I am the first to admit that I am a luddite and was very late in appearing on the Twitter scene. Once I arrived I discovered it was a treasure trove of bits of wisdom from people on the spectrum. What a find! I found things that made me laugh, made me cry, and just made me shake my head. In no particular order, here are some of the gems I uncovered. I cannot give credit where credit is due, but thank you to all you wonderful autistic folks on Twitter.
10 Things Autism Is Not:
- Autism is not being socially awkward.
- Autism is not avoiding eye contact.
- Autism is not lacking empathy.
- Autistic people do not lack imagination.
- Autism is not black and white thinking.
- Autism is not a learning disability.
- Autistic people are incapable of lying.
- Autistic people are not polite.
- Autistic people are good at math.
- Autistic people do not grow up.
Another point I would like to add is that having a child on the spectrum is not a sure fire way to ruin your marriage. Autism Speaks floated this idea years ago as a scare tactic. They claimed, with no facts to back it up, that 80 % of couples who had a child on the spectrum would divorce. There is no basis for this claim. Autism Speaks just likes to scare people into thinking that they are the only savior of Autism and salvation only comes via a cure. I assure you that most autistic adults do not want to be neurotypical or “cured”, and the divorce rate among married couples with an autistic child is about 50 %, much as it is in the rest of the U. S. population.
I want to talk a little bit about masking. Masking is when autistic folk pretend to be neurotypical. It is hard work and comes at great cost, but most of us feel compelled to do it, just to be accepted by the rest of the world. I found this marvelous quote on masking. Sadly, it was anonymous, so I cannot give proper credit. “Masking is pretending to be neurotypical. We all do it, spectrum or not. It’s how we fit in, assimilate. We act differently at work, at home, with friends, spouse, lover, etc. Folks on the spectrum wear the mask like armor, so you won’t be scared of us. You don’t know I am autistic, so you expect more of me. But, I see your sideline glances, hear your Rain Man jokes. But, even though I try really hard to be like you and blend in, there are somethings I cannot do.” The author continues in this vein for a while and then closes with a powerful statement. ” Sometimes, though I push myself so hard that I get to a point where I can’t mask any longer, and I am not home yet so you will see: My behavior will change. You may think I am clumsy or rude, aggressive, awkward or weird. In a child this looks like a tantrum. In an adult it looks like a sudden shutdown without a reason. Later, after this, I feel angry because I chose to do what you wanted of me over my own self care. There is nothing wrong with me, nor any real reason I should change myself to conform with your standards of normality. It’s a burden I carry for you and I wish I wouldn’t do it.”
Okay, so masking it hard. Sometimes, being on the spectrum is hard. So, what are the positives? Glad you asked! Presenting, Autism: the positives.
Attention to detail: Thoroughness, accuracy.
Deep Focus: Concentrations, freedom from distractions.
Observational Skills: Listen, look, learn approach. Fact finding.
Absorb or retain facts: Excellent long term memory. Superior recall.
Visual Skills: Visual learning and recall. Detail focused.
Expert: In depth knowledge, High level of skills.
Methodical Approach: Analytical, spotting patterns and repetitions.
Novel Approaches: Unique thought process. Innovative solutions.
Creativity: Distinct imagination. Expression of ideas.
Tenacity and Resilience: Determination. Challenge opinions.
Accepting of Differences: Less likely to judge others. May question norms.
Integrity: Honesty. Loyalty, Commitment.
I will close with one last quote that I am extremely fond of, and it involves cupcakes!
“Imagine is Autism was described like types of cupcake. You have some with icing, some with sprinkles, some chocolate, some vanilla, but they are all cupcakes. ‘But how cupcake is it?’ ‘What?’ ‘Like, is it a little bit cupcake or severely cupcake?’ ‘It…it doesn’t work like that.”
Autism is like cupcakes. You are either autistic or you are not autistic. You can’t be just a little or a lot autistic. Autism is your neurology. You may have greater or lesser needs for support, but at the end of the day you are still autistic. But, that is a rant for another day. Closing in the words of my dear friend, Alissa, “Be good humans.”