I am Autistic. If the previous four weeks of articles weren’t a clue, I’m kind’a passionate about the entire social mire surrounding my condition. If you passed me on the street, you’d never know it to look at me. That’s kind of the point of Autism. Why it’s THE affliction in Media and used to excuse the Heroic Asshole from time to time. And part of why I’m doing this bonus extra session about Autism for y’all.
There is no Autistic ‘look’. One of the things I hear a lot from Nypical folks is how I “don’t look autistic”. I think they mean I don’t look like the nonverbal white male 10-15YO who appears on the news because he’s bashing his family in another round of scary Burden Porn narrative. Autism like that doesn’t spring up out of nowhere like Harryhausen skeletons. It’s formed from the surrounding environment.
That family needed to find better ways of doing things before their kid got it ingrained in their processes that violence was the only resort. But I digress.
There are signs of Autism. A peculiar walk, a less melodic talk, social awkwardness and a certain amount of nerditry. Other than that, every Autistic person is different because every person is different. Which kind of leads to…
Autism is not a slide bar. Way too many people think that Autism is a sliding line from “mostly functional in society” or “Good”, and “not at all functional” or “Bad”. First off, this is a horrible way to think of a human being. None of us should be evaluated by how well they fit into the average workplace. I’m willing to chalk that particular evaluation up to the more diseased portions of Late Stage Capitalism and call it a day.
Autism is more like a salad or dessert bar. Possibly both at once if you really wanna try lettuce and ice cream [please don’t]. You have certain things that are common to everyone – to stretch the metaphor, like ice cream or three leaf mix or social awkwardness. Then you have an assortment of other difficulties that your average Autiste does not get to choose.
Seriously. Nobody ever has said, “Hey, I’d love a heaping helping of social anxiety with a side of auditory processing disorder and a whole bunch of nervous stims.” Nope. We get some arsehole selecting all our comorbs[slang talk for ‘co-morbidities’, things you get as well as the thing you’ve got] for us and we just have to deal.
I am not a monster. For reals. People are being taught to be scared of Autistes or hold them up as the next superior being for some reason. Possibly so that writers can look “woke” or “progressive” or some other bullshit. Either way, Autism is not a thing many of the common throng are wont to understand, and that can lead to hostility, fear, and people murdering us.
All the person-first narrative in the world can’t stop an Autism Parent swallowing the Burden Porn narrative and honestly believing that infanticide is the only way her Autistic kid can have peace. All the “next step” bullshit won’t stop a bunch of kids thinking it would be cool if Autistic Carol wasn’t around to embarrass them any more and decide to beat her to death.
I can’t even tell all of y’all to stop believing in that bullshit because we’re steeped in it. Maybe call it out when it happens? Maybe try to find better narratives. Or make some better narratives. I’d love to see more than one where dealing with Autism is also the Autistic Character’s battle. I’d love to see Autism represented as just another heap of dung that a particular character has to work around. You know, like poverty, or being in a wheelchair. Or having to operate in a miasma of sexism when you’re a woman. That sort of thing. That’d be nice.
I am not the only source, I am not the best source. So there’s this type of “Ally” you see floating around the atmosphere now and again. They’re the “I read a blog once” type of Ally. They read this one blog about Autism and they think that that is the sum total of Human knowledge on the subject, and now they’re an expert. They’re the most annoying sort of expert, too.
Why? Because they will tell me, an Autistic person, that I do not have Autism because they read this blog, once. The person who wrote that blog was Autistic and because my comorbs do not line up with their comorbs, I can’t possibly have Autism because of that one blog.
For the love of your favourite deity, please do some fucking research beyond reading a blog, once. Go on the deep dive, don’t stop at Wikipedia. Look up other Autistic bloggers. Find out why every single Autiste fucking hates the shit out of Autism Speaks. Read the hashtags. Learn stuff. I promise it isn’t that difficult, just emotionally taxing.
I have a right to be angry. Can you think of one example in any media where you, personally, found your identifying group singled out as The Big Bad? Or even a Mediocre Bad? They may have achieved a redemption arc, but man, they were seen as an arsehole for like ten minutes and you feel so pissed off about it?
Congratulations, you have had a glimpse of what it’s like to be an Autiste. The media is constantly downgrading us to ‘monster’ or pretending to uplift us with some blatantly spurious ‘next step’ horseshit whilst still trawling the deepest depths of the Burden chasm because that’s all Autism is, right? A burden of a person with either huge destructive tendencies or one useful trait that can save the abled people from the outside threat. Yay.
That’s not me. It’s so far removed from me that you might as well compare a cardboard standee to the human it represents. It’s not even close. Yet millions of people see that cardboard imitation and say, “Yeah. That’s Autism, all right. It’s so accurate…” because they don’t know any better. It’s frustrating and I’m sick of it and I want it to stop now, please.
I don’t mean to be rude. It’s part of the social awkwardness thing. Sometimes I think something’s funny when it’s completely insensitive. Sometimes, I just want to explain a thing to the point where you can understand it. Sometimes I have no idea what the hell I just did (or forgot to do) that pissed you off.
Sometimes, it’s the fifth time I’ve done it. Blame my mutated brain structure. Sometimes, I just fucking forgot about the polite thing because I’m excited or agitated or otherwise emotional about something and -whoops- I was rude again. Sometimes, I am completely unaware of the extant social conventions. Sometimes, I really am trying to be helpful, but I just wind up being trying.
I promise I will feel bad about it once informed. Just… let me express the thing, and then you can steer me back to the rails of social normalcy. Okay? Okay. This is frustrating for me, too. Some days, it seems that all I do is fuck up with people. If you can be patient, I can keep trying.
My tells are not normal tells. Like, just about every single manual on body language has passages that read like, “If a person [USES AUTISTIC TRAIT], then they are clearly a liar.” Can we… not? Can all of those self-aggrandized people readers just… kindly fuck off and learn about Autistes? Please?
Direct eye contact makes me uncomfortable, so I don’t do it. I read it as a threat. I fidget, fiddle, and stim, especially when nervous about being wrong, which means that if interviewed by one of these experts, they will think I’m hiding something. Sure am, bucko, I’m hiding the fact that I’m scared spitless by this entire procedure, thanks for picking that up… champ.
I rehearse things I want to say, so everything I say that’s important is going to sound rehearsed. I have a more monotone voice and no control or awareness of how loud I am, so… yeah. Of fucking course I’m going to be a suspect. Of course laypeople who have read books like that are never going to believe a word I say.
I’m more or less just like you. I know. After all this, it sounds bizarre, but it is true. I am a person with wants and needs, friends and family. I like things, I dislike things. I do stuff. I want things. Just like everyone else in the world. I have emotions. I have a beating heart…
Enough with the Adventure Zone riff… I go through my day just like you do. I have a few more issues in some areas, and none in others. If we were to meet on the street, you might have an inkling that I was not entirely normal, but I’m… near enough to not trigger the rage.
Amazing how that goes. If you treat people like people, they act like people. If you treat them like a burden, a monster, or something to fear, they become that. Even if it’s only to you. How we face the world makes all the difference. The same applies to how we face others. Me? I just have a little more trouble with that than you could.