For Motlhatlhego Mahlatse Maffa, sharing his story is a significant part of his neurodiversity journey. It’s a brave step toward being open about his diagnosis.
“I’ve spent most of my life trying to fit in,” he says. “When someone would ask, ‘What is your favorite sport?’ I would say, ‘Soccer.’ They’d ask, ‘Which team?’ and I would just pick any. I felt like I always needed to fake things to meet standards. There are so many simple questions that I cannot answer. I don’t have a favorite movie or place to travel. I don’t get excited about my birthday or make plans. This complicates the hundreds of small social interactions most people make every day.”
After an engaging conversation with Dr. Lutza Ireland, psychologist and social designer, Mahlatse realized he’s autistic. He’s starting to understand that his way of relating to the world is different from some, but like many others. For most of his life, though, he dwelled on his differences.
“I’ve tried to adjust or fit in, to the point of feeling like I’m killing myself inside. It is only now I can be myself.”
Previously, when Mahlatse received a task or instruction, he might not immediately understand what to do without having the instructions explained in a way he could process.
“I’d try to figure it out myself and do something,” he says. “If it turned out wrong, I’d try to explain my work versus acknowledging that I didn’t understand the instruction.”
The situation became so acute, Mahlatse notes, it led to a demotion with a previous employer. Now, however, he’s feeling more empowered to be himself and to learn about his neurodiversity.