Autism Self Love

Autistic negative feedback” baggage” and learning to love ourselves.

Self love is a very difficult concept for me.

I think it is difficult for many other elder autistic people too. The very idea that we deserve anything as an individual has been driven out of our thoughts by negative feedback for too long.

From my earliest memories I recall feedback from others about my selfishness, laziness, thoughtlessness, worthlessness, my failures and my seemingly deliberate wickedness.

Those negative statements about me and my behavior, plus early and continual childhood training as a Christian (where everything is about taking care of others, service to others, selflessness, giving and humbleness) were absorbed early and taken to heart. Having no other guidance and trying to understand the rules for living life, it is no wonder I got so much of it wrong.

In a recent online discussion and subsequent blog ( Was there Love?) wrote thoughts about how most of us in my autistic forums on line felt unloved and unlovable. This is sort of continuing the theme and enlarging on it. What do we do with all of those negative feelings about ourselves and our lack of worthiness?

I got therapy at age 30 due to suicide attempts and depression/anxiety I could no longer control by my willpower alone. The therapist probably had his worst problems in me with my self worth and my inability to stand up for myself.
I did not understand that my thoughts and opinions or preferences had any value. I had to learn that I had worth as an individual, and then I had to learn how to express my thoughts and preferences, set healthy boundaries and above all, learn to take positive actions to keep the boundaries and to take care of myself instead of sacrificing my self in response to other’s demands and desires. I had learned to appease others when I was very small, to avoid punishment and anger. I had to be taught that I was a person in my own right and that it was OK to want things, to ask for things, to have my own beliefs and ideas. Autistic rigid thinking was at work, and I had no idea that I had alternatives. It was terrifying to suddenly be responsible for my self.. I had to take responsibility for my thoughts, my behavior, my ideas, and above all to take action to enforce boundaries to declare myself a person and not a servant, slave, or accessory. ( among other roles I was expected to play )

I was not able to get past the idea that I was at all worthy of being more than a puppet for others to use as they chose.
I ended up having to look hard to find the time in my childhood when I began to learn the negative things and believe them.

I ended up seeing myself between ages of 5 and 8, and being able to find the little girl who was so afraid and who felt so unloved and unwanted. When I was able to do this, ( and remember I can not picture a thing in my mind, so I need visual aids such as photos, models, maps, or drawings to “see” things), I purchased a sad looking child-doll (not a baby!) and put her near my bed so I could see her and think about that child and how I was now able to give her what she had need and not got. I took care of her in my mind and heart. I took pleasure in giving her new clothing, imagining her being cherished, supported, fed and cared for, helped with struggles and given love. I was able to transfer those feelings first to my childhood self, who had missed it all, then to my middle school and teen years and the years of my early 20s.

Breaking though that initial barrier of feeling unworthy took a lot of time, though, and emotional homework. I cried for that little girls a couple of times, but not for long. I had been trained to believe my feelings were not worthy of being recognized and taught to hide them deep within myself. That was yet another skill to learn, to identify my own emotions and to recognize them properly, and to learn to respond to them properly.

Autistic people have many struggles identifying emotions and sorting them out as it is,
our proprioception/ interoception neurological issues being common to most of us.

I was taught to deny my emotions or to redirect them until my whole idea of self was buried deep in what I hid, and never thought or understood that there were other ways and that other people handled these things differently.

It has taken a very long time and lots of hard work to develop new behaviors and to find new ways of thinking. I am certain that many of us, especially older people who have never considered they might be autistic, grew up with similar training… and with similar results.

Years and years of negative feedback from family, neighbors, schoolmates, co workers, spouse and other contacts in our experience have led to our deep self hatred. How could we get things so wrong? How could we fail over and over to perform as expected? How could we mess things up so badly. It was our fault! We were useless, stupid, worthless. Years of negative feedback is a lot to overcome.

When I learned about my autism, suddenly things began to make sense. No wonder I could not do what they wanted me to! I have neurological struggles which they do not have! They expected me to behave as they do never knowing, any more than I did, that I simply was give a different “tool box” from which to do what they expected of me. So amazing!
No wonder I failed! No wonder I could not work to expectations ! No wonder everything was so hard!

Diagnosis changed everything for me, even though the therapy 38 years ago helped me survive and do better in the world, it was not then that I discovered how much my autistic struggles contributed to the difficulty and distress in so many parts of my life.

Here is my message.

You are worthy of respect. You are worthy of caring, you are worthy of love and friendship.


