Being a home-based business owner and running a business during the biggest shift in the way we work in 109 years has been challenging for everyone. But realising you’re a person with autism and coming to terms with something that both feels like home, and also still feels so unknown is a whole other realm of re-working the way I work as a home-based business creator.
As April is ‘autism acceptance’ month, I thought to share where my recent journey about receiving the gift that confirmed what I had already come to know. I am a neurodiverse person who also owns a home-based business. And the way I work is much like the way my brain is. Wired differently.
This is a personal reflection of what it’s been like in my journey from being a neurotypical business owner to meeting myself within the spectrum. In many ways finally understanding why I am the way I am. And feeling the relief that I get to be the way I am.
That I get to be myself.
What is Autism?
The best explaination I have come across is by the specialist author Rachael Lee Harris. She explains that Autism Spectrum Disorder – Level 1 (’classed as high functioning’*) is a neurodevelopmental condition understood as a different way of perceiving, thinking, learning and relating in comparison to neurotypical people.
The autism spectrum
As someone who grew through seeing complex social pattern recognition and images as a survival strategy. The best image I have seen that explains the spectrum of Austism was from NeuroClastic.com in their article “Autism is a Spectrum” Doesn’t Mean What You Think.
Totally worth a read to understand definitions further.
It’s not an excuse. It’s an explanation.
What Autism for me though is a knowing of why I do what I do. I appreicate it as an explaination that gives me internal permission to speak up for what I need and accommodations I wasn’t able to ask for before diagnosis.
It allows me to make my accommodation requests not as an excuse after the fact. They are an explaination of what I need. And usually I am making them so that I don’t end up tripping of a kileidoscopic migrane or find myself in bed from autistic burnout.
More than anything it’s an acceptance of myself as to why I procrastinated, tried to control, raged or felt powerless. Why I had a meltdown moments like you’d see of a two year old.
Or worse for me is how much I had internalised those moments. Instead of outward explosion I would end up supressing and flooding my body with cortisol and having my nervous system go into hyper mode. Quickly followed by ‘freeze’ when I wasn’t able to understand, let alone regulate what was going on internally for me. Not to mention even begin to be able to describe how or rather what I was feeling.
This acceptance of being a person with Autism gives me greater ability to forgive myself for what I didn’t feel I got right. Or in not meeting unspoken social expectations.
Just knowing has given me a sense of freedom I hadn’t afforded before.
4 stages of autism awareness as a ‘neurotypical’ business owner
Here’s the clear 4 stages of autism awareness I’ve gained from having been practising as a pseudo-neurotypical business owner.
1. Awareness –
Awareness to me is the willingness to be open to, observe, witness and welcome communication in all forms. I learn. Autism awareness for me is learning from and with people who often feel marginalised and excluded as a minority lived experience.
Having awareness means I am able to create my next move. Which ultimately for me means being able to get feedback on what I’m learning.
2. Abelism –
I thought I knew what autism was. But really I was only attributing what one part of the spectrum is experienced as for some people, some of the time, as defined by people who recognise or diagnose other people as on the spectrum.
Now that I am exploring what it is to me to be recognising myself on the spectrum, I can appreacite the unconscious perspective I previously held as a belief and the harmful abelist language I had been unknowingly using.
In order for me to be more aware, the voices who I am paying attention to are important to me. They are the ones I look to in defining, commentating and faciliatating this space as I work out how I feel about my relationship with how I experience autism. I am responsible for curating my expereinces in my relationship with my discoveries and understanding.
2. Grief –
Sharing for me has been a bit wary. It meant recognising myself (or my brain) as different. It also meant recognisisng once again that I am more than my brain.
For those closest to me it wasn’t really a surprise. But in some cases there was a question of could it be something else, had I explored all options to make sure I was getting the best next steps in place for me. Or the one I’ve personally struggled with the most – how could it have been missed. This was especially something I grieved.
The grief for me ranged from what I felt were ‘missed’ opportunities, through to missing key information and feeling as though I just didn’t get the way life was done. That there was some hidden rule book particularly when it came to social and emotional understanding that I didn’t get. And the loss of my ability to understand this the way others can.
3. Relief –
Being almost 40 and recently diagnosed as a woman with autism meant relief to me.
It meant the pressure I had felt my entire life to ‘perform’ in order to meet expectations could finally begin to be lifted. Of course the highest expectations had been those I’d placed on myself to make sure I wouldn’t be seen, or be perceived as different, or get ‘it’ wrong.
But it also meant the big question I feel I had been squashing down my whole life came to the surface again. Relief therefore was short-lived as I then went back to my safe, known state, even if it’s not a well state of being for me. The state of confusion.
4. Confusion –
So who am I then? And if I’m not what I thought I was, what does that bring me to now? How do I even talk about this, ask for accommodations, or be myself when I’m not even clear in it myself. I’m not trying to become allistic. I’m not trying to learn and enforce any more layers to who I’m not.
And I’m not trying to gain acceptance, except from myself. So with April being Autism Acceptance month, really I’m sharing this as ‘Autism Awareness’ month (thx Cherie for this one).
Thankfully my answer emerged as I began to unravel the end I’d pulled on.
My answer as always is… see stage 1.
Where to with autism awareness?
As a futurist that’s what I tend to do. Jump to “yeah I get it, but what does it mean now?”.
If you’re like me in that way, there’s a number of resources that have supported me in my journey so far with understanding ‘what’s me’ – what’s identity, personality, conditioning, beliefs – thought, image, sound. And how does who I am and what I am relate to how my body feels and functions.
And although my ‘special interests’ or areas of focus are business, well-being and parenting. I am sure I’m also in the beginning stages of adding neurodiversity, or at least autism too.
Books and Videos 🙌
Autism related and understanding of the traits and condition as a lived experience for women diagnosed with Autism –
- Could it be Aspergers?* Professor Tony Attwood
- Pythiism: Reframing Autism as an Alternative Form of Consciousness – Rachael Lee Harris
- Contemplative Therapy for Clients on the Autism Spectrum – Rachael Lee Harris
- Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate: A User Guide to an Asperger Life Paperback by Cynthia Kim.
Nervous System related –
- For release from rumination Kiloby Inquiries and – It’s Ok to Cry – Bronte Spicer.
- Helping with nervous system regulation – Accessing the healing power of the Vagus Nerve – Stanley Rosenberg
- For background on what’s happening between my body and mind – Call of the Wild – Kimberly Ann Johnson
Special thanks too for the friends who have posted in their journeys of knowing more of themselves. Particularly those diagnosed or persuing spectrum diagnosis. Your sharings gave me courage to ask more questions and question what I believed was true. I will be forever grateful.
It all starts with awareness.
To me autism is not something for me to manage. It’s a way for me to ‘live my different’. It’s a recognition of something that I had felt to be true so intimately. It helps me to understand ways I can accept myself more and more each day.
Autism acceptance for me is key to creating a world in which I as an individual with austim can go from surviving to living. Living without feeling a constant state of internal conflict, hiding who I am, a sense of hypervigilence and disocciation between my mind and body.
So it may be autism acceptance month. But to me it’s helping me futher appreciate the acceptance I have had with myself as a person with autism. And my hope is for allistic business owners to have awareness of autism.
Author note 12 months on: *I initally referred to this as Asperger's. I have chosen to amend this to ‘high functioning’ given the sentiment of the Autistic community. High functioning basically means usually people will say “but you don’t look/ seem” Autistic.
Thank you Leah for your awareness raising.
I am undiagnosed but have no doubt as to my condition. I will research the authors and websites you suggested.
Thanks for taking the time to post Steve. I hope you find these resources helpful.
All the best for your journey.