My parents and others are still in denial about me being on the spectrum. Since I was born blind and had poor vision as a baby they pin all my abnormal behavior on the visual impairment.
I was always bad with eye contact from my birth to this day. I was better at it when I wore contacts and looked normal because looking normal made people treat me a lot better so there was a positive feedback loop that went on there. This could be blamed on my poor vision which a good portion of it probably was.
At the age of two I would bang my head on the tile floor of our house on Honduras (my dad was a pastor of an expat church in the capital there). I also held in my stool when I was potty training so when it finally had to come out it was painful. My first memories were of nightmares. I don’t know what they were about, I just know the feeling was so intense it stuck with me. When I napped I always needed a specific set of toys with me including a light box which allowed me to count in binary (my dad’s friend was an engineering genius I guess and helped make it for me). I was very good at the memory card game played before naps which surprises me because I’m terrible at it now. I attacked certain toys like biting the forehead of my big sister’s doll and a ripping into a stuffed monkey I hated with uncommon passion.
I started talking late and before being able to speak I had echolalia, where my mother would say, “say goodbye Matthew”, and I’d say “say goodbye Matthew”. By now we had moved back to the states, I had a speech pathologist and instructions like “take your jacket off” had to be turned into rules in order for me to follow them. Our family was strict by today’s standards, siblings tell me I got spanked the most but it wasn’t that often as the threat of it kept us in line. As a preschooler I liked to count steps up the porch to our house.
We were definitely free range kids. At five years old I was permitted to climb trees in the back forest of my grandma’s house, I’d get almost a hundred feet up. It’s one of my best memories.
At age seven I couldn’t think of a person (I ended up making up for this later in life when obsessive thoughts of people almost thought themselves). I know this because my mom would sing me this 70’s one hit wonder song, “Matthew Matthew Matthew are you thinking of me”. And I would always say no and it would puzzle her. At age 10 I always wanted to watch the Weather Channel much to the chagrin of my siblings. I still have journals from when I was that age and it’s amazing how social I was as a kid. I wrote about and interacted with people normally without a second thought. Of course this was before junior high when people’s standards for interacting with people become more stringent.
In junior high I got bullied by a teacher and some students. I was pushed in a urinal a couple times and got my lunch thrown away some but talking to others on the internet with my pathologies this was very mild compared to what they went through. At home I would complain incessantly about things like supper time.
Late junior high and high school I wasted a lot of time on the computer, so much so that one of the only girls I was ever friends with came up I was too busy making a level of a game to hang out with her (at the time I didn’t know how hard it would be for me to find female friends). I was raised Evangelical Christian but got a hold of my brother’s copy of Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine and those songs resonated with me more deeply than anything coming from church. Freshman year I said my big brother was a virgin in a packed lunch room and everybody laughed. I wasn’t socially aware enough to know that there was anything wrong with that and my big brother didn’t like me tagging along with him after that.
High school was the time of my life where I was the most attractive (I had contacts by now so my eyes looked normal) so that helped make up for my social awkwardness. I looked up girls’ numbers in the phone book instead of asking them for them because I didn’t know that social convention. What made high school OK is most of the people were lower income and less obsessed with social conventions. When I went to Wheaton I noticed an uptick of maltreatment while at the same time finding some awesome people. Freshman year I would run to class and do other weird stuff.
My sophomore year of college was the time of my life I made the biggest commitment to be normal. I stopped my primary stimming (wagging my head back and fourth, something they say blind people do too) and started putting energy into being socially aware. There was payoff because that was the year in my life I had the most friends. Eventually everything went downhill as my eyes dried out so I couldn’t use my contacts anymore which resulted in social interactions being more full of negative feedback loops.
I didn’t find out I was somewhat on the spectrum until 2004 when I went to a psychiatrist to treat my depression. He said I exhibited some Asperger symptoms. To this day no one has given me a written test to ascertain whether I’m on the spectrum and I know if they do they’ll find out I am because I score deeply in autism territory on those tests.