Dear general neurotypical population: we know more about you than you know about us:

Today I feel like going on a road trip down Irony Lane.

First, I’ll lay down some basics.

Basic Tidbit 1 – Asperger’s/autistic people are said to lack empathy.  Empathy, of course, in this case, generally refers to not being able to care about other people or think like they do; in short, we can’t view the world through “everybody else’s” eyes.

Basic Tidbit 2 – I often find myself making suppositions about the general neurotypical (NT) population.

Basic Tidbit 3 – In a recent post (“‘Everybody’s Like That’.  No.  You Aren’t”), I made the claim that NTs can’t understand what it might be like to be us; they have no clue what we experience.

Don’t I sound a little hypocritical right now?  (Yes.)  Here I am, making broad statements about the general NT world one minute, and yet, stating that no one can truly know what it’s like to be anyone else.

If you believe that’s a (more than?) a little hypocritical, I don’t blame you.  There is, however, a potentially legitimate explanation.  And I owe my awesome readers that explanation, so today, I’ll give it.

I encourage everyone who might be thinking this way to look again.  It’s ironic, but not quite hypocritical.  All of those Basic Tidbit statements can be true, if you bend the spoon like they do in The Matrix.  All that’s required is to sit back, relax, dilate your mind, and (hopefully) enjoy…

My brain runs, and has always run, the Asperger’s/Autistic Operating System (AOS).  It’s all I’ve ever known.  I wasn’t born neurotypical and then just so happened to “turn” autistic one day.  It doesn’t happen like that, of course.

I drew the 1-in-50-to-100 autism spectrum card.  It’s mine to hold–and play–for life.

But look at those odds again.  One case in 50-100 people.  This means that if human behavior were equalized across the population (i.e., introverts and extroverts acted exactly the same, and one was equally likely to encounter any other person on any given day, then any person’s chance of bumping into an autistic person would be 1 or 2 out of every 100 people.  This means that of my roughly 740 Facebook friends from all walks of my life, about 7.5-15 of them are on the spectrum.  (Sorry for the eerie visual I probably created by mentioning “7.5” people…)

Now, let’s add a wrinkle. 

The statistics are based on known cases, which are weighted heavily toward today’s young children.  I hardly know any young children; my Facebook peeps are exclusively adults.  That means that these 7.5-15 people who are on the spectrum probably have no idea that they are.  Which means that, like myself, they’ve probably spent the bulk of their lives acting and masking.  It would probably be tough to tell which ones are on the spectrum, but it’s likely that they’re probably the same ones who don’t go out much unless they have to, or they go out plenty but get inexplicably fatigued or irritated, or maybe they go out but don’t realize that it bothers them to do so.  Maybe they have more spoons, more energy, balanced blood sugar, plenty of sleep, or other excellent resilience.  They may also have other external (and potentially distracting) forces at work–small children to care for and interact with, older children involved in activities, or extra errands to run or family outings to make memories of.  Thus, they may “look” like “everyone else”, but with an internalized twist.

But I would venture to say that most of them aren’t in a real magnanimous hurry to leave their homes and venture out into the obnoxious and unpredictable world.  Rather, they’re more likely to be the ones at home, the ones on the periphery, the ones who fade into the background.  And they like it that way.

This makes it a bit tougher to run into them on any given day.  And given that I’m an extreme introvert, too, I’m a lot less likely to run into anyone else on the spectrum in offline life.

To connect another dot, this means that most of the people that I’m more likely to come across are probably neurotypical.

(And just think: how many of us would swear that one or both of our parents are/were autistic, but never got diagnosed?  My own parents are semi-“suspect” (of being on the spectrum), and they’re self-described homebodies who don’t go out much for anything but groceries and appointments.  So who else are they likely to encounter during the day, and who else who’s out and about is likely to encounter them when they’re perched contently and peacefully in their respective home-based working spaces?)

Now onto the next dot: this means that the world of people out and about on any given day is mostly neurotypical.  For most people, the NT world is all they know, all that exists.

Advertising, news headlines, and trends are all engineered, as social constructs, by neurotypical people.  The world at large is geared toward neurotypicality.  Social norms and cultural customs are learned from neurotypicals and passed down through generations to everybody.  If the syllables worked out, I would co-opt Madonna’s song “Material World” to “Neurotypical World”.

