Most people who I’ve told that I’m autistic responded with a ‘really?’ They don’t see that stereotype rainman like autism in me. Neither did I. Which is why it took me a long time to look into autism and how it presents in different ways, some of which I do recognise within myself.
Most people, and I was one of them until recently, think of autism as this set of characteristics that every autistic person has. Like somehow every human is unique, except those with autism (or any other kind of neurological diversity or mental health condition.)
Why is it that no one blinks twice when someone has a broken leg, or a failing organ located in the gut, but when something is the matter with our brain we collectively stop thinking straight?
We assume, we flee, we judge. No one cares if you’ve got a funny looking toe, or in what way it looks different than yours and how this might compromise your ability to walk up straight. But if we stumble upon a brain that functions in a different way than our own, we all seem to loose our minds.
Aside from being autistic we’re pretty much the same as neurotypical folk in the sense that we are all unique as well and so is our autism. What you see about autism in the media is not all you get. I’ve noticed people have a hard time grasping this fact. Even in the autistic community some people have a very limited view of autism and if your autism cannot be defined within those limits you’re deemed not autistic enough.
Autism can’t be measured. Thankfully. Would you want to have your neurotypicality (is that a word? If not, it is now) measured along a scale of bad, good enough and perfect fit? Don’t you want to be seen for who you are instead of which box you fit in best? Mind you, I like my autistic box because it gives me a way to deal with things I find difficult in a way that actually works for my type of brain. But I’m still me and not all of me is part of autistic me.
Autism doesn’t define me, it doesn’t define my personality, it defines how my brain works.
What I’m trying to say is that if you want to know what autism is, ask an autistic. If you want to know what autism is like, ask an autistic. Ask several. Ask as many as you can. Because it’s different for all of us. And while you’re at it, ask about us too.
Autism doesn’t define a person, a personality does. So get to know us just as you would like to get to know anyone else.