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Pondering life

Discovering autism

Autistic response to change

Many autistic people try to control their environment to feel safe so unforeseen change is not a welcomed friend.

Autistic people share difficulty with change, but I don’t speak for other autistic people nor view my reasons, or the strategies I use to deal with these challenges another autistic persons survival kit. I am an autistic person with high anxiety so change fuels a lot of uncertainty and anxiety for me. I am ok with initiating change myself because I have my own time and space to orchestrate the how and when. However, when something or someone else brings about unknown change at my feet I react, and it often fuels demand avoidance due to extreme anxiety.

I have developed many scripts over the years to navigate potential scenarios and situations, but I do not use them to people please non autistic people with their expected talk and language, but rather to prepare for conversations because I experience a lot of social anxiety. This is also why repetitive routines and behaviours are important to me as they keep me feeling safer and in control of my environment. I’m aware I can’t’ control everything in my environment and that change is inevitable in life and often beyond our control.

I’m good with that in theory until unexpected change is forced upon me and that reality goes out the door. I am not good with change I can’t see coming because I need a lot of warning to prepare for it. Unseen change usually throws out my whole day and sometimes days to come until I can get back to feeling somewhat calmer, because anxiety is a constant daily state for me of variable levels depending on sensory and social issues.

I think from what I read by other autistic people and myself included, we are good at explaining why we react to change and what causes sensory overload, but we don’t know the reason we are like this and whether it is predominantly an autistic trait. There is an interrelationship between autism and trauma and why I believe trauma is often at the base of many autistic peoples suffering.

Many autistic people have grown up in trauma-based environments, been subjected to bullying, abuse in many forms, discrimination, ableism and, stigma all of which has traumatised their experience in life. If a person grows up with say bullying in childhood there’s a good chance, they will develop social anxiety and feel overstimulated in social settings which will often lead to autistic meltdowns, anxiety, and depression.

Autistic people can also experience trauma from fire alarms, high pitched noises, social and sensory issues, being taken advantage of, gaslighted and invalidated by people. It’s not surprising that autistic people get PTSD more than non-autistic people as autistic people don’t seem to be as well equipped to deal with stress, and because they develop trauma from wider range of things than neurotypicals, thus autistic people often have a higher stress reaction to things that don’t normally bother neurotypicals.

Putting things in place around to control the environment are the armour that keeps autistic people feeling safer and the reasons for that will be different for everyone. It may just be that being autistic changes the way they react to change and how they deal with moving forward rather than the change itself, and many of the reactions come from a place they don’t yet understand how the dots connect.

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