Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that involves experiencing and interacting in the world differently.
Autistic people tend to value clear communication, structure, and predictability. They often excel in roles that require attention to detail, analytical thinking, and specialised knowledge. Autistic individuals also tend to appreciate working in a quieter, less stimulating environment, with a focus on individual work and a slower pace. They may have unique talents and perspectives that can contribute greatly to team projects and problem-solving.
“Hi, I’m Elbe,
A Graphic Designer at Davis Funerals. As someone who is both autistic and dyslexic, I know firsthand the challenges of navigating a neurotypical world. But I also believe that our differences can be a source of strength and creativity. My purpose is to share my story and experiences in the hopes that others can relate and recognize that their brains are simply wired differently, not broken, and that they can bring their unique talents and perspectives to any workplace.”
Graphic Designer at Davis Funerals
What does Autism mean to you?
To me personally, because I’ve only realized that… Well been diagnosed with it less than two years it’s a little bit of like, sort of like… I wouldn’t say something to overcome. Really, it’s more like something I have to like, learn tools how to live with; but I don’t want to think of it as a negative, because it’s not like, like a disease or anything. Yeah, I still haven’t like quite wrapped my head around it.
How did your diagnosis impact your life?
So this is like a bit of an embarrassing story. It was my birthday party and I think I was turning six or seven. And there was like a lot of noise and like a lot of kids, cause you know, making a lot of noise, kids and screaming and I was just like, in the corner there like covering my ears telling everyone to stop and be quiet because I again, I didn’t know this at the time. But that was a sensory overload and me being six years old, not knowing what’s going on. Like, throwing a tantrum. So like it… when I first knew that I had autism. I like looked back and went like, Oh, that makes a lot more sense now. Like when I would get overloaded with information at like, because I used to work at customer service. And that kinda was like, oh, so like, I wasn’t going crazy or anything. It’s just my brain couldn’t handle all the information at once. Like how I can be kind of awkward sometimes like even in high school. High school, I think was like, terrible for everyone. Not terrible, but like kind of awkward for everyone because we were all teenagers and we all had hormones, but like, I would do some awkward things. And I was like, I don’t know why I did that. So it’s like, oh, because of my tendencies, or like, tics or stimming or something like that. Now it makes sense. So I can pinpoint and be like, “Yeah, everyone was kind of awkward in high school”, but like, I wouldn’t say it’s an excuse, but “it’s just it’s comforting to know that that’s what it was.”
What have been some of the challenges you’ve experienced? What does being overwhelmed feel like for you?
When I said like, “when I get overwhelmed”, it’s more noise for me like, if there’s a lot of noise, I find it harder to focus. But in the same vein, like I also have that with the tasks. Sometimes it’s just easier for me to start the easier task, like you said. Because it gets my brain going.Yeah, so I don’t really know how to explain it, but like for example, if I have to do… I’ll put it in like planer terms. If I have to do the laundry, and I have to do the dishes, but there’s way more dishes to do, I would probably start the laundry first because it’s an easy thing to start, and then I will kind of get myself into that rhythm of like, “Okay, now we’re like, tidying, we’re doing chores.” So, I will get my brain kind of like warmed up.
What was your experience of getting your diagnosis?
Because I didn’t know I had it. I felt kind of betrayed by my mom. Sorry, this is gonna get a little bit personal, but because I feel like my mom always knew that I had it but she didn’t say anything, which was kind of hard for me because… A little bit of history but my little brother is Autistic, he’s functioning. I think it’s Asperger’s. I think high-functioning Asperger’s. And then my older brother has Autistic tendencies as well, and he’s Dyslexic. And my uncle also has it and my grandma also had it, but she was an undiagnosed so, for me, it wasn’t really a surprise that I had it because I live with people who had it. But it was a surprise for me that… because I’ve been masking pretty much my whole life. So again, a lot of things clicked into place when I found out but at the same time, I was like a little bit in denial. But that denial quickly faded. Yeah. So and I do get sometimes people are like, “Oh, you don’t look Autistic.” I get people asking, like when I tell people, I’m Autistic. I’m like, “what’s an authentic person supposed to look like?” You know, like, I pass, I guess I could say like, some people like, that’s what they mean. I think like, “oh, you pass really well.” I’m like “that’s not really a compliment as much as you think it is.” like, “oh, you seem normal” like “what’s normal?” Yeah. Because like, again, like I’ve always known I’ve had Dyslexia, so that’s like a thing.
What is your experience around Masking?
So that’s like a kind of like a thing I’m going through at the moment is about masking because at some point, I feel like I’m trying to figure out where the mask ends and I begin. So I’m kind of going through that journey at the moment. But I have been a little bit more comfortable with being myself around friends and stuff, like because a lot of the people I hang out with, some of them have Autistic or ADHD tendencies as well. So I feel like we get each other or like, it’s not as much of a stigma as it used to be, or at least in New Zealand, I feel like in New Zealand, especially because I’m from South Africa. I was born there. In New Zealand it’s a bit more accepted. And there’s a lot more support. I feel like, yeah. So yeah, I think I’m pretty lucky to have grown up here.