You are an amazing survivor of so many things that were so hard to understand and so difficult to live through, never knowing about autism and about how it has worked in your life to cause so many struggles that others simply do not have.

There are so many new ways to live and to care for yourself, to assure your needs are met and to give your life a richness and fullness you might never have thought you could have.
Please take the time to explore the options, to feed the needs inside of you for so many things you have been missing all these years. Take time to find self care, self comfort, self accommodation, self interest!

If you struggle with self care, I suggest that you think about a stranger you might come across, who has had a very hard life and is full of hurt and feeling un-cared for and misunderstood.
How would you help that person?
Would you punish, shame and chastise them?
Would you be constantly angry at them when they struggled to do things that were difficult for them?
No, I doubt you would.
Instead you might try to help and encourage them, wouldn’t you?

I hope you can look at the lost stranger inside yourself and be at least as good to them as you would be to any other person .




Adult children of Autistic Parents

Did you know ?

When I discovered my own autism, I discovered my mother, too, was autistic.

My mother passed away without knowing of her autism. But when I learned of my own,
I quickly recognized autistic traits in my mother’s inexplicable and incomprehensible view of the world.

I recognized her struggles, her personality quirks, her odd behaviors, her anxiety to please others and to impress them. I began to understand a lot of the “why” questions from my youth.

Diagnosis of my autism, for me was the key to living a healthy and fulfilled life. Lack of information about my autism and my mother’s kept me in a world of “should” and “ought”, a world where my failure to function as expected was the main feature and always behind it my self questioning doubts and self punishment, self hate, why could I not succeed where others had? Why was I such a miserable failure at life where most other people seem to do so much better?

Our mother had very rigid ideas of the rules of life. Everything in her life centered around becoming a socialite. Her home, her family, her clothing, the things she did all were directed toward her idea of what “upper class” people should be. She wanted desperately to be rich and famous, glamorous, idolized and admired. She lived a life of frustration and no doubt also saw herself as a failure if she ever gave herself over to introspection, but she never once admitted to having a personal flaw, that I can recall. ( and remember my perception was definitely skewed by my own fears anxieties and autistic lack of insights) Why couldn’t she achieve a social life? She never knew.


Everything in our mother’s life was moderated by “what will the neighbors think?”
You must understand, my perceptions are autistic perceptions and I had very little understanding of any of the others of my family, their motivations, their feelings, their struggles. I was busy being overwhelmed with my own, attempting to avoid physical and emotional punishments and constant criticism and scoldings, I was overwhelmed with every day survival, trying to please and most of all appease others in our family (as well as anybody I had contact outside the family) and had only my autistic mother’s perceptions to guide me and explain my world to to me. I stopped asking for her help and insights around 3rd grade (8 years old?) when I realized the futility of that, and recognized the fact that she was not interested in hearing about any of my problems or struggles. ( She had plenty of her own and her autism kept her from seeing mine) I understand that now.
I displeased my mother so often because she saw her own autism in me and wanted to correct it, punish it, wipe it out. My autistic failures reminded her too much of her own weaknesses, flaws and struggles and infuriated her because I seemingly willfully continued to annoy her by my struggles, with her seeing these as deliberate disobedience and lack of compliance through resistance of will rather than lack of understanding what she wanted of me at any time.
Her hidden and not really understood message to me was “don’t be autistic”… yeah, that was it.

No wonder I had a miserable childhood! At least I can make sense of it now.

I got my ideas of life’s ” should’s” and almost everything else in life really wrong! Nobody’s fault!!! Nobody knew about autism, either mine or my mother’s, nor that of anybody else in or out of the family in those days.

I was told by my mother’s sister and their own mother (my grandmother) that my mom was “simple”.

In truth, she was extremely dyslexic and probably had other struggles with sensory processing. She could barely read and write, had echolalia, used music she learned as a child to express her feelings ( singing some songs over and over and over for all of her life in certain situations).

I think of my own inability to visualize (aphantasia) and my fascination for taking photographs of things I see, and want to remember. I have thousands of images stored in my computer so that I can go back and look at the images which I can’t visualize or remember in a visual way by picturing it in my mind’s eye.

