1. I didn’t even know you had it!
This. Is. Irritating. Beyond all understanding. You have no idea if you’ve never experienced it yourself. Yes, I may seem “normal” and neurotypical on the outside, but I do that on purpose. I make myself appear that way on purpose. Not just because I’ve been made fun of in the past, but also because I don’t want people to act differently around me when I am my whole self. I’m always known as the shy, quiet, smart kid, and when I take off the mask and behave like myself, people get weird around me. I hate it.
2. Are/were you in Special Ed?
Yes. I was. I’m not proud of it, though. I don’t know about my fellow autistic people, but I was in Special Ed through most of middle school and high school and I hated it. I didn’t really need it. I am smart and I am a very capable student. My grades were above average and I was at the top 5 percent of my class in high school. That isn’t the issue. Never has been. I was placed in Special Ed to help with social skills, but I came out of high school more introverted and masked than when I entered because of ABA therapy. It ruined my outlook on myself and ruined my self-confidence. Being told that the way you behave is wrong and that you won’t get far in life if you don’t act like everyone else is so destructive.
3. Do you wish you weren’t autistic?
I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who loves every single part of their body. Body image in America is steadily becoming a problem because people aren’t content with who they are. The same could be said for people who have different brain wirings/functions. There are days where I wish I wasn’t autistic so I didn’t have to struggle with social anxiety and that I could communicate with others in a way that’s easy to understand. But, c’est la vie.
4. I’m glad I’m not autistic.
I’ve never heard this personally, but I can imagine someone else has.
If you knew someone who didn’t have an arm, would you walk up to them and tell them you’re glad you have both of your arms? No! Why? Because it’s common courtesy. Just because someone appears to suffer from a disability doesn’t mean they are truly suffering. They try to live their lives the best they can, and they have to accommodate for their differences in ways that you may not even know about. The same goes for autistic people. We may experience life differently, but that doesn’t make it a bad thing to go through. It just means that we’re different, and we have to accommodate for our differences, and there is nothing wrong with that.
5. Have you considered not having kids because you’re autistic?
This one has been brought up to me before, and it was by someone close to me who said it because they didn’t agree with my diagnosis in the first place (how that’s possible is baffling to me). And they wouldn’t want their kids to have “learning disabilities” like me.
Fun fact: Autism isn’t a learning disability. We don’t experience anything less than a “normal” human being. We just experience and respond to the outside world differently. We may have some comorbid learning disabilities along with our already odd brains, like dyslexia or sensory processing disorder. But that doesn’t mean we all have disabilities just because we’re autistic.
And I want to have kids just as much as a neurotypical person does. Maybe even more so. And if my kids are autistic, so be it. I’d actually be all for that. Because I’m happy with how God made me and they should be too.
6. Do you take medication?
Currently I do not, but I do know of other autistic people who take medication to help with anxiety and controlling seemingly uncontrollable emotions. There is not a specific medication to treat autism (as that would be impossible since autism is a genetic-based condition) but even if there were, I would avoid it. Autism is who I am, not what I have, and trying to change that would involve changing who I am as a person.
7. Are you like Sheldon Cooper/Rain Man/insert famous person here?
Even though Sheldon Cooper isn’t autistic-that myth has been debunked by The Big Bang Theory writers, many people have used him as an example of the iconic autistic person, as well as the infamous Rain Man or The Good Doctor’s Shaun Murphy, who are both iconic autistic savants. But using a famous character who appears to show autistic traits to compare characteristics of a real-life autistic person is really harmful. I’ve heard a saying that goes:
‘No two autistic people are the same. If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met just that: one autistic person.’
and I couldn’t agree more. Autism affects every person who has been born with that brain differently, and trying to compare two of them can result in harmful stereotypes and potentially offending one of the parties.
8. Do you need to see a counselor/therapist?
Seeing a therapist isn’t something every autistic person has access to, but there is also a flip side to it: ABA, or applied behavioral analysis, is a form of therapy that doesn’t help, but in fact harms, an autistic person. According to verywellhealth.com, ABA is “is a system of autism treatment based on behaviorist theories which, simply put, state that desired behaviors can be taught through a system of rewards and consequences. ABA can be thought of as applying behavioral principles to behavioral goals and carefully measuring the results.”
This, in short, is a treatment to make the autistic person into someone they are not, and basically teaches them social skills and molds them into a persona that they cannot fulfill, and will spend years down the road suffering because of it.
9. My great aunt’s kid brother’s son’s step-sister (or anyone related to you in some way) is autistic, so I know more than you!
This hurts autistic people so much. I understand that because you know someone who is “affected” by autism, you believe that you have some sort of understanding of autism, but this hurts more than helps. Autistic people are constantly spoken over by organizations such as Autism Speaks and TACA, as well as the media, and it deafens our culture to autistic experiences when we do try to speak up. If you are not autistic, you do not have the place to speak over us when it comes to autism and our experiences. It may seem harsh, but let’s look at it this way: if you are a child, would you tell an adult that you know more about being an adult than they do simply because you know adults? No, of course not. That’s because the child hasn’t had the experiences of adults and cannot speak from a place of being an adult because they are not one. The same can be said for autistic people. Non-autistic people haven’t had the same experiences in life and in communication as autistic people, and in trying to speak over them, they lose an aspect of the autistic community that needs to be heard more than it is now.
10. I’m sorry.
Apologizing for someone else’s genetic condition is actually quite rude. It may not seem rude in the moment, and may seem natural for you to say, but think about it: what good does it do to apologize for something that cannot be undone, and that you had no part in to begin with? Autistic people will always be autistic, even on their deathbeds, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The only thing that is wrong with this is how culture makes autism out to be this epidemic that is taking over their precious children. Autism is not an epidemic. It is a genetic difference that should be embraced instead of eradicated.
If you aren’t autistic or even if you are, I hope this list helped. It definitely helped to write it all down, and I hope you take to heart what I said and try to remember next time you talk to someone who is autistic. We’d very much appreciate being listened to.