What is your experience around Masking?
My understanding of masking probably isn’t to the full extent because I’ve only read some articles and watched some YouTube videos. But according to studies, mostly boys are diagnosed with Autism earlier on in life. Whereas girls aren’t really because they get diagnosed further on in life like for myself as an example because they don’t see the specialist themselves, because apparently girls they have this tendency, Autistic girls have this tendency of masking. So masking is when… I might get this wrong. So sorry. Masking is when you pick up traits from your peers and adopt it into your own personality to, quote unquote, “seem normal”. Some boys may do it. But again, I’m not an expert. So you’re basically acting to come off as “normal” to not be like judged. And I think I did that. I’m pretty sure I did that because I would like, watch what my peers were doing and sort of like mimic that. Or like, pretend to be someone else, which is kind of sad.
What is stimming and tics?
Stimming or tics is when an Autistic person not gets overloaded, but when they get excited, my little brother, he does something when he gets very excited, it’s actually really cute. He rubs his hands together really fast. Or like, he rubs his knees, because he gets very excited and it’s actually kind of cute because I can tell he’s excited about something or when he talks about it. So that’s a stim for him. He just does that. Ticks, I don’t think I have a tick anymore but I used to crack my knuckles a lot when I was nervous, I told myself not to do that. Or like play with my hands, I still do that.
What was your thought process before being diagnosed?
When I first was like, “mmmm, maybe I do have Autism, or maybe I don’t have Autism” because of my journey, but I would hear about some symptoms or things people would do and be like, “Oh, yeah, I totally do that.” and then I would hear about other things that other people do and like, “mmm, maybe I don’t have it.” It was kind of like, “do I, don’t I?” kind of… but then again, Everyone’s different. Everyone has different symptoms. Everyone does something different. some things will apply to some people, other things won’t. I’m not an expert on neurodivergency as a whole, I’m an expert on my neurodivergency. So whatever I say, could, could be relating to one person but not someone else.
What was your experience of getting your diagnosis?
With my story again, I was very anxious about the cost but luckily my mom helped me with it and then it was COVID. So we had to wait even longer. But eventually we got there to get an appointment. I think it was like, we originally wanted to see him in January. And we only got to see my specialist in September, if I remember correctly, I might be incorrect with that, but anyway. Um, so again, it was a bit hard for me because I kind of knew I already had it like, because things kind of was like falling into place and I was doing a lot of self-reflection. That’s when the like, “do I, don’t I?” kinda situation happened. And then he, he did some tests, and asked some questions, and he’s like, “yep, you definitely have some form of Autism”. It was kind of like a breath of fresh air I suppose. but it was something I already knew. It’s hard to explain. It’s kind of like, you have all the symptoms of something. Like like, like, I don’t know, like if you have the symptoms of… I’m trying to think of like a non-offensive thing, for like medical term. I guess, if you know you have a toothache, right, you’re like, “oh I have a toothache, and feel it I know I have it.” And you go to a dentist, and you go to the dentist and the dentist is like “yep that’s a cavity” and you’re like, “Yeah, I kind of knew it was cavity.” Not now I’ve got an expert telling me it is, so it’s kind of like “yeah I already know.”
How does your dyslexia impact your life?
Especially with my Dyslexia, just going back to that, I think I’m a lot more creative because of it. But man, I hate spelling. I’m so bad at maps and so bad at spelling. But I think I’m more creative because of it or and I think… I don’t want to sound a little bit up myself but I think I’m a little bit more sensitive to some things like I think it might be a masking thing. I’m not sure but I read people’s body language and I can see like, little expressions in people or pickups in tone in people’s voices. But again, that just could be how that person talks and I think this is where it’s leading to my anxiety because I’m like, “is that person mad at me or is it just their accent?” Who knows? Or maybe I’m just like, reading too much into things, but sometimes I feel like I can tell how some people are feeling, and I don’t want to use the term “empath” because I don’t think I’m an empath. Yeah, I just think I overanalyze maybe sometimes. I’m that… I really love animals as well. So I think it’s a strength. I’m the kind of person who like, if I’m going to a party, and there’s a dog. I would totally hang out with the dog. So like I love animals. and I think animals really like me as well, I like to think. Because I’ve had so many like, dog owners be like, “oh wow, she’s so friendly towards you.” I’m like, “oh, thank you” like she’ like, “oh she’s really well behaved around you.” like I don’t know if that’s just how the dog is reacting at the time or like that they like, I don’t know, dogs can sense things, but I think I get along well with animals.
What does being Autistic mean? (Click the correct answer)
How do you create an environment for Autistic people to thrive? (Click the correct answer)
Disclaimer: As you will learn everyone with a Neurodiversity is different. There is a saying if you have met one Autistic person then you have met ONE Autistic person. This applies for every other neurodiversity, everyone has different strengths, weaknesses and sits differently on the spectrum of the Neurodiversity they have.