come out of their mouth whenever they want.
My senses work differently too. They are much, much stronger, especially how I feel touch. I don’t like people touching me, not even a little bit. It’s like big electric shocks zapping through me. This makes busy places and ques, or anywhere there are people really, hard and scary for me because people are always accidentally touching other people. It’s harder for me to do balancing things too because my body doesn’t feel safe on an angle or upside down. It’s tricky for me to know what I feel because my brain has trouble knowing what my body feels. I don’t really know how to explain it, but if my tummy doesn’t feel right, my brain has trouble working out if that’s because I’m sick, or because I’m worried about something. Sometimes, it doesn’t even know it’s my tummy that feels strange and thinks it’s my foot instead! This makes learning about feelings hard. It makes coping with feelings really hard because to learn to cope with feelings, you need to know what the feeling is, and I don’t. I’m good at knowing how other people feel though.
What are some of the benefits of Autism to you?
I am very good at noticing. I always notice things other people don’t notice at all. I have a very good memory and remember all the things I notice. I am good at writing. I always get ‘A’s in English and Literacy. I am good at being a friend because I am kind and caring, and I always notice the things my friends like and how they feel. I am good at thinking up ideas and thinking up how to fix problems. When I get an idea in my head I am very good at being focussed on learning and practicing the idea until I achieve it. I am good at being honest and don’t tell lies, and I’m very good at following rules. When I am making slime or cooking things, I am good at knowing what ingredients it needs more of just from how it feels, instead of needing to follow a recipe. I’m good at using my nose too. One day I found a cardigan in a playground. When I smelled it, it smelt like my Year 2 teacher. Mum emailed her to find out if she had lost the cardigan and she had.
What are your creative talents?
Sometimes I like to draw and paint and colour. I like colourful things. I like to mix colours to see what different colours make together. I like to see what patterns I can make when I splash paint from my brushes or pour it from jars or blow it through straws. I like art because you can choose to just have fun and be messy, or you can choose to work hard and change a plain piece of paper into the picture that is in your head.
What would your perfect world look like?
My perfect world would be feeling safe all of the time. Feeling safe is when I understand what’s happening and when other people understand me. People wouldn’t expect me to think the same way everyone else does and would understand why I need to do them differently. I wouldn’t miss out on trying things because people would give everyone the time they need to feel comfortable to try something new, even if that means working hard to be patient.
No one would be bothered that everyone is different. School would have a ‘healthy differences’ part of health lessons for a whole term, just like it has a ‘healthy eating’ part. Every kid would learn about different disabilities and learn that being different is what normal is. And, school dress up days wouldn’t include face masks or painted faces so that everyone can have fun, not just people whose brains don’t get confused when a person doesn’t look how you know them. I wouldn’t want the world to be too perfect though; you wouldn’t learn to be strong if the world was perfect.