From Age Four to Age Fifty in Fifty Seconds

Carrie, Age 52

At age four, as I clutched onto my Peter Pan book (the actual book written by JM Barrie), I decided that I was going to be a writer.

Fast forward to 46 plus years later, I became a User Assistance Developer, for most people, that’s a technical writer. I wrote product documentation and worked with UX on writing good UI text labels and error messages.

It’s not what I pictured when I was four years old, but how many people get to check off items from their bucket list? I’ve been fortunate in that way.

My hearing loss is significant. Hard of hearing at birth, don’t let the fact that I speak extremely well fool you. Without my hearing aids, I can’t hear much, and I’m heavily reliant on lip-reading. I always hated the term “passing” because I could pass as a hearing person, and I wasn’t. I always felt stuck between the deaf and hearing world.

When I was young, my special interests usually included Peter Pan, Wendy, and the gang; my parents knew that I was different from everyone else. As a teenager, at my first job at Target, in the 1980s, before scanners came to cash registers, I learned how to recognize patterns in product codes (pre-UPC codes). Depending on the type of items people bought, the sequence of numbers was similar. This helped me memorize and ring up people’s purchases at the cash register. This eventually translated to when I shifted from retail into data entry jobs, a similar specialty, which is why I was very fast with the keyboard. Then there were the desk jobs. I did a lot of data entry work because I could see sequencing or patterns. Heck, I even did Account Receivable/Payable work, and I hated those jobs. I was good, just that I’d finish in half a day.

I never had many friends. Other kids teased or bullied me throughout my school years until college. My special interests were too “weird,” and I didn’t pick up on social cues. It took another 20 years of struggling with employment. The gaps got longer between jobs, and my parents did an “intervention” of sorts. This started the journey that I’m still on to this day.

My parents suggested that I could be autistic, and I initially looked at them in disbelief. I believed in the Rain Main stereotypes about autistic people at the time. My mom convinced me that I should seek a diagnosis. She sent me many research links and helped me through the process.

It wasn’t easy getting a diagnosis. Many wouldn’t even consider testing because of these reasons:

I’m female

Verbal

An adult

Most of all, I passed as “neurotypical,” and the feelings of not being “hearing enough” or not “being deaf enough” came back to haunt me.

Autism Acceptance Month, I try to be friendly and nod when people tell me I don’t “seem” or “look” autistic to them. It’s been eight years since I was diagnosed, and I still feel like I don’t know everything about being autistic.

Since becoming a User Assistance Developer, I’ve changed careers and moved into Inclusive Design in User Experience. I still feel that I’m writing my own story.

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