Which, to connect the final dot, means that an autistic person growing up anywhere on this planet spends their (our) lives observing neurotypical people.  We are expected to adhere to neurotypical customs.  If we dare question those sacred and highly-regarded customs, we don’t get a logically satisfactory answer; we’re usually met with a simple, curt, “because that’s just the way it is”.  Nobody has all the answers; in fact, sometimes it seems like nobody has any answer.

So we improvise as best we can, closely and cautiously observing neurotypical behavior, neurotypical speech patterns, neurotypical ways of living.

We watch carefully.  We often know more about them than they know about themselves.  And we certainly know more about them than they know about us.

Which makes their statements “everybody’s like that” more than a little insulting.  And unjust, unfair.  And totally, 100% wrong.

They don’t grow up on the sidelines, observing us.  They don’t study our behavior.  They have no clue what makes us tick or how our minds work (that is, unless we educate them and they’re open to learning about it).

We spend more time (for many of us, most of our time) studying them under a microscope.

So yes, that’s what qualifies me to make my statements, such as those in the beginning of this post.  I don’t know what it’s like to be NT, but I’ve spent my lifetime so far studying them more closely and in greater detail than they’ve ever done themselves. 

It’s OK; they don’t know what it’s like to be autistic, either.  Few of them even ask; they hit Dr Google, who answers with clinical pathological information from “reputable” “authorities” like Autism Speaks/$peaks and the CDC.  Who among them searches for blogs and other resources written and developed by actually-autistic people?  A few of them do (awesome!!  Thank you!!) but sadly, they’re on the (tiny) minority right now.

Maybe someday that will change.  Maybe someday I won’t have any reason to write posts like this.  But as long as I have to, I will.  But given the choice, I’d rather write about cooler things like how it’s no big deal to come out as autistic anymore.  Or how the quests for cures have been enthusiastically abandoned.

Now that would rock the free world, wouldn’t it?  🙂

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This is one of my more popular posts!

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(Imgae Credit: Joe Reimer)

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14 Comments

  1. all of your points are valid– and some of your arguments are extremely well made. im a little worried that youre getting more and more aggressive (i dont mean that in a “calm down” sort of way– thats never going to work, and i know well and know why– it wouldnt on me, either– and its not what i mean) and i wouldnt dream of telling you how to write your own thoughts down. no, i really wouldnt ❤

    youve got a right to be upset, and (imo) a reason. this has gone on as long as that announcement about mit at least. and if everyone wants to rise up and start arguing about all the things that nts lack, its their right to do so. all of this context is to make perfectly clear, that right exists at all times. free speech exists (and should) for so many good reasons.

    and likewise (invoking my own,) i will tell you the concern it gives me personally. im (like you) hoping for understanding to increase, not decrease. im hoping for education to take place. im hoping for more people to "get" what this is all about, and its very important that this community be heard over the condescending, hypocritical, misrepresentation of organizations like autism speaks.

    one of the worst things that could happen in that regard, is if theres some kind of COLLECTIVE autistic meltdown right now, where everyone starts panicking about things that have really been going on for decades and decades already. i certainly dont think anyone should "get used to it" or be silent, or even take my advice– this is a concern of mine, its not advice.

    poliarizing opinions are going to happen– no question. you will find yourself caught in the middle occasionally– as you have in the past– and so will i. my concern is that we could end up stirring a frenzy where everyone was either caught in the middle (like you and i hate to be) or worse, where everyone expects everyone to "choose a side" and suddenly we are in the business of "social justice warriors" crying out "with us or against us!" as an american who remembers the earliest years of this century, i dont want any of that.

    im not being centrist– im on your side. WE are the same side by our very nature. and goodness knows ive had my own serious concerns– i think we are largely on the same page with these things (im concerned too, for the same reasons you are.)

    i dont want to give autism speaks any more victories. i dont want to do anything that makes THEM look like we NEED THEM to speak for us. or like theyre better at representing us than we are.

