Tonight, when I purchased my box of noodles together I noticed that the lovely noodle shop man, always says the same sentence as one leaves. Yes, I have purchased quite a few noodle box meals. I caught myself wondering to myself about this man’s little script. Was it a sign, was it a tell-tale hint that perhaps this man might be autistic.
As I walked to my car I chastised myself for that thought. I’ve noticed how often in autistic spaces there are discussions where speculation about people we know might be on the Autism spectrum. They always seem innocent enough, and when these people we discuss are people we know well, possibly even intimately, then perhaps we have a level of insight that might allow us to make such a judgment with some level of accuracy. In some respects, this is just a natural thing.
But, to make such judgments, about people we hardly know, seems, as I reflect on it now, just as bad as the stereotypes and so on that we autistic people tend to find problematic as they are made about us by non-autistic folk.
It’s almost as though what we are doing is the autistic equivalent of those non-autistic micro aggressions like- “well everybody’s a little bit autistic”, or “well that was a bit autistic”, or even “I think I am a bit on the spectrum”. Perhaps we should pay a bit more respect to the complexity of all that goes into diagnosis, whether that be a professional diagnosis or a self-identification.
I had this thought myself, just tonight, so I can count myself as nothing but guilty as charged. From now on I am going to attempt not to do this anymore. I am sure this will be a challenge as autism is such a massive aspect of my life, not just being autistic but in doing advocacy for myself and others, spending time with autistic friends and attending and speaking at autism conferences, and not least being a part of the implementation of an employment program for autistic people.
It’s easy to think this is not a big thing, and I guess in some respects it isn’t really, it’s just a thought we have, that we sometimes share and speculate with our friends about. No biggie really. Well maybe it is a bit more of a biggie than we think.
Being autistic, living as an autistic, is the only thing I know. It’s not a deficit or anything like that, though, dealing with how society relates to me, dealing with stereotypes imposed upon me and everything that goes with that can make negotiating the world more difficult than it needs to be.
The non-autistic world would kind of like it if we autistics just stopped being autistic and be more like the rest of the world. Many of us autistics tend to react to that pretty negatively. Let us be who we are is often the message we try to convey to the non-autistic world. We are not disordered we are different, indeed, Different Not Less is often the catch cry.
So, then, should we not be the same for those that are not autistic too. Is our making assumptions or presumptions about others just our way of imposing an autistic order upon them, our surreptitious way of imposing expectations of their behaviours based on our own stereotypes?
Just as we proclaim we are different not less, it is incumbent on us autistics to accept too that the non-autistic population of this world we inhabit are also different not less. Just as we are, so too are they. They may outnumber us, but that doesn’t change that they too are different not less and it is, I think, as incumbent on us to not impose our view of the best way to negotiate the world onto the non-autistic world.
Perhaps live and let live is a nice little maxim to live by after all.