Me: “I have a diagnosis of autism”
The other person: “Oh everyone is a bit autistic aren’t they? Don’t worry about it.”
I hear this a lot. I know it is meant with the best of intentions. But it makes me want to scream. “NO THEY ARE NOT”
Everyone is not a bit autistic, yes everyone may share traits in common with autism, but this no more means your autistic than sometimes getting pins and needles means you’re paralysed or sometimes closing your eyes means you’re blind.
I once, in the same situation as I would normally hear this comment, had a response that made me want to hug the person.
Me “I have a diagnosis of autism.”
The other person “Really? Gosh you must be working really hard all the time to seem so neurotypical.”
Most people mean the first one with the best of intentions, they might read this and switch to the second one. But for a few people it is more malevolent. They see autistic traits in themselves, and they see the autistic traits in the autistic person. They then observe behaviour they view as unacceptable in the autistic person and blame the person, believing that they are fundamentally like themselves and so should be able to do everything they can do (ironically thinking everyone thinks in the same way as you do is an autistic trait). In their minds the autistic person “has no excuse” for behaving in that way. I’ve even heard them say it: “I know he’s autistic but that’s no excuse for behaving like that.” Well, actually, yes it is an excuse…or how about taking away that blame laden word and saying reason instead, yes, he’s autistic, that’s the reason he finds it so hard to cope with this situation.
I wrote in my last post about how nearly neurotypical I can seem. I do work tremendously heard to learn the social skills that other people acquire naturally. I’ve been doing this consciously for over twenty years. I’m acutely aware of my deficits when compared to a neurotypical person and I’m trying very hard to overcome them. I am exhausted from trying. From trying to be something I am not. Trying to be normal. Trying to be neurotypical.
When you kindly say to me that “everyone is a bit autistic so I need not worry” you instantly open a gulf between us. In that moment I know you do not understand. You do not see the effort. You are not even looking for it. I am desperately trying to cling onto the edge of this path you walk so effortlessly and you’re gliding on past me, not stopping to haul me up to walk with you. I need you to recognise me. When I say “I have a diagnosis of autism.” I am telling you who I am.