    maybe im the one getting "too excited" here, maybe im reading too much into things myself. its just this feels increasingly "us vs. them" flavored (believe me i know, theres no such intention on your part) and that kind of misunderstanding would be a tragedy.

    i want nt allies. you want nt allies. somewhere down the line, forging alliances requires a diplomatic spirit. i would like to engage that diplomatic spirit as quickly as possible, if possible. that doesnt mean false compromise– it would mean paying extra attention to what kind of "thing" we are talking about…

    somewhat. of course, im still with this guy:

    and this guy:

    and the importance of your message cant be overstated.

    we have many problems in the world, and we live under more threats than people ever want to admit. these are real problems that require real solutions.

    one of the biggest problems that activism and advocacy have these days, is a complete lack of planning for anything except conflict– everyone has the conflict part down, but (relatively speaking,) no one has a resolution in mind.

    in a perfect world, every protest– every action– every speech– every plan, would be made with the clear and present goal of a resolution to the problems the protests/actions/speeches are against.

    or to quote something anna said (possibly months ago…) "i dont want awareness, i want acceptance!"

    we should be "fighting" for acceptance, not just awareness.

    by no means do i intend to imply that you, my dearest friend(s), are doing anything but that.

    i am worried that this could turn into a collective rejection in the name of demanding acceptance, because that is such a typical kind of protest these days.

    i wont do virtue signalling, i wont do panic if i can possibly help it– i cant stomach it and i fear what will result even more than i fear what looms ahead either way.

    lets stand, but lets stand with purpose– and let that purpose be having people understand and accept us through learning, not just being "taught a lesson."

    people stop listening when theyre shamed– and people already underestimate us. we cant win all of them, lets not throw away anyway because theyre not (yet) good enough.

    i would love to say more, but im not the person to do it. i think you are. you can take it from here. someone can take what im saying here and go forward with it. someone else is definitely thinking something like what im thinking.

    and other people will argue with it too, and thats fine. consensus doesnt happen in a community of independent thinkers. i would like to stay on a path of progress– there is no perfection, it will never be about perfection.

    im not here to tell you how to do this right. i need YOU (many of you, in fact) to advocate for us. autism speaks cannot and will not do it right.

    but, in the spirit of self-advocacy, i cannot have YOU advocate for me unless i share my concerns with you. so now i have done so. and i know– you know me better than anyone. i value you so much for that, and i value your voice and your brilliant mind, and your willingness to speak. i know you will speak your way, with your heart– as it should be.

    all of that is incredibly important to me. and i know its important to you, too. good luck to all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “misrepresentation of organizations like autism speaks.”

    eesh, lest anyone think i mean it any other way– i meant “misrepresentation FROM organizations.” the way i worded it still works, but id hate anyone to think i was implying that the organization is being misrepresented. i think they deserve all the criticism they get. i would not personally like to extend that critique to *all nts*, (nor would i like to accidentally have what i say taken that way.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Much agreed, with both comments! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼😘❤️

      I totally get what you mean; no worries there 😊

      I’m on board with building a bridge 😊 This particular post had to do more with offline life than online. I should really start prefacing my posts with the proper context lol 😊😊

      Please forgive me for the brief reply, luv 💖 As a result of yesterday I only got 2 hours of sleep. And today at the office has brought major major stress. All of it is offline life junk, nothing online today. But my brain is threatening to take my words away, so I better stop here for now 😘💜💙

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A confession: I love observing people. Like when you’re at an airport and try to guess where people live or grew up in, where they are going and what kind of life they have… except I do that also in buses and pretty much anywhere. I studied body language from books, and would love some david attenborough type narrator voice be easily applied to describe what humans around me do (“young human female is dressed provocately, and she glances at the young male repeatedly, and giggles, trying to attract a mate.” “Dominant male walks in the room, walks confidently and asserting dominance to his cubicle where he will place his hands behind his neck and place his feet on desk to communicate his superiority to his coworkers”).

