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Beyond Barriers

Published: Thursday March 12, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday March 16, 2015 MYT 6:38:59 PM

16-year-old boy shares amazing story about overcoming autism

‘The world around me seemed too chaotic and hostile. I thought I was the only normal one among quirky people.’

I was diagnosed as autistic at the age of three. In my early childhood, I showed some typical symptoms of autism. I wasn’t speaking any words and had no eye contact when spoken to. I screamed and threw tantrums every now and then. I was said to be so unmanageable that my parents’ world was turned upside down.

I was born in Australia and I received early intervention and access to intensive therapy in the schools for autistic children. I gradually learned to talk and engage in simple activities that other children took for granted, such as playing on the see-saw or swing.

I vaguely remember some of the things that happened during my younger days. I disliked strangers and social situations. I was easily annoyed and intimidated by them because they confused me. I had always wished people would leave me alone and not talk to me. 

As my mind could only think visually and literally, I hardly understood what they were saying to me. I always tried to keep a safe distance from them by retreating into my own world. 

I felt safer to be by myself or with my mum or those in my immediate family. I was uncomfortable with people as I thought they were strange and different from me. The world around me seemed too chaotic and hostile for my mind to comprehend. In fact, I thought I was the only normal one among quirky people.

One of the things that puzzled me about peoples’ behaviour was that they did not follow any set pattern or routine. In my mind, everything that made sense must follow a fixed order or rule which should not be broken at any cost. 

For example, meal times must be followed strictly, and time-tables for any activity must be kept rigidly. Unfortunately, things seldom happened the way I expected. Thinking my way was the right one, I was often highly tense and anxious whenever a fixed schedule or plan was disrupted. My world would instantly collapse and, to show my anger, I would protest by bursting into temper tantrums which could last for ages. 

To pacify me, my mum or family members had to quickly put back in order what had been changed. When that was not possible, my tantrum could last until I was totally exhausted.

As I grew older, I gradually realised that I was the one who was different from other people. I could tell that hardly anyone shared my crazy obsession for traffic signs and exit signs. I also seemed to be the odd one who was so routine-bound and intolerant in my behaviour. The more I realised that others were not like me, the more self-conscious and sensitive I became about being different.

I longed to be like everyone else so much that I cried whenever I stood out as different in any situation, however trivial it may be. I was paranoid about people looking at me or laughing at me though they may not really be doing so.

Because of my longing to be ordinary, I was not proud of my extraordinary talents. In fact, I tried hard to hide them. I have this gift of being able to compute any day from any given date, whatever the year was. What was quite effortless to me seemed astonishing to others. I did not enjoy the attention I got, even if it was for something good and positive.

People tell me I am like a human GPS — I can easily map any location visually in my mind with my photographic memory. Today, I put my talent to good use by helping those who are lost on the road.

About four years ago, I had an awakening of sorts. It was a defining moment for me when God revealed to me that He could help me to learn to be normal like everyone else. I had to overcome some of my obsessions gradually and be more adaptable in my ways. I wanted to overcome my problem as an inflexible routine freak.

I could not do it on my own as I was wired differently. I depended on God to help me. I put in effort to be more sociable and learn appropriate expressions in exchanging pleasantries and engaging in casual conversations.

To cut the story short, my efforts paid off, with God’s help. My progress was gradual but phenomenal. I do not have anxiety disorders like before. I am quiet easy-going now. Up to this day, many of my teachers and friends are not aware of my autism. It was a secret which I wanted to keep from public knowledge.

However, my mum felt that a good story should be shared to encourage others in similar situations. She convinced me that I should embrace my autism and unashamedly share it as a testimony to God’s grace.

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Opinion, autism

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