I was shocked ( oh no, I have become my mother!!), when I realized in remembering that our mother was obsessed with taking photographs and that she had amassed a huge collection of printed images, almost all of her family, taken over the course of the years.
Our mother’s photo obsession drove all of her kids and her spouse crazy. Every activity should have a photo, every event needed to stop while she posed us and took repeated photos. She was always excited to look at the photos when they returned from being developed.
I suspect her obsession with photo taking was because she could not visualize in her mind, either. In those days photo taking was very expensive, both to purchase the films and to have the photos developed. I remember my father complaining about the expense!
On top of our mother’s likely aphantasia, add that she was not able to read much at all because of her dyslexia. She struggled to write due to the dyslexia as well.
Her struggles were far worse than mine… I could read and write and had a gift for words, and I am amazed that she accomplished all that she did without these things.
Mother’s hearing processing and her visual processing may have been struggles for her as well, but I will never know. I know she loved movies and television, loved listening to soap operas on the radio, and enjoyed popular music from her childhood onward.

Now that I understand my mother’s autism and have a much better idea of how it must have affected her, I can only admire that she managed to raise 4 children, kept us clothed, washed and fed, kept the house clean and that we all survived and became independent citizens functioning in society.

I grew up in the 50’s and the 60’s and in those days, all failings of children were blamed on poor parenting.

I blamed my mother too, and for some things like her deliberate cruelty, I still do blame and resent her treatment of me. Deliberately causing pain is never appropriate, physically or emotionally.

I can not excuse that part of her behavior. But I can better comprehend it. She had so very few tools available for overcoming her own struggles. She had no insights, as I have been blessed to obtain through today’s knowledge of autism and of my own diagnosis. She had to struggle all her life and never knew about her own autism. She never had the opportunity to gain insights and self understanding, to see her world differently, to make adaptations that might have allowed her to grow and thrive. She never knew.
Today, knowing my own autism and knowing that she died never having the blessing of self understanding needed to adjust her life and her struggles, I am better able to forgive so many of the struggles of my own life which I had been taught to blame squarely on the parenting I had been given. And I can finally forgive her as well.
We survived, how we did it, I am not sure.

Knowing about the autism in our family has been a key to my understanding of my childhood, my youth, my struggles all my life.
Knowing about autism in my mother and possibly in other family members has allowed me to understand all those painful “why’ questions and helped in the healing.

Did you know????

Now I know of my own autism, I wonder how I did as a parent?
Nobody knew about my own autism all the time my kids were growing up.
I did not learn about my own autism until my offspring were born, and grew up to have homes of their own.
Nobody knew back then.
Diagnosis is life changing.

What Next?

Now I know I am autistic, what next?

I started this blog almost exactly a year ago! So much has changed, so much has stayed the same.

Now I have my ” official diagnosis” I can move forward with my original plan.

I want to reach out to other undiagnosed older adults and help them find out about

autism and how it might have worked in their lives. Diagnosis can bring self understanding,
self forgiveness, new understanding of old hurts, emotional healing, repair of relationships, and learning of new ways to make life better.

For me, this means that I will not only have a blog, but will start workiing on a forum for discussion of autism and the lost generations of people age 55 and over.

I want to develop talks to explain how autism is hiding in these generations and how useful knowing about one’s autism can be to people when they learn of it.

Since December I have been working on developing a two sided single page information sheet to share with others. It has been very difficult to find the right words to explain autism and to create a short sort of self test to help people see if they too might be autistic. Along with this I need to include contact information and a place to go for more information. A lot of stuff to fit on one sheet of paper!

Here is a link to my newly created forum, as a page on Facebook. It is meant for information sharing about autism diagnosis among older people and not as a social page, for parenting, or other ( such as sales or self promotion) venue. Please join up and share – there are so many who might benefit if they were able to find out that they too have always been autistic, but did not know it! https://www.facebook.com/groups/543548573159235/


Next I plan to approach local groups and perhaps radio or newspapers to propose a talk about undiscovered autism in the senior populations. I think of such groups as the senior citizens center, nursing homes, emergency room/medical facilities, the homeless shelters, shelter for victims of abuse, drug treatment group, mental illness support groups, etc.

I will print as many of my one page sheets as I can afford to and pass them out, leave them in public places such as grocery store bulletin boards, the library, and other places where people may gather (with permission).

The idea of talking to groups is terrifying to me, but in new understanding of my autism and working on personal growth, I feel bound to try this. Knowing how much I have been helped and how much relief of emotional pain, how much better my life has been since learning of my autism, it is something that seems very important. Important enough for me to try!

OK, here goes… wish me luck! ❤ It is going to be a new year of discovery and exploration. Learning how to be old and autistic at the same time, and hoping to find others along the way. I’ll keep you posted!

Newly Diagnosed

What next?

