So yes, it is understandable, that some should hate what they see as the ‘cause’ of all that. But if we’re miserable, it’s not because of our autism per se, but our life-situations, and all that they lack - or don’t lack (that criticism, rejection, etc). To blame it on the autism rather than the attitudes and practises of those around us, is like blaming gays for homophobia, or indeed any group for their oppression. I know it can be hard to separate it out sometimes, especially when we’re, say, in sensory overload, or being dumped on by our ‘nearest and dearest’, or struggling to keep our home tidy, etc, etc, but there is a difference between these things and the autism itself. Autism is at its heart a profoundly different way of thinking and being. It’s neurologically-based, and though it often goes hand in hand with things like sensory issues, alexithymia (difficulty recognising and managing emotions), executive dysfunction, depression and anxiety, it is not itself those things.
And yet, even if we can see this, it can still be hard to find anything good about it. So I’ve made a list of reasons why we should celebrate being autistic.
1) Our different and original way of thinking. The world needs our innovative thinking – as Temple Grandin said, if things had been left to NTs, we’d all be still sitting around in caves chit-chatting. And even if you think you’re not especially innovative, you can still bring a fresh perspective to things. I remember once, in a feminist meeting many years ago, I got sick of how people were ‘talking around the point’. So I spoke up and said what I thought the real issues were – and several women came up afterwards and thanked me for this!
And if you’re thinking “well, that may be so for the ‘high-functioning’, but what about those who aren’t?” They still have something to contribute – even if it’s only teaching the NTs around them the value of compassion and taking the time to observe and understand those who are ‘different’.
2) Our honesty. This can be misinterpreted as ‘rudeness’, I know. But in a world full of BS of different kinds, some will find it refreshing and straightforward. We may have to learn how to ‘soften the edges’ of our honesty, or choose our words wisely, but it’s still a quality worth having.
3) Our integrity. This is sort of an offshoot of our honesty, and one which employers, partners, friends and associates can come to value, even – or especially – in a world where so many are conspicuously lacking in it. Don’t be shy about revealing it. It’s actually something to be proud of.
4) Our special interests. These are a source of so much enjoyment - certainly I wouldn’t be without mine. I pity NTs who never know the pleasure of hours and hours spent completely wrapped up in a favourite interest or activity. There’s nothing like it. I wouldn’t swap my special interests for all the socialising ability in the world.
5) We’re stuck with it. Autism is fixed at the genetic and neurological level. There’s no pill to get rid of it, and isn’t ever likely to be. The most that is likely to happen is that they’ll work out how to stop us being born in the first place, not a pleasant prospect. So we might as well accept it, and if we can, to even embrace it. Because why should we creep and cringe through the world, constantly apologetic for our very existence? We’re here, we have a right to exist and to be our true selves, just as much as any other human being does. The fact that we are human often gets lost by those dumping on us, but we don’t have to join in with them.
So there you go. This is just a ‘starter’ list really, I’m sure others will think of more reasons to celebrate, or at least not to hate, being autistic. Go for it.