Friday 22 September 2017

No, we are not all 'a little bit autistic', and this is why

Imagine, if you will, going up to a woman who has just experienced extreme sexist comments, and saying to them, "Ah, I know what this is like; we're all a little bit female, aren't we".

Yet, on a regular basis, autistic people receive the comment, "We're all a little bit autistic, aren't we".

Commonly, the person who is telling us this supposed-fact means that they like a bit of routine in their lives (as if this is what autism means).  Or that they are introverts (as if this is what autism means).

Being autistic is a specific thing.  In order to get a diagnosis, we have to fit the criteria.  Desperate need for routine or predictability, in order to avoid our brain overloading with unexpected sensory/social stuff - tick.   Different way of using social communication to most people - tick.  Very literal interpretation of language and rules - tick.

But, being autistic isn't that simple list.  Being autistic is also about a lifetime of experiences.  Experiences of exclusion, experiences of hate, experiences of struggling to access even basic things.  It's also about a lifetime of encountering the world in different ways.  Seeing, hearing, sensing the world around us in ways that are amazing, different, innovative.  It's about having a brain that is wired differently from birth, and stays that way for life (more or less), with all that this brings.  It's about a different culture and language, a different set of social protocols.  For many, a different sexuality and gender ID also.

You're not 'a little bit autistic' because you like your room to be tidy.
You're not 'a little bit autistic' because you like to spend time on your own with a book instead of going to a party.

That's not what autism is.  Autism is us, and it's our whole lives and all that we encounter.

Thank you for listening. 

The picture shows a woman, walking along a track in the countryside.  It has been raining. She is carrying a rainbow-coloured umbrella. For me, it signifies being beautifully different, but alone, a feeling that is all too common when autistic in a non-autistic culture.