>Last month, I moved into an apartment run by my university, as a way to get out of dormitory life and see if I could manage on my own effectively. I’ve always been really frightened, yet fascinated, by the prospect of living on my own. I am fully aware of my own limitations, but I’ve always had confidence in my ability manage, so long as I was given support.

Curiously enough, the biggest barrier thus far on my journey was not anything I was expecting. It was a simple matter of not getting the emotional support and encouragement that I craved as I set off to live here. I was told that I wouldn’t be able to manage, that I would starve because I was a bad cook, that I would not be able to pay my bills on time or commute from my place to university. My mother often would send mocking emails to relatives, saying she was anticipating how many months I would last, knowing that I was so dependent and weak, and didn’t know how to take care of myself.
That has been, quite honestly, the most crushing aspect. It led me to become extremely depressed and frightened, and for a while I thought about dropping out of university. It was only the encouragement of friends and loved ones that believed I could manage who pulled me out enough to permit myself to give it a try. But the difficulties continue, in other ways.
Two weeks ago, I lost my job, and I’ve been trying hard to find a new one. But no job means no money, and my bank accounts were of course drained by textbooks. So I’ve been living off of food from the food bank, donations from kind friends, and my lovely room-mate. It has been a lifesaver, but at the same time, it is exceptionally difficult to live off the kindness of other people. When I went to the food bank, the selection of fruits and vegetables was tiny and sad, and most of the fruit there had been rotted in several areas. So I stocked up on bread items and canned foods.
Had I been forced to do this when I was younger, I probably would have starved, because of my serious aversion to canned food, and my hatred of any bread that wasn’t a particular brand of sourdough. For someone else with a disability involving eating sensitivities or certain intolerances, it would be an even worse situation. Someone with a gluten intolerance would have a hard time at the food bank, as would someone with diabetes, or a plethora of food related difficulties.
Had I still been living in the dorm, I would have had my meal plan to depend on upon losing my job. But now, I am compelled to make my own way in terms of food, and I’m very lucky I am managing. Other people do not have the same privileges that I do. 27 percent of the families in my town live below the poverty level, 34 percent of single women live below the poverty line. How many of them are disabled, or have children with disabilities? It would be astoundingly difficult for them to manage with the limited foods available.
Getting a job in and of itself is difficult for a person with autism. I am limited as to what kind of jobs I can take on. Several reasons are because I cannot drive and therefore need to stay within walking/biking distance of my house, I have difficulty dealing with “flexible” schedules, preferring a routine set in stone, and difficulties socializing. This rules out a lot of jobs in areas that require certain skill sets that are beyond my job grasp. I’m not the only one feeling this pain. According to the Center for outreach and Service for the Autism Community {COSAC} 90% of adults with autism are unemployed, compared with other disabled adults who have a 75% unemployment rate. These odds are not particularly optimistic for me, and the clock is ticking. I am hoping with the help of several disability organizations in my town, I can find a job, in a field where I can use my skill set without having to worry about my shortcomings.
Other difficulties are present in apartment life. I have difficulty navigating streets, so having to lay out a new mental grid as to where everything is relative to my location has been difficult. Sleep difficulties are plaguing me (I’ve entered in a raffle to win a weighted blanket for this reason) and my hermit-lifestyle is being interrupted by invitations to clubs and parties, which I accept to be polite, but I’m not too sure about how well I fit into that particular lifestyle either.
The joys though, are overwhelming. Having my own kitchen for making tea, not having to share a toilet with 40+ other girls, having a space of my own where I can stim and relax without disturbing my room-mate, and having a couch where I can nap has been a wonderful experience. I’m interested in seeing how it all unfolds in this last year of undergrad university here. But so far, the challenges have not out-weighed the wonders.