I have a very honest question for allistics (those people who are not on the spectrum):
Would you know an Aspie/autistic person if you saw one?
How would you react/respond?
Would you truly be as altruistic and open-minded as most people claim to be?
(I know that for many of you, the answers would be yes. But for some… maybe not so much.)
The reason I ask these questions is, people preach “awareness” and “lighting it up blue” for autism and all that. They swear up and down that they’re tolerant, open, and embracing. They promise that they value diversity and that they’re equally loving of people of all kinds, from all walks of life.
But, once again, I call Bullshit, at least on most people (not all, of course).
When the rubber meets the road, what really happens? How does it really turn out? Are non-spectrumites honestly as kumbaya as they claim to be?
My personal experience, for the most part, is a flat-out NO.
My own family, although ethical, intelligent, and personable people, has been guilty. I was disciplined by my parents for not doing mundane, redundant homework. It has been implied by my parents and my partner that I was “lazy” (or that I should otherwise be doing more) because they questioned whether or not I was working hard enough at the right/appropriate time. Their assumption was that I was indeed not.
I’ve been labeled “an airhead” by one parent and sibling, my siblings having taken things a step further to call me “bubble brain”, a horrible moniker that refused to die even after I had graduated from my teen years (and was never true in the first place).
It has been implied that I am often too intense, or that I refuse to let go of a point I’m trying to make or a subject/topic of conversation. (Newsflash: if it appears that I’m “stuck” on something, then in all probability, I may not feel like I’m being listened to or truly heard. The anxiety behind something I perceive as a problem remains, and needs to be acknowledged and solved. During these times, I probably feel like I’m not being taken seriously.)
And don’t even get me started on all the “why can’t you”s that I’ve endured over the years, even from the people closest to me, the very people who should have been on my side, supporting me against the rest of the world.
(No wonder I have often felt so alone, even when surrounded by the very people who were supposed to be closest to me.)
Extended family is even worse. An aunt and cousin (her son) both not only Facebook-unfriended me but also blocked me for reasons that remain a mystery to me. I have no clue where I stand with these people in real life. Obviously, they must not think too highly of me. For the life of me, I cannot recall a conflict. I can’t determine what post or comment I made that turned them both off so completely.
The rest don’t even really talk to me. If they do, it’s usually because they want something. Usually, the communication comes in the form of a group message to the whole family, typically from an aunt or uncle soliciting gifts for a graduating/marrying cousin. Otherwise, my presence is hardly acknowledged. I’m pretty sure most of them have blocked my Facebook posts.
Friends can be challenging, too. Several have “unfriended” me on Facebook due to my personal viewpoints (which, although unusual or unconventional, are not rude, offensive (to most), or otherwise inappropriate (for most)). Once, I might’ve come down too firmly on a particular side of the gun rights debate. Another might have been a Facebook post or comment about an unruly child in public, posted with an intent that was half-joking/half-Public Service Announcement. For some, I’m not politically conservative enough; for others, not liberal enough; for others, not religious enough or spiritual enough (and for others, too spiritual or “hippie”). And heaven forbid that I might raise awareness pertaining to a real issue not being given any attention in the regular media or express an uncommonly-held viewpoint, no matter how reasonable and agreeable it is.
Even though I am an employer, the office–my office–is not necessarily a safe environment. Despite the fact that I make (usually rather reasonable) policies, I’ve had staff members who have taken it upon themselves to pass judgment about these policies/procedures and whether or not they’re reasonable. Or perhaps it was how fast I was working, or how I should run my schedule, or how I should set policies. Some have gone so far as to disrespect me outright, and some others have “only” done so to my partner behind my back.
As a child, school sucked, too. I was ridiculed for most of my younger life by classmates, despite the fact that I had done nothing wrong. Instead of being promoted ahead by one grade level, I was held back (the above-mentioned homework issue rears its ugly head again) by an egocentric principal who wouldn’t listen to reason. My early teachers constantly scolded me, despite my going all-out to please them and make them happy. I didn’t understand why or how I was presenting such a source of irritation for them.
The general public is no ally, either. Fellow soon-to-be airplane passengers have come down on ME when I finally (non-violently but verbally) snapped and had had enough of an unruly child (after a day of cancelled flight connections, gate changes, flight delays, and constant upheaval, to boot).
NO ONE (not even I, at the time) had stopped to think that I might be on the spectrum, that there just might be a reasonable and legitimate explanation for my reactions/responses, that maybe I am the way I am for a legitimate reason. No one (not even myself) had given myself any benefit of the doubt or stopped to consider an alternate explanation. No one (not even myself) had paused to grant any leniency or leeway whatsoever.
Now that I know the reason behind the way I am, things will be different.
I may still find myself in these situations. People might still form their opinions of me. There’s no stopping that.
But now, I can offer an explanation, and I can do so concisely. I can quickly describe what’s going on.
If they’re truly Aware–and better yet, Accepting–they’ll be understanding.
If not, then I’ll know that their “blue” and “awareness” and “tolerance” are just what I said before: Bullshit. Lip-service only, and simply to make them feel better. To let them “Off The Hook”. At that point, we’ll all know that their social preaching had nothing to do with us, and everything to do with them.
For those people, it was always all about them anyway.