It’s been a about a year (give or take) since I’ve written a post on the dos and don’ts of things not to say or do, and after several more moons of knowing I’m autistic/an Aspie, a few more have accumulated. And it’s been a while since I’ve written an honest-to-goodness informational post. So today, I thought I’d revive an “old” tradition.
One might think I make notes on this stuff as it comes to mind. I do. (Lol.)
Of course, these are merely my observations and my own thoughts on them. I don’t expect this perspective to be universal, or even common, but I’m sure something on this list will speak to someone and thus, I write.
So, I’ll start writing. Here goes, in my typical list-making fashion…
1 – “Oh, you must be high-functioning.”
Please–Don’t Be That Person. Any sentence containing “you must be” is an assumption, and you know what They Say about the word “assume” and its spelling and all that.
If that weren’t filled enough to the brim with potential land mines, let’s factor in the sheer wrong-ness of the statement. Maybe I’m functioning OK today. And maybe, so are you. All is calm, all is bright.
But now, let’s stress the human system. Kind of like building an epic metropolis on SimCity and then tearing it down with Godzilla or something.
If the human system encounters a Godzilla attack that is destructive enough or lasts long enough, the system will suffer. It might even destabilize.
By assuming I’m “high-functioning” (whatever that even means anymore), people who say stuff like this are, by comparison, speaking poorly of those who act differently. Which, on many days, includes me.
Not only that, but they’re undermining the sheer force of will (and luck) it often takes for me to suppress my natural self and create a likable Pseudo-Me that gets past the social metal detectors.
Please, never make assumptions, never put anyone else down (even if it’s disguised as a compliment to my face), and never underestimate the energy it takes for me to persuade the world to accept me.
2 – Everybody’s like that/everyone goes through that sometimes.
It’s true that the Asperger’s/autism spectrum does not necessarily hold a monopoly on any one trait. Asperger’s/autism is merely a collection of traits found throughout the Neuro-spectrum–it’s just that those traits are gathered in greater concentration and magnified in the Asperger’s/autism profile.
But please, I ask these people not to trivialize my experience by trying to put it on the same plane as their own. Chances are good that I’ve spent much more time observing nonautistic people than they’ve spent watching autistic people, and I’ve had a lot more nonautistic behavior to observe. I’ve also been lectured on socialization, expectations, social norms, etiquette, and protocol, none of which comes naturally to me. Based on what I’ve witnessed in my 40 years, I have a lot of empirical data that concludes that people on the spectrum indeed (typically) have it tougher.
So please don’t go there.
3 – Isn’t that just an excuse to be an asshole/interesting/get attention?
Heavens no. The last thing I want is attention. Nor am I an asshole. I’ll admit that I might be more likely to forgo some of the social niceties and get right to the point, telling it like it is, calling it as I see it, but goodness knows I’m not doing it to be mean or inconsiderate. I might have simply forgotten, overlooked, or perhaps never even caught on to a particular unwritten social rule, but it’s not like I discovered I’m Aspergian/autistic and said, “woot! I can be a dick now!” Nope, that’s not how the story goes.
4 – Did you get vaccinated? I bet it was caused by the vaccine.
Yes, I got vaccinated. Yes, I handled it fine. No, I did not have a vaccine reaction. No, getting vaccinated didn’t throw me onto the spectrum.
I’ll tell those folks a little secret: I was born this way. I was autistic before I got vaccinated (the vaccine schedule was very different back in my day).
I even have friends on the spectrum who were never even vaccinated. So this is one mythological unicorn that must be laid to rest, and the sooner, the better.
5 – There are so many treatments available these days…
Please–just don’t go there. What are we really talking about–behavior therapies?
Phooey. They just teach autistic people how to build a mask and be “better” actors/actresses. And there is a price paid for the speed at which this occurs. I won’t go into details because I want to remain sensitive to trigger-potential, but let’s just say that it does more harm than good, and at the end of the day, the person is still on the autism spectrum. It’s not like the autism goes away, or they’re any less autistic. Nor should it, and nor should they be, respectively.
Because the way I see it, autism is not a disorder. It’s a normal, even if uncommon, human variant.
6 – But you’re so normal!
7 – But you’re (female, adult, black, married, etc)!
Yep, I have another piece of classified information: Asperger’s/autism is found in every segment of the population, across all geographical boundaries and ethnic lines.
And autistic people get married, have kids, earn degrees, and land jobs, too. I do a great job of blending in–so well that I had no clue that I was on the spectrum until I was 38.
8 – Aren’t you guys psychopaths?
There’s a huge difference between the autism spectrum and psychopathy. The two conditions almost could not be more different.
In my experience, the autism spectrum diagnostic criteria are frustratingly incomplete. They paint a picture of that which can only be seen on the outside, by an observer who knows nothing about the firsthand experience–I.e., “what it’s like” to actually be on the spectrum.
The triad of social impairments may or may not look like a mental illness, specifically psychopathy (I’ll leave that one up for debate), but the internal workings of an autistic person, speaking for this autistic person, are completely different.
I’ve noticed that people who throw this remark around actually have little knowledge of what they’re talking about (how or why else would they be making such a ridiculous comment?). They usually have no clue what a psychopath is, nor what autism is.
In over-simplified terms, I think that the key boils down to this: psychopaths are devoid of emotion or remorse for wrongdoing, whereas autistic people definitely are not.
There are so many other differences, but I don’t have the energy. I’ve written about this in detail before, though.
9 – But you’re not like my child! My child is so much worse off than you.
10 – Just suck it up/deal with it.
Talk about a trigger! My (probably very snippy) retort would be: “I can’t do This or That. There are people in this world who are different from you. That’s something that you need to suck up/deal with.”
Of course, that’s a general retort; a more specific one would probably be in order, and it would depend upon the context of the conversation.
11 – Umm, ok – bye!
Seriously, don’t pull the same shit my extended family did and completely ignore me and fall off the face of my world right after I reveal to you my autism diagnosis. That’s rude and uncalled for. I didn’t change; I’m still me, the same person I was before. Of course, I stood on the sidelines of their awareness then, too.
12 – (Back away slowly with wide eyes.)
13 – (Start talking to me like I’m a little kid or intellectually disabled.)
14 – (Assuming we’re all the same or that I am or am not like your kid/relative/neighbor’s kid you know “with” Asperger’s/autism)
15 – (Vanish without a trace, stopping all contact.)
I’m fresh out of spoons, so that’s what I can come up with, and hopefully it was at least semi-coherent. 😉