I was 66 years old when I finally figured out that I am autistic. I had never suspected, never really thought much about autism, except in the way one reads about autism in superficial special human interest publicity pieces .
I had a few general ideas about autism because a dear family friend had a child diagnosed with Asperger’s while our children were growing up in each other’s houses as friends do. I just never saw parallels in the child’s behavior to mine, perhaps because he was a child.
His father is on the spectrum although nobody knew that at the time. Maybe not so coincidentally I found that of all the people I knew, the communication between him and me was perhaps the easiest and most natural I had experienced.

The last job I worked before retirement was as a caretaker in a State run home for children, and most of the kids were autistic. I never recognized myself in them.
I knew I had social struggles, I was bullied at every job I ever had, including the last one mentioned here. But I never associated one problem with the autistic struggles others were having.

I had too much to do in every day life, making sure my home, family, pets and gardens were all taken care of and trying to meet the requirements of working as well.
Every day there were multiple ‘fires’ to put out, crisis after crisis. I was always stressed, anxious, exhausted. Who had time for self examination and introspection?
It was not until after I retired that I began to suspect I had autism. Somebody sent me one of those on line self tests and the results suggested I was autistic, and that I should explore the possibility. It got me curious. No, could that be true?

I had the free time after retirement which had eluded me all my working life, and I jumped into research about autism. After a year of reading studies, autism descriptions, statistics, opinions, and doing every self test available on the internet, and buying a few books with autism basics (and one self test of great depth). I decided that I am indeed autistic. I am fortunate enough to have all the free time that retirement gives you for searching and introspection. If you are working you will have much less time to devote to your search and it may take much longer to work through the idea of being autistic.

The blog tells the rest of my story, right down to my finally being “officially”diagnosed about 3 months ago.

For so many of us diagnosed either by self exploration or “official” means, finally knowing about our autism is a huge shock. The idea we might be autistic means that everything in our thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors may change. Scary stuff indeed!
We autistic folk tend to be somewhat rigid in thinking and may not explore again issues that we think we understand. People tend to be less flexible in general as we age. My son says I am ‘willful’. Stubborn old men and women decorate pages of history and legend. It is a stereotype which probably as a basis in some truth.
We may have known life was difficult for us, but unknowingly believed that everybody else had struggles like ours, and in my case I thought a lot of the struggles I had were somehow my fault because so many failed interactions ended up with others telling me I was to blame. I felt inept, ashamed, unlovable, rejected, and I was always anxious worrying about what I might do to make somebody else mad without knowing why or how it happened.

I Was absolutely shocked when I finally recognized that due to my autism I had very few skills and tools to use which others rely on to succeed in life.
But it was not my fault. I had something different in my neurology which did not allow me to see the world or anything that happened in my life the way most people would see and understand it. No wonder my world was filled with pain, failure, rejection and abuse! Nobody knew! What a relief to finally understand why.

The overwhelming relief that came with this revelation has not faded. I am so grateful to know I am autistic because it explains so much about my past and my painful life.

After diagnosis people tend to feel relief, but they also can feel dismay, anger, sadness for what might have been, and a whole lot of mixed emotions come up and need to be dealt with.
This seems to be a common experience among the newly diagnosed older folks. It is as though the experiences of our life until this point finally make sense, and so many of our beliefs about ourselves and others are shifted, sifted, sorted, and at long last understood from a different point of view. Knowing about our autism shakes us to the core and we must re-build all of our ideas to incorporate our new understanding into the way we see our past, our present, and our future.
Since we are older, we have a lot more sorting and shuffling and examining of old issues to deal with. We have so much more experience! This is naturally going to take time and a lot of emotional homework!
It seems to be common to feel confused, angry, sad, upset, and more, sometimes all at once as we work through our past experiences and beliefs and find ways to fit it all together from an autistic point of view. You will probably grieve for the poor little kid who was so misunderstand and often abused. Nobody knew! You will probably be angry at the bullies, tormenters, punishers and mockers in your past life. Nobody knew. You may grow in understanding about how autism had its part in these misunderstandings. Take your time and sort through it all. It is safe now to look back and to begin to find out how most things that happened to you had a connection to autism.
Give yourself time. I am learning every day all of the ways that my autism affected my life, and the ways it still works in my every day experiences. I am in my 3rd year of understanding, with many things yet to deal with. With new understanding comes peace and learning new ways to do things, to take care of my once lost self and to forgive myself for not knowing it was autism. I can forgive the others who didn’t understand too, for the most part. That brings peace instead of anger and pain. Understanding calms many fears and has begun to give me relief from much of the anxiety and despair and depression of the days pre- diagnosis. Things do seem to get better for most of us once we understand about autism. Our struggles are the same but our new understanding gives us tools we didn’t know we had to help us cope and find new ways to live.
I have felt upset and unsettled for days as I worked through certain memories, experiences, and feelings from the past. That’s OK, there is a lot to work through, isn’t there?
The nice thing is that things that had bothered me from the past, which I had taken out of my memories and re-worked over and over for years re-living the pains and trying to understand: these have mostly gone away and are now quiet in my mind and soul, once I saw how autism had a part in that particular incident.
I say this after 3 years of reading, study, and self analysis. It has taken lots of time.
I am only now becoming comfortable with the idea that I am autistic and understanding how much it has always affected my life. I am sure I will continue to learn more for years.

