My 10 year high school class reunion was this weekend, and some girls from my old Girl Scout troop organized a small brunch the day after, which I unfortunately couldn’t attend (one of the downsides of living so far from home). However, it’s reminded me of an experience I had once at Girl Scout camp.
I remember the camp well. It was deep in the woods, with large platform tents, a spacious lodge that doubled as a cafeteria and event center, a boathouse with canoes and kayaks for the lake, and a pool that was always far too cold to swim in. There were always tons of s’mores and plenty of pranks. My troop would often sponsor events for younger girls where we would help them earn badges by doing activities with them. One year, when we were probably 13 or 14, our leader told us that one girl in one of the younger troops had Asperger’s. Our leader’s daughter also is on the spectrum, so she was all-in 100% for inclusion. Before we began our sessions, our leader told us that we should expect her behavior to be a little different from the other girls, like she may not respond right away when we talked to her, or she might be very focused on her work and not want to be interrupted. Pretty typical stuff.
Later, when the sessions had ended and it was just us older girls, we were talking about how the activities had gone that day. In reference to the autistic girl, my best friend blurted out “Oh my gosh, Sam, she’s just like you!”
At the time, I was a little insulted. But now? I’m so relieved.
Why am I relieved?
Because I still feel like an impostor sometimes. Because I feel the doubt that other people have about my diagnosis, even if it’s not explicit (which, by the way, it almost never is). Over time, that doubt creeps in. Am I really autistic, or am I just asking for special treatment?
But someone noticed. Someone noticed WITHOUT my having a meltdown.
That’s some hard-won validation.