A Letter To My Younger Self
Nobody knew you were autistic. Here are some things I wish I could go back and tell you.
Dear Little Lauren,
Big Lauren here. Recently, I found out that your brain works a little bit differently from other people’s. And that’s ok.
It is what makes you great at all the things you are great at. Like solving problems, and organising things, and being very understanding to your friends and family.
It does mean some things are a bit harder. That’s ok too. I’m writing this to help you understand why some things are hard. So that you can explain them to other people, and not have to fight them by yourself. And so that you can just get on with being you.
When you were about thirteen, you insisted on keeping one of the arm cushions from this sofa. You couldn’t bear the thought of not being around the familiar sight and the smell of it. You kept it for a good decade afterwards. You probably should have washed it.
Routines and change.
Because of how your brain works, it’s really important that you know what to expect. When things change or aren’t clear, that can feel quite scary and confusing.
People can help you by giving you plenty of warning about things that are going to happen, explaining how things will feel, and doing “practice” runs with you if it’s something quite big like going to a new place.
This is also what makes you good at planning and organising detailed things. Lots of grown-ups don’t like doing that. You do like doing it though, and people like it when you do it for them. Which feels nice.
You got slightly more creative with your cuddly toy naming as time went on. You didn’t get any less sensitive to smells. Your sense of style arguably peaked here.
Your brain is very sensitive to the outside world. Lots of sounds and smells and busy-looking places are overwhelming. Your brain is less sensitive to your inside world. So you need to move around more, and get more pressure, for your brain to understand what is happening.
People can help you by keeping things calm and quiet. By making sure you have things around you that feel nice. By encouraging you to move around if you are restless. And by giving you heavy things to hold or to sit under.
You can scream and shout as much as you want when things feel too much. It will help people know there is a problem they need to help you solve. I know that grown-ups normally say shouting isn’t allowed, and I know you like rules… But technically I’m a grown-up now, and I say it’s ok. So go to town, Little Lauren.
Your super-senses can be super-helpful. They make you very good at noticing things and spotting changes. When you’re a bit older, and working in a big nursery, you’ll use this skill to match children to their discarded clothing just by smell. An unusual technique, yes. But very efficient.
You went on to do lots of scary, brave things that made you very tired. This is you at a big event in City Hall in London. You gave a speech and got lots of people to sign up as members to a charity.
Because of how your brain works, speaking to people and understanding them is quite difficult. For most, this comes naturally. But you have to think about it a lot.
It’s why you practice conversations in your head all the time. It’s why you spend time watching how people speak to each other. It’s also why you often want a break from school and find after-school clubs or parties scary. There are lots of people there, and that is tiring for your brain.
People can help you by letting you have time away from other children when you need it. And by not forcing you to speak when you are feeling quiet. You need a lot more time by yourself than most people do, and that’s ok.
This is what makes you good at noticing how people are feeling, because you spend a lot of time observing them. It’s also why you are good at doing big projects by yourself.
Some things never changed. You kept getting wet and muddy. That’s good.
Do the things that make you happy. Ask for help with things that are hard. And don’t change for anyone.
Your brain doesn’t work like most brains. That makes some things difficult. But it makes you really good at other things, too. Your brain is what makes you weird. And, you know what? All the best people kinda dig that.
You won’t find out you’re autistic for a really long time. I don’t know if it would have helped to know sooner... but I’m really glad that I know now.
Take care, Little Lauren.
Big Lauren x