Alex Lowery speaks about autism

10 reasons why being a teen with autism is so hard.

Written on 12th Sep 2015 by Alex Lowery

I have spent the last week on a home educator’s camp. I went with my family. I have been in an adult world for a few years now as a public speaker but being back in this environment reminded me of how hard it is to be a teen on the spectrum.

Photo of my 15-year old self

Photo of Alex’s 15-year old self from 2009

 

1. Teens have a pecking order and the teens who are generally considered the best ones to hang out with (by fellow teens) are the most cool ones. This mostly seems to be leaning on each other laughing a lot and leaving the not so cool ones out.

2. Moving on from my last point those on the spectrum seem to come pretty low down in the cool pecking order and it even seems that associating with us will move an aspiring teen down the pecking order.

3. If you are uncool, the cool ones don’t even seem to hear what you say. You speak but it’s as though your words just floated in air and went somewhere. This used to happen to me a lot as a teen but I have noticed it happening to others. It’s as though some teens only see and hear the people they want to be friends with.

4. You often don’t get asked to join the game. It just happens. One minute they are sitting there the next they are playing a game and you wonder what strange body language they use to set this game up. All the in ones seem to know at the same time that a game is about to take place but you often find yourself standing on the outside wondering how to get in.

5. The whole way you are is completely different teens seem to have their own language. They tell a daft joke and seem to insult each other but it’s done in a friendly way. Whenever I tried to do it, it just came out wrong.

6. If people joke with you it is expected that you joke back. But I just don’t know how to do it, nor have I ever known. I’d try to joke back, but it would come out wrong. It was like living in a foreign country and not knowing the language. This is still an issue now.

7. As a teen I noticed that other teens never insulted me (where as they did with other teens for a laugh) and I always felt that it showed I wasn’t really seen as one of them. They all knew I was different from them, even if they didn’t know I had a condition. I often felt like an alien from another planet.

8. I hardly ever got invited to do social things or go to a party but if ever I did I felt really flattered and pleased. I was like ‘wow’ they have actually included me. At the current age of 21, I still think like this now if ever I get invited to parties by peers.

9. Being a guy as a teen means that you have to be good at sports. I have always been terrible at team sports. My coordination is just awful!

10. To add to all this I was really self conscious about having autism. I tried really hard to be the same as others and to hide my autism but I would fail on every level.

If you are an autistic teen reading this just remember you won’t be a teen forever. Yes you may be different but that’s who you are. Don’t be ashamed and don’t change who you are to fit in. There is a whole group of autistic adults who have succeeded and are there to support you.  It can still be a problem as an adult but in a different way. I’ll talk about that at some other time.

This is based on my personal experience throughout my teen years. I know that there are other teenagers with autism who have had far worse experiences. I know of many who have been bullied in school, which has lead to extreme Depression, and in some cases it’s even lead to a fear of people. A fellow Youth Patron Matthew Percy took his own life a few months ago and I believe he had a lot of issues because of bullying when he was younger. If you ever find the loneliness too much please seek help. I think how hard it must be if you have to feel bullied and left out every day. I didn’t face bullying and yet my experiences have left me with anxiety over making mistakes and appearing autistic yet my peers didn’t always include me. I know it wasn’t meant often but it’s just the way it is.

Now, let me make it clear that I’m not stereotyping every teenager. I know that there are plenty of really nice teens who will accept a person’s differences. But I’ve found through my experience that even the nicer teens still tend to have a level of this ‘teen behaviour and language’, which can make it hard for person on the spectrum to fit in socially.

 

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Organisations Alex has worked with

  • Autism Cymru
  • Chester University
  • Glyndwr University
  • National Autistic Society
  • St John's Ambulance
  • Welsh Government

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