Learning how I struggled, what skills and weaknesses I had within my neurology has helped tremendously. One of the great hallmarks of autism is uneven neurological development. Do you know which sensory input you find most effective and which are your weakest skills?
I learned that I have very little capability to understand visual input. Movies, demonstrations, videos, and the like leave me with very little. I can’t process visual things. Can you? Many autistic people find that visual processing and visualization are among their strongest abilities. Those people use Movies, TV, videos, and demonstrations easily and benefit strongly from using them.
I read and can look at diagrams, charts, and maps. Can you?
Others are sound oriented and must listen and relate to things through their hearing.
I am very bad at processing the spoken word, but I enjoy instrumental music greatly and try to make that part of my every day life. Spoken word processing in me is almost nil, but in many people it is the strongest skill. These folks rely on audio books, Radio podcasts, lectures, and other spoken media as the best way to connect with their world.
These are just a few examples of possibilities for strengths and weaknesses. If you have never given much thought about how you connect with your world, I believe you will find it helpful to explore your own strengths and weaknesses so that you can help yourself succeed.

Self accommodation for your strengths and weaknesses will be evident. Once you recognize your need for quiet for self calming, your need for stimulation through exercise or sports or dance, your need for certain kinds of music, or how much it helps you to wear sunglasses in places where you will be exposed to bright or flashing/sparkling lights, etc, you can see how this self knowledge helps us make adjustments to our every day living arrangements, travel arrangements, etc. Autistic forums are full of insights and helpful suggestions for new ways to deal with autistic processing struggles.

Sorting out communication struggles is more difficult because we have learned so many ways to cope with our struggles, developed such ingrained patterns of behavior and responses.
I think it would be great if all of us as newly diagnosed autistic people could get a life coach or therapist who could help us figure out new ways to deal with our new self understanding and all of the mixed and hidden emotions and behaviors we learned to protect ourselves and to cope with our confusing and painful world.

Overcoming years and years of ideas that might now be changing due to understanding oneself and one’s autism will take time and patience.
Most of all, forgive yourself and take care of yourself. You may have learned from others that you are useless, worthless, stupid, etc as a child and lived a life believing what others told you. Knowing about your autism should put all of that to rest. It took years of adapting and adjusting to survive, it may take a good bit of time to undo all those ideas from long ago and a to put them in perspective using autism as the light which allows you to see your story more clearly now.

I joined a couple of on line forums for autistic people and spent a lot of time asking questions and getting great information. There are years of experience and insight in these forums, and it is all available at home right there on your computer. It took me several tries to find groups which were compatible. Many groups are made up of parents or young people, who tend to have different issues and struggles and different ways of communicating. Don’t be discouraged, there are autism forums out there of every sort, something for everyone. Keep trying until you find a group you are comfortable with!


I got therapy long before I knew about my autism to teach me better and healthier communication patterns and to help me make better and healthier decisions. What is obvious to many people who are neurotypical (NT) ( average not autistic persons) often needs to be explained to autistic persons. Getting therapy was scary but it was the best thing I ever did… It probably saved my life and sanity. I did not know I had options to choose in my behavior because my autistic inflexibility did not let me see it. I had to be taught. I urge you to find somebody to help you understand your options if you feel at a dead end or like you can’t go on. We may have many healthy alternatives that are hidden behind autism and the way it works in our minds.

Keep in mind that you are not alone! There are over a million undiagnosed autistic adults over age 65 in the USA alone. More of us are learning of our autism and gaining strength and insights every day. I hope we can reach others who are still lost in the older generations, I feel hopeful, knowing how much diagnosis has meant to me.