I knew in my gut M. was an Aspie the very first time we met. She’s my first cousin’s daughter, successful result of IVF treatment albeit born premature with some nerve damage. She has impaired use of one arm (she can use it, but it’s so hard for her she tries to avoid it), and walks with a slight limp. But she’s a very bright girl who reads above her grade level and has above average intelligence. She loves playing word-games and solving jigsaw puzzles and is skilled at both.
When we first met, she literally ignored all the other adults in the room and strode up to me and embraced me apropos of nothing. I felt a spark of recognition in her eyes, that somehow this adult (me) was not like the others. This one–I imagined her preverbal self-talk–this one is like me somehow.
It caught me off guard but I accepted her embrace warmly, and everyone else praised her for being sweet.
The next year she was talking and busy exploring with a new baby sister (who is definitely NT) in tow and no time for me. I became less certain of her ASD status.
But this year, she’s even more verbal, with an emerging definite personality, and all the anecdotes fit a very familiar Aspergian pattern. There are very telltale signs and mannerisms that to me fairly well scream “Aspie!” to me.
I didn’t tell M.’s parents but rather her grandmother, who is also my youngest Aunt. My Aunt confided she had also suspected that M. might be “mildly Autistic”, and I said as an Aspie (someone mildly autistic), I definitely got that vibe from M. and hoped that some Educational specialist from her home school district would pick up on it and insist (gently) that M. be tested for it in the next few years.
I look forward to watching my cousin grow up Aspie female and I hope she will see me as a resource and an autistic ally in the years ahead. I hope she grows up in a world of greater autistic acceptance and one where neurodiversity is celebrated, not feared. I got the impression from my Aunt that M.’s parents may be a bit in denial about M.’s likely ASD neurology. I get the impression my Aunt already shared her impression but that they rejected it, being more focused on her physical disability and discounting or failing to appreciate her emerging ASD personality.
I have hope they’ll come around as the evidence mounts and can’t be ignored or written off any longer. On the other hand, I feel bad that she will have to struggle so much harder to win and keep friends, etc. I hope she becomes a mathematical savant genius and is respected for her keen intellect and excused her inevitable eccentricities.
I am happy for my cousin and happy to no longer be alone as the sole autistic person in this somewhat large extended family.