For many years I was sceptical, but as the years pass I am increasingly coming to believe that it is an advantage to be living with autism.
I do not dispute that anyone who has autism, like me, faces daily challenges, and that those challenges are massive. Each individual who has autism has different needs which they must deal with, sometimes with very limited resources. Even when there are resources available, the sheer complexity of the life on the autism spectrum is a constant stuggle. Some people who have autism cannot live on their own, as they have trouble doing simple tasks, while other like myself have trouble doing very specific things, but can be comfortable working or studying.
Living with autism also means that mental illness, even in some cases suicide, is quite common. I deal with the challenges of depression and obsessive-compulsive behaviour every day. It's not easy - it would be hard for anyone to deal with, but it's even more challenging when you have autism - and there is no medical cure. So many people with autism have no choice but to live their lives in a permanent cycle of medication, like I do.
But as much as there are some very great challenges, I am proud to be who I am. I would not change my life with autism for everything in the world. A ''cure'' is not needed for a condition like autism; instead we need ways to help people with autism have a better everyday life.
There are way too many average people in the world. More than ever, we need people who are different – people who don’t think like other people think, and do things which other people might consider strange or out of the ordinary.
Having a form of autism makes me think differently. My handicap when it comes to social relations and social etiquette is compensated for by a sense of rigor and a love of analysis that many people would only dream of having. We never know what the future might bring us in terms of progress. A man who has 'crazy' ideas now, and who is labelled a freak and outsider, could well be considered a visionary genius in a few decades. We need the people who think in unique ways, and push the boundaries.
Uplifting news: in pictures
Uplifting news: in pictures
1/6 RIP Sidney
Hundreds of strangers turned out for the funeral of a war veteran, after funeral directors made an impassioned appeal for mourners as it was thought that Marshall would have hardly anyone at his service. The request went viral, and when former RAF gunner Sidney Marshall, 90, was laid to rest, the service was attended by more than 200 people. Read more: http://ind.pn/1t8P3gC
2/6 Generous Bedford
Residents of Bedford are the most generous people in the UK when it comes to giving money to charitable causes, according to donations platform JustGiving. Read more: http://ind.pn/1txCNm2
3/6 A long awaited reunion
When four-year-old Raudhatul Jannah was swept from her parents’ grasp by the Indian Ocean tsunami on Boxing Day 2004, they believed she was lost to them forever. Ten years on, a chance sighting has led to them being reunited with their daughter. Read more: http://ind.pn/1lHmjD9
4/6 Sharing good fortune
A homeless man has won £1.7 million after buying a lottery ticket on his way to a meeting for recovering alcoholics, and says he now plans to use the money to help other addicts. Read more: http://ind.pn/1m0awBg
5/6 A precious photo returned
In October 2001, a friend of Elizabeth Stringer Keefe visited Ground Zero in New York, where she found a wedding photo amid the rubble. She tweeted "Every year on #911 I post this photo hoping 2 return 2 owner. Found at #groundzero #WTC in 2001. Pls RT" and after 60,000 retweets, the picture was returned - and all in the photo are alive and well. Read more: http://bit.ly/1vprI7n
6/6 An extraordinary talent
Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings. She has garnered praise across Europe, Asia and America for her astonishing artwork. Read more: http://ind.pn/1CzV4UU
Arabella Carter-Johnson/Iris Grace
The interesting thing with autism is that you tend to tenaciously observe things or patterns that others don't see at first glance. Attention to detail tend to be very important, especially when it's something related to the passion of someone with autism.
Much like with other forms of handicap, people living with a condition like autism tend to be audacious, because you need more audacity than others to win the same battles. In fact, you need more audacity to lose them as well – just taking part is a struggle. Whatever your strengths and weaknesses, you take nothing for granted when you live with the ups and downs of autism, when being inside your mind sometimes feels like being on a roller coaster ride.
In the last few years we have become far more accepting of people who are different. But in many cases, sadly, the door remains closed to people with autism. But this is based on stereotypes, rather than taking each individual with autism as who they are, and taking the time to get to know them as individuals.
Change comes in baby steps, and autism remains a complex condition about which we still know very little. But I know who I am - and for me, that's all that matters.