Neurotypicals often fail to empathize with and understand what autistic people go through on a daily basis and these people are trying to change that.
Autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a wide range of conditions that are characterized by challenges and difficulties concerning social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, as well as nonverbal communication, according to Autism Speaks. The lives led by those with autism and those without are significantly different, much like neurotypicals and neurodivergents. In this article, we will look at what three people with autism have to say while explaining what autism feels like to neurotypicals.
Trevor Carroll—who goes by @trevorcarroll_ on TikTok—tried articulating his day-to-day reality. Carroll, in his attempt to explain what autism feels like to neurotypical people, states, "It is almost like trying to explore the color yellow. Like, you cannot describe something that is subjective and relative to someone's own experience." He then goes on to explain how he feels like his senses are heightened all the time. Everything right from bright lights to stinky smells seems to overload the brain by 10x or even 100000x sometimes.
"Another aspect of it feels like I was dropped here on planet Earth, but I didn't get a handbook for how to socialize," he says, "I guess that comes normal for a lot of people, but for me it's like, I can mask the best that I can to try to get a conversation going." A comment by @forthemoo on his video said, "For me, it’s like I’m an actor on a stage and all the lights are on me and everyone’s watching and everyone else was given a script but I wasn’t."
Brandon Van Niekerk penned a blog for Overcomers Counseling comparing living with autism to a rollercoaster ride. "Living with autism can feel like a bit of a rollercoaster. You may feel easily overwhelmed by sensory inputs, and at times, the world can feel like a chaotic place," he said. According to him, emotions can vary from confidence to anxiety whenever. "One day you might be feeling confident and the next day you might be struggling to leave the house because you're scared and anxious," Van Niekerk explains. He also mentioned how autistic people often derive meaning from their hobbies, and that "for some people, their favorite pastime may even seem like an obsession."
Orion Kelly—who goes by @orionkelly_australia on TikTok—who is a neurodivergent author says in a video, "Autism feels like you're bad at everything." He goes on to elaborate that being autistic constantly feels like you are waking up to feeling like you're bad at everything you might do that day. "As an autistic person, no matter how hard I try or practice to do something, I always seem to do it badly or it always seems to go badly." He explains that while autistic people do have particular skills and things they're great at, he just feels like they mostly feel like they are not good at most things. This often makes him want to withdraw from everything else except for the niche of things he is good at.
Nugget did a video report in 2019 where they reached out to Alex, a ten-year-old autistic boy who described what it is like to live with autism. "I absolutely loathe crowded, busy areas and people brushing past me", shares Alex. To help explain what autism feels like to non-autistic people, the interviewer and Alex's friends wear VR headsets to experience what it is like for Alex to have ASD.
Much like this commenter, the key to understanding those with autism is to be as empathetic as you can be. Empathy with respect to talking to them about things they are good at, allowing them the liberty to form relationships at their own pace, and respecting their boundaries. As per Van Niekerk's article in Overcomers Counseling, "Empathy is the most important skill in social interactions," especially around autistic people.