Why I Write: About Autism

Another topic that comes up often in my poetry, whether or not it is specifically mentioned, is autism. I actually write about it a lot more than it may originally seem.  I have two named ‘Diagonsis: Autism Spectrum Disorder’ and ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’; which are pretty straight forward. But I also have poems about it called ‘Alien’, ‘The Nothingness’, ‘Anxiety Attack’, ‘Eyes’….. things that aren’t specifically labelled as being about autism but most definately are.

I write these poems because they are me. I am an individual with high-functioning autism, also known as Asperger’s Syndrome (at least until 2014 when they are planning to absorb the diagnosis of AS into high-functioning autism completely). Things like meltdowns, breakdowns in communication, misunderstanding of social norms, bewilderment at the way ‘normal’ people behave, and a lack of understanding why ‘eyes’ are supposedly always a symbol for something good in poetry are things that I struggle with in real life.

The reason I don’t always label these types of poems as being poems about autism straight out is two-fold. For one, I wasn’t informally diagnosed until last year. We’ve always known that there was something a more than a little off about me in relation to other people, but for the longest time my mother just fought through it with me and did her best to help me understand other people while not erasing the essential person that I was, problems and all. When I started becoming more of a danger to myself and other people (autisic people, when they have meltdowns, aren’t acting out because they want attention- therefore they don’t make sure not to hurt themselves) my mother took me to a general doctor who diagnosed me with a strange mixture of social anxiety and OCD which he thought could have contributed to the compulsive self-harming behaviors that would happen when I had a breakdown. This was quite a stretch, and it would be at least three more years before we would find the answer that fit me to a T- and I was diagnosed by a friend who is a psychologist but, since I do well enough with my own coping strategies, we have not taken the time or the money to get it written down on paper. I know what I am, it doesn’t bother me, and I enjoy having a community with which I finally can fully relate to.

For two, my autism is a deep part of me. There’s no way I can just seperate the way my autism tinges my world, so why should I make all of my poetry that is specifically about my challenges with it seperate? Every poem I write is going to have a bit of that literalism that makes sense to me. It’s going to relate things that people normally associate with certain things (like love to looking into someone’s eyes) to things that I myself understand (like love to be fascinated with their teeth). It’s going to be a bit more straightforward, and anything that is written that seems abstract is something that I most definately had rooted in something physical that I had encountered, or an image that I had actually seen. It’s hard for me to make up whole new images. I can really only combine what I know.

Now I’m not putting this out there so that I can garner pity or followers just because God saw fit to slot me into this specific neurotype. In fact, I discourage that kind of behavior because it is paternalistic and just downright insulting. I am simply stating, once now and never again, that this topic does come up quite a bit in my poetry and that I’m not just writing about it because I know someone with it or read about it and thought that it would be a nice little topic to write about. When I write about it, these are things that actually happen/happened/and are happening to me.

So now you know.

I Am An Aspergian by Amber Koneval

growing up, I’ve found

that I have something stuck in my eye

if you reach back and pinch

between your color and your cornea

I think you’ll find it itches when you know that it’s there


you feel it?

bending just beneath your iris

sucking in the light of day

and warping it, just so

or maybe twisting

maybe twinkling, perhaps distorting

I just don’t know


that is your lens, not mine


mine bounces the light

absorbing the fire so deep that it had no time

to reach down and pull up the corners

of my mouth

but it pokes out between the spaces in my teeth


and my head cannot hold it, so it runs down

my chin and bubbles out my ears

life is so exciting, don’t cha think?


not the people that pollute it

with their rolling,staring eyeballs

but the bright imagination

that shines like stars in the tall grass


so illogical, it’s all so illogical


it dazzles so that I can hardly think


and it changes


why are we wasting time with pleasantries

when there are gods to learn, words to dissect

facts to crack open on the rock

and spill into the sea

the world is sparkling and its sparkling for me

how can you not see it?


just the same way

that I cannot see through your lens

you are an alien to me, on the wrong planet

but put your hand in mine

cheek to cheek

we’ll align our eyes

until we circumference the atlantic

come on, people!

you can’t see the big picture

unless you reflect the lenses



we may be different, but why shouldn’t we be?

 Amber Koneval

-Another poem about my Asperger’s. Since it’s so specific, I have it included in my manuscripts but it won’t be submitted to specific journals.