What is Autism?
It’s a social processing condition.
It’s a different way of processing sensory information.
It’s a different way of interfacing with the world.
What isn’t autism?
Autism isn’t a learning disability.
Autism doesn’t mean a low or high IQ.
Autism isn’t a behavioural problem.
Autism isn’t a person trapped inside a mental cage.
Autism isn’t a lack of empathy.
Fundamentally, autism isn’t the enemy.
When you hear about the poor child suffering from autism, you’re hearing a perpetuation of a misleading and hurtful narrative.
