(Disclaimer: this is mostly directed toward professionals working in the medicine and mental health fields, the people who claim we “need” them because they can “help” us. Both claims might indeed be true, if the professionals from whom we’re seeking help, guidance, and support actually had a solid grasp of the basics of the Asperger’s/autism spectrum. Too often, unfortunately, they don’t. Too often, we end up having to teach them. There is a slight inclusion of the greater world at large, but that’s not the main focus, and it’s definitely not meant to be a slight against all non-autistic people, or even all medical/mental health professionals. This only applies…well, to whom it actually applies.)
It’s not our job to enlighten you. It’s not our job to educate you about autism.
At least, it shouldn’t be. Anyone claiming to be an expert or a source of support should live up to that description, lest they be guilty of bait-and-switch or another type of deception. But time and again, we find ourselves put on the defensive. I resent this (sometimes mildly, other times more intensely), because defense is not a position of strength. Those of us on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum have better things to do than to constantly spend energy in defense of myself, our community, and our neurotype. I much prefer to be constructive and strong. As a human, I prefer to have strength. But too often, either I or my Neuro brothers and sisters have no choice but to play defense.
Think of a sports team. How are the players arranged on the playing field? The offense is in front, while the defense is in back, behind the offense. A player in a defense position can indeed score a goal, and their goal is worth just as much as that of an offensive player. But the distance needed to be covered in order to score a point is much greater. That player has to work harder to achieve the same feat. And that’s only possible if they can afford to leave their protective position; while they’re away, scoring the point, their territory is wide open and vulnerable.
At any moment, the ball (or hockey puck, etc) could shoot in an unexpected direction, and if they left the area to score a point, then they have to run all the way back to their usual post and hope they do before the opposing team scores a point on their watch. Because if not, they get blamed for being “incompetent defense”. Never mind that they had just run twice as far to try and make one for the team.
Luckily for a team, they have multiple players. There are those who aggress, and those who protect. But if you’re only one person, you don’t have the luxury of a division of labor. And if you’re playing one on one against a particularly aggressive opponent, and you’re always defending your net, then that’s where all your energy goes and you can’t ever get close enough to theirs to have any hope of making any progress toward scoring on them. They keep you penned in your area, on your side of the field, too close to your net for your comfort.
Each person in everyday life is our own single-player team. So when someone gets aggressive with us by making unfair assumptions, we have to spend all of our energy, much like the player described above, defending our goal area. If we’re going to avoid getting scored against, we can’t afford to leave our area vulnerable. It’s too risky and too far to run.
When we find ourselves having to educate others into a state of greater awareness, it’s usually because we’ve been aggressed in some way. It’s usually because someone lobbed an unjust assumption or stereotype or accusation against us. Instead of being able to have a constructive conversation right from the start, we have to spend precious time and energy correcting and dispelling and setting the record straight first.
This is especially true of our parents, teachers, counselors/therapists, and doctors. After all, our parents usually know us the best of anyone else besides ourselves. Teachers should have the training to work with children of many kinds. Doctors are held in the esteem of a principal cultural authority and receive eight or more years of training. They’re also the ones whose hands we put our lives and wellbeing. Counselors/therapists, well, it should go without saying that they should be on the forefront of all things neurological and mental/emotional/cognitive. Especially when they’ve seized the subject as their own and they’re telling everyone “we’ve got this”.
Instead of us having to explain our neurotype to a counselor, essentially giving them an education while we’re the ones paying them, or having to explain to our parents or doctors the truth when it’s they who should know better, those people should be doing their own homework. They should educate themselves. After all, it’s their education. They have free will. They’re big people who can make their own decisions and take their own action. If they think they know everything, they should be able to back it up. They should be ready with some sources. The right to form opinions is offset by the responsibility to inform oneself first. After all, where do opinions come from? We’re not born knowing the information, so we have to get it from somewhere.
With all the resources available, we shouldn’t have to educate the rest of the world. The world is already built for them, which means that they don’t have to spend the time and energy recuperating from dealing with it. They have spare time and energy left over. They could use it constructively.
I vote that they should.
Since the curriculum is woefully insufficient in terms of teaching medical and mental health professionals about Asperger’s/autism, however, it’s crucial that they do listen to us and take to heart what we have to say.
How To Choose a Good Therapist/Counselor As An Asperger’s/Autistic Adult ~ January 24, 2016
Asperger’s/Autism Support ~ December 29, 2016
Let’s Talk Solutions ~ October 9, 2016
How Objective is an Asperger’s/Autism Diagnosis? ~ October 17, 2016