An empty ice rink

In the next of an irregular series, we would like to introduce our Assistant Chair, Khiah. Here, in her own words, she introduces herself and explains why she is involved in ARGH.

It’s 2017, I’m 23, and I’ve been seeing a psychiatrist every 6 weeks for the last 1 and a half years: the psychiatrist drops the bomb ‘I have something to tell you. You’re autistic.’ Cue lots of tears and a little bit of shock. Shock, because I had no idea up until then I could be autistic as I’d never considered it before, or even really thought about it. I didn’t fit the stereotype and I didn’t understand at all. Tears because, what if this was the answer I’d been seeking? That’s where the online autistic community came in and honestly a lot of Googling! Trying to untangle my new identity became somewhat of an obsession.

It’s now 2022. My life has changed dramatically since my diagnosis. I was actively trying to, safely, unmask and be my authentic self. Knowing I was autistic let me follow my (then) special interest to a job abroad. I came back to Scotland and did an MSc in autism research. I was working in autism research. I was active on autistic Facebook groups and Twitter (mainly autism research Twitter), but I wasn’t finding what I really wanted. Then one evening I’m on Facebook and I see a post of local autism meet ups by a group named ARGH. I’d never heard of ARGH before then. The Facebook groups I was in were American based and focused on the American autistic community. I didn’t really fit there. The community I’d built up on Twitter was solely research focused – yes there were autistic people in there, but the focus was firmly on research. I didn’t really fit there either. This meet up was a chance to get what I had wanted since I was diagnosed all those years ago, an in person community. I went along on the off chance that I’d meet some other autistic people and maybe form friendships, and whilst that did happen, my life changed completely once again.

ARGH gave me the chance to become part of a community that I so desperately had wanted to be a part of, and just hadn’t realised how to be a part of. I finally found people I clicked with. For the first time ever, I felt like I belonged. It was amazing. When given the opportunity to join the committee, how could I not take that chance to maybe also let other autistic people experience what I had?

It’s now 2024 and I’m almost 30. I’m more active in collective advocacy through ARGH, I’ve gone from ARGH member, to committee member, to now being assistant chair. I’m not the same person I was when I was 23, and that’s a good thing! I take pleasure in my current special interest (if anyone asks me about North American hockey, or more specifically the Vancouver Canucks, I will talk at you for hours about game statistics and plays, speculate on upcoming player contracts, and monologue about the NHL collective bargaining agreement for too long. If you want to talk forecheck strategies and how to improve the power play in the Canucks then I’m here!) and I’m not afraid to be who I am anymore. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without ARGH and the support and community I have found with, and through, them.

So that all says a lot about my autistic journey and finding my autistic identity but not a lot about me as a person. I like to read, like a lot. Last year my StoryGraph tracked 166 books which is absolutely ridiculous (Goodreads tracked 173 as it connects automatically to my kindle and I’m lazy. Also not all books are on StoryGraph…and I’m going off on an irrelevant tangent.). Talking about tangents – I just got distracted from writing this by the announcement that Sally Rooney’s newest release is now up for pre-order, and had to go and buy a signed edition, and a trade paperback edition before they all sold out! [insert eye roll emoji here] My favourite genres are romance, dystopia, and extreme horror. I really enjoy dark and twisty plot lines. Since September I’ve become obsessed with hockey (as mentioned above) and regularly find myself watching the Canucks play live at 3am UK time because of pesky time zones. I’ve been to one live hockey game in Scotland so far and loved it! I never thought I’d be a sports fan, yet here I am. Oh, the places special interests can take you! As well as having a lot of books, I have a lot of house plants. I have five succulents, five small houseplants, two large houseplants, one very large yucca, one cactus, and one tiny orchid. I also have four herb plants (chives, basil, thyme and parsley) that regularly die and get replaced with the exact same type of plant again. I also am on a mission to convince myself that I enjoy having fresh flowers in my house, but honestly the smell of them kind of smells like dying things to me, so it isn’t going well.

By Graeme