I was born in the early 1980s. I grew up in the small towns and remote villages of North East India. I didn't know it when I was young, but now when I look back, I believe I had and I still have mild form of autism. I had speech problem and stammered a bit. More importantly, I didn't give eye contact to others while interacting. I even preferred loneliness to socialization.
Though I went to normal school, I was often bullied in school and was ridiculed for my strange behavior. However, having my mother as a teacher in the same school probably reduced the instances of bullying for me when I was young. Often, I was lost in my own thoughts and I avoided peer interactions.
I was pathetic in sports as my motor coordination was relatively weak when I was young.
I was hyperactive and had very limited attention span. I was below average in my studies to begin with, but I improved gradually with each passing year.
However, i was extremely lucky enough to have caring parents who supported me through out, though autism was unheard of.
I am 37 years now; I am living a comfortable life with a stable job and a great family.
Now where do I stand in life as I had mild autism to begin with?
- I have improved my verbal communication immensely and in fact, I train people on communication now both professionally and as a visiting faculty for MBA colleges. I had topped the university in my stream while I was doing my MBA. I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. on implication of autism on social life. So I guess, academic wise, I did fine
- My attention span and my ability to socialize has become top notch. I am currently a global program manager in an ITES firm. I have many friends now, but deep inside I still prefer solitude and books
- My motor coordination skills improved considerably. I even played cricket in the intra-college level. Moreover, I can drive and ride long distances (I mean really long). However, I can't tolerate slow moving traffic and I avoid riding or driving in the cities, that causes major irritation to me
- One perk of being mildly autistic is being blessed with relatively better memory. That enabled me to be multiple times national quiz winner. However that doesn’t mean that I am an autistic savant, but rather I focused my abilities to a domain that requires such traits
In fact I carry autistic traits from my father, who himself was mildly autistic and we as a family didn't know about autism till my own son was diagnosed as autistic in the year 2011.
Now my father was nonverbal until he was 9 years old. He didn't give eye contact till the day he died, nor did he like any changes in his daily routine. However, he was academically brilliant and was a good author too. He retired from BSNL in 2012 as a Circle Supervisor. He died due to kidney failure in 2015. He lived a normal life.
I guess I too have a "normal life". Unfortunately, my son is severely autistic and unlike my father or me, he may not be able to live an independent life. But that's okay, as long as I am alive, he is my reason for existence.
Neither my father nor I had taken any therapy as we hadn’t even heard of autism till the year 2011. However, my son has undergone extensive ABA and OT, which had really helped him. Unfortunately, speech therapy didn’t help him much. He is now almost 11 years old and he has very few words in his vocabulary.
My wife quit her corporate job when we were informed about our son being autistic. Subsequently to help our son learn, my wife completed her NTT and currently doing a diploma course in Autism. In fact, multiple studies have concluded that whenever a child is diagnosed as autistic that is the most profound moment in the life of such parents. Their life changes forever and ours was no exception!
Now coming back to the question - can a mildly autistic person live a normal life? Answer is a resounding yes! However to find the cure, the cause of autism must be fully established and that is still elusive.
NB: please pardon me if the post sounds too much of self-obsession. I am quite a humble person actually; at least, I sincerely aspire to be. It is just to let all parents having mildly autistic kids have hope that their kids are awesome and can definitely live a normal life. Please don't give up and more importantly please don't force them to be normal. We are all unique and let's celebrate our uniqueness!