Guest post #5: Sonia Boué – ‘I navigate like a middle aged Gretel’

It’s easy to get bogged down in what autism is and what it isn’t. I’m beginning to think there are more of us than anyone can yet conceive, so it could be you!

Autism means I am creative and obsessive. I’m forgetful yet sometimes unable to let go.

I’ve compensated for autism all my life, so taking the lid off it with my diagnosis two years ago has been a process.

Some days I’m staggered at what I have achieved in my life despite an impressive bunch of co-morbid conditions. Dyslexia and dyscalculia are far more bothersome in many ways. Yet pockets of grief empty out as I absorb how disabled I can be when I can’t compensate. Like a badly tuned radio my antenna buzzes with interference. Periods of desolation can follow.

I dread those times. Existence feels tenuous – I am a ghost woman.

It has taken me a long time to understand that others just don’t experience the same sensory onslaught that I do. I thought this was normal and that I was a just a hopeless wuss. There are days when vertigo topples me and tinnitus destroys all patience. Such days appear on a whim and most of my wardrobe becomes unwearable.

Organising can be a challenge but I’ve come to learn that I do have a system – it’s just that I can’t do anything in a straight line. Associative thinking dominates and so I’m good a setting tasks in motion but I’m quickly distracted. I find the trick is not to censure but rather to celebrate it as a method. If I keep going I can get the job of five people done.

This is where you need to take the long view. Hurrah! Being older is a plus. 

I’m good a recognising patterns, and with the aid of my diagnosis I’ve observed that I’m a person who simply lays trails. Working backwards is another excellent life hack for those of us who are thin on working memory. I navigate like a middled aged Gretel, and all of my trails eventually lead home. This is how I’ve managed to produce a body of creative work which is multi-form and disparate yet is entirely coherent. My strategy is now to keep going because what used to feel ‘scatter-gun’ has emerged as intelligent thinking (albeit of a different kind). 

Another deep benefit of autism is hyper-focus and the extraordinary sense of creative flow which comes from time spent in this state. Flow lifts us up where we belong, to borrow a song! In flow there is no tinnitus or vertigo, and my radio station is perfectly tuned. In flow clothes don’t seem to matter and the plates stop spinning. There is only one job, and in it I can be magisterially able. I love the stillness and perfection of flow. Hyper-focus is surely a superpower for autistics.

My family keep me anchored and my art practice makes me soar – I know that I’m lucky to have this balance in my life.


Sonia Boué is a multiform artist. You can find her at soniaboue.co.uk or as @soniaboue on Twitter.

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