14 People with Autism Share What It’s Like to be On the Spectrum

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“What is it like to be on the autism spectrum?”

It’s a question many neurotypicals have, but it’s not always easy for people with autism to answer. After all, how do you explain something when that’s all you know? And how can you explain the autism experience when it’s so diverse?

However, a number of Reddit users on the spectrum rose up to the challenge and described what life was like—explaining their minds, struggles, frustrations, and day-to-day experiences.

It should be noted that most people who responded have Asperger’s, but there was one individual with PDD-NOS and one with classic autism—both of whom we were sure to include because we want to hear about life from all ends of the autism spectrum! Check out what they had to say!

(Note: responses have been edited for length, spelling, grammar, and language.)

1. The Play Analogy

director standing watching theater play

“I feel like I’m in a play and everyone else has the script but me. They just seem to know how to do things, make friends, get ahead in jobs, deal with difficult people. I’m 40 and I could never be anything important because I just don’t know how to human.” —never_ever_right

2. Broken Bumper Cars

“For me, autism is a bit like driving a bumper car with poor reactivity—I can see the track, but the steering wheels aren’t always too connected to the wheels at the bottom, so there’s sometimes a lot of sliding about and smashing into walls.” —VibratingColors

3. Functioning Labels

“I hate having the term ‘high functioning’ associated with my condition, not only because I don’t feel like I’m high functioning at all, but also because I feel that those around me don’t think of it as something that hurts me and causes me difficulties in my daily life, but something that I have an ‘on/off switch’ that I just insist on having ‘on.'” —dollyfox

Lonely sad woman deep in thoughts. Portrait of a thinking woman

4. Communication Is Like Mixing Paint

“Communication is really hard. It’s hard for two reasons.

“First….I say a sentence, and someone else hears the sentence but randomly inserts words into it. What I meant to say were the exact words I said, but they decided to hear some additional or different words. I’ve already expended all of my energy into the first attempt. I don’t have the energy for another attempt, so I’m going to have to just go with whatever they heard.

“Second, and more common, thoughts aren’t words, but words are the only tool I have with which to express them. A thought needs to change into something else in order for anyone else to understand it. I can’t just lift the thought and give it to someone, I have to change it until it fits into a format someone else will understand. Having done that, I am no longer expressing what I wanted to. It reminds me of paint. If I want a specific shade of green, I have to take the blue and the yellow and mix them together. I have to keep adding bits of blue and bits of green until I have the shade I want—only now I’ve mixed so much paint that I don’t know what to do with it all. I just wanted a bit of green. Now I have four different shades and a mess, and I’ve wasted all that paint. That’s what turning thought into words is like. It’s messy and wasteful and always results in an insane, unnecessary amount of words.” —Yeeshas_Island

colored acrylic paint and brush close-up shot

5. Ambiguity

“I can’t seem to handle ambiguity very well. Like, you know that “Step 2: Draw the rest of the…owl” picture? That’s sort of what a lot of instructions are like for me, so I need to keep asking for clarification.” —Mantonization

A. Stout received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing through Grand Valley State University, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2015. In addition to being a passionate autism advocate, she is a member of various fandoms, a study abroad alumna, and an animal lover. She dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world someday.
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