May 21, 2021

How to live with an autistic person

By rosieweldon

A house isn’t a home. Like most people on the spectrum, I have struggled with feeling like anywhere was my home. My teenage and young adult years in my family home were fraught with misunderstanding and judgement. A life of justifying and feeling guilty for behaviours outside of my control. I thought that would always be the way when I was in a shared space.

It’s how it is in the office. It’s even how it is on family holidays. Non-autistic people often do not understand me, and this leads to confusing conflicts that I don’t understand. It leads to people being able to treat me how they want and throwing autism at me to defend their behaviour. Whether it be comments in the office accusing me of not understanding, or family members accusing me of using autism ‘as an excuse’.

For this reason, when I was diagnosed and started to understand my own behaviours, I worked hard to get a job so I could get my own flat. If no one could understand me and see me for who I am then I would live alone. A life alone was better than a misunderstood one. I regained some control over my life and had a new ability to shut down judgements and retreat to my own flat. I no longer had to answer to anyone that I was stuck in a space with. I could hide away.

And then I met my partner. And I realised everything that I had thought was true, was wrong. That I could be welcomed into a shared space and not only be tolerated for what I am, but loved and celebrated for everything that I am.

I sought a life of solitude at 26 and resigned myself to it. A lonely but safe life. I turn 30 in the summer and over the next few months I am selling my flat and moving in with my partner and her family.

I never thought I would be so excited to call a shared space, home.

If you live in a shared space with an autistic person:

  1. Stop and think – Have you stopped to think why they might be acting the way they are? There is likely a reason that you haven’t’ thought of. We respond to things you may not even think of. The vast majority of the time my behaviour would spark a response until I calmed down and could explain what I had struggled with. Stop and think in the moment that we may be up against something you don’t understand.
  2. Space – Please respect that most autistic people don’t want to spend lots of time around people, including sat with the family. They aren’t being ignorant if they wish to spend time in their room. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you.
  3. Patience – Autistic life is hard. It is hard in ways a non-autistic person likely isn’t going to think of. Please have patience with us as we try to figure it all out.
  4. Teenagers – Being a teenager is hard. Being autistic is hard. Add those together and it is almost impossible. Please guide us, support us, nurture us. Don’t stand against us, stand with us.
  5. Different – We are different. We are going to respond to things differently. Smells, change in the house, unexpected visitors. Our reactions to these things are outside of our control so please don’t make us feel bad for them. Work with us to figure out the best way to reduce the impact on us. Please remember that when we are struggling with something it is a horrible feeling.

I’m not saying that me being autistic doesn’t pose my partner and I unique challenges. But it is not the impossible barrier I have been made to believe. Work with autism. My partner and I constantly strive to understand my behaviours and work with them. There is no point going against a behaviour that we don’t control and can’t stop.

‘Living with autism’, as they say, doesn’t have to be constant world war 3. It is as much in the reaction to the autistic behaviour as it is the autistic behaviour itself.

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