I was the child that no teacher wanted to teach. I was the child that no other child wanted at their birthday party. Why? I was not like them.

My earliest memory in school was standing in the playground. Children were rushing by, screaming happily, and playing games while I stood by and watched this apocalyptic scene unfold before me. I had no idea how to fit into this chaotic scene, and it filled me with a sense of shame, even as a five-year-old. I knew I wasn’t like the rest of my classmates at that time. I had a classroom assistant with me everywhere I went, and I was looked upon with what I perceived to be, pity and sadness.

All through my life, I have been defiant. If I set a goal or set a target, I wanted to prove that I was worthy. If it was a school project, I wanted to take a leading role—and my laser-like attention to detail always ensured the job was done. My peers, teachers, and colleagues negatively viewed this as a thirst for control, but for me, it was maintaining my own sense of order and clarity to a situation.

Like all humans, I grew up. When I did, I reflected on my childhood very negatively, and it was clear that I harbored many scars that affected me into adulthood. By the time I was twenty-three, I made friends and became a social worker and a Dad. Even in my early twenties, I mentally ignored my childhood and felt a sense of shame. It made me shudder at the fact I was so different and never really fit in anywhere. As a grown man, I thought that being autistic was a thing of the past and only affected children. How wrong was I?

My mind was focused on the negativity that surrounded my life. I didn’t focus on my triumphs anywhere near as much as I could have. I received the best help and support throughout my time at mainstream school. I had the most caring and loving parents and I not only achieved every goal that I wanted, I did it in emphatic style.

So, how did I go from one negative mindset to another? The answer is simple: I learned to accept I am autistic and to love myself for it.

I had many social difficulties and anxieties, yet I trained and qualified as a social worker. Extremely ironic—but I flourish in this career path. I can apply my autistic logic to a crisis, dissect the situation, and provide positive outcomes for the most vulnerable people in our society. I have been doing this for eight years now, and my logic and reasoning have helped me all the way.

I have always been a driven person. I loved reading and writing, and I exercised that passion to write my own book, Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad? After coming to the sobering realization that I had wasted twenty-five years of my life loathing myself, I focused on the amazing journey I have been on. The journey exists forever, and I can’t change the actual events, only how I perceive them.

Autistic people are known by large sections of society as having “obsessive or repetitive patterns of behavior.” May I be the first to say that this does a huge disservice to every autistic individual that has ever lived. There have been many influential people who have been diagnosed with autism or thought to have it. My dream would be to have the definition change to say “passionate and driven individuals.” Without my strong passion and drive, I wouldn’t have become a social worker, author, or speaker. I wouldn’t have taken my writing to the highest level it could go or sold out seats at speaking events.

When I started to believe in myself, wonderful things happened.

I don’t want any autistic child or teenager to hate who they are as much as I did. Society views being autistic negatively, and it saddens me deeply. The typical view of autistic children being emotionless and awkward must end. Let’s focus on the amazing contributions autistic people have made to mankind. When a positive outlook is applied, acceptance will follow quickly after. I am ashamed to say that I bought into the negative societal view throughout my life, but now I am enlightened. It is not too late. You and/or your child are not broken versions of normal, you are wonderfully gifted in your own neuro-diverse way.

About the author(s)

Jude Morrow is an autistic author, motivational speaker, and social worker from Derry, Ireland. Jude’s debut book, Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad?, is published by Beyond Words Publishing and available now from all major online retailers and bookstores. For more on Jude, visit www.judemorrow.com.