    It’s weird, humans (esp. NTs) think of being so far above animals and that they are all so unique and that the usual rules of body language don’t apply to them (as in reading their openness or closedness, anger etc), yet they insist that the facial expressions and their usage around where they live would be so universal across the globe. Umm, nope. I am always trying to read others, so body language and voice would be for troubleshooting them (like what do they really mean), and that’s probably like 3-4 times the effort the NTs put to being around people. On the same time I don’t like to show emotion to others (except my other half), so my body language and expressions are nonexisting, neutral, restricted, “nothing to see there”. On the same time, after lifelong trying to pass as NT, I’ve learned to avoid talking pretty much anything the NTs would get offended in person, and of course hide when they say or do something hurtful. :-/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So true! 😊😊. Thank you for your “confession” 😉 I have a friend who does that, too! I’m still trying to figure out if she’s NT or ND, but she does have a few of our traits. Does she have enough of them to be of our neurotype? Meh, I don’t know lol 😊 But making up the stories sounds like fun! 👏🏼💓

      I agree with the rest of what you said, too. My body language gets misinterpreted a lot. For example, I fold my arms across my chest because it’s comfortable (physically), not because I’m shutting anyone out.
      I might look grumpy because I’m not smiling, but it’s just that I’m relaxed. That’s all there is to it 😊

      I love the idea of troubleshooting NTs! I’m pretty poor at that lol

      Thank you for chiming in, dear! I love to hear your perspective 💞

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Awesome analogy! 👏🏼👏🏼. I have no idea why I haven’t yet gotten “into” Star Trek, but it’s a bug in my system that my insides are nagging at me to rectify 😊 I’ve heard cultural references to it in passing, though, at least enough to have a comprehension of what you’re talking about. Thank you for sharing that tidbit! It serves as a reminder to get going on my goal to immerse myself in the show once and for all 😊❤️

      Like

  4. Ironically, my first career was as an anthropologist. Socio-cultural. I excelled at theory, but was sorely lacking (so I was told numerous times) in people skills. I am the ultimate observer. I fail at participant observation! I viewed anthropology as a social psychology. Had I approached that career about 100 years ago, I’d have been brilliant. Not so in the current arena of post-post-modern academia.

    What am I even trying to say?? Um…I never knew why anthropology was so attractive as a discipline. Now I do. It was my autistic brain wanting a home for my observations of humans. I am forever an anthropologist; it is innate, but I see why I needed it.

    Anyway, I don’t find your post aggressive. I find it emotive and from your experience, but ceertainly not offensive in any way. Again, you verbalised my version of NT observation too.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wow! That’s a really neat way of looking at Anthropology 😊 I think I love history for similar reasons (?). I love Texas history, American history, and also (and especially!) world history, but all for different reasons 😊 World history is my favorite, because of its obvious diversity. I’m always attracted to That Which Is Elsewhere But Not Here, and I’m wondering, too, if that just might be my Spectrum Brain trying to find a home? Not sure, but it sounds like a plausible theory (?) 😊

      Thank you for your much-appreciated words of support and encouragement ❤️ Yep, straight from my sometimes-deluged heart, and through my own admittedly-biased lens 😊😊. Despite the fact that when it comes down to it I can only speak for myself, I’m comforted by the idea that what I have to say resonates with others, too ❤️ It’s such a beautiful relief to know we’re not alone!

      Thank you again, both for sharing your thoughts and for reassuring myself and anyone else in a similar boat (I’m sure there are many) 😘🌺

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, sister! I’m cheering for your assertiveness in being understood. I’m of the belief that if you ever choose to even be aggressive, go for it. You’re allowed to feel all the feelings. There is no meekness requirement, and I’m glad you know this. You can get angry and downright pissed the f off if you like. You can shout and scream and bang your fist on a pillow when you feel enraged, too. The myth that we must be passive/silent/meek/etc. is played out. It led to others thinking they could speak for us, (Autism $peaks). They don’t speak for the actually autistic. We do. Excellent post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Wiser Sister! You’re amazing, have I told you that? 😉. I agree, the underdog role has been played out. It has rolled over and now it’s playing dead. Might we be able to say that we’re part of a sort of wave of, say, Asperger’s/autism 2.0? The ones with voices (thanks to technology and free blogging sites!) lol 😉. The ones who will claim (or have claimed) a space? I think the wave began long before I got here, but I’ll ride it just the same 😉🌺💞

      Liked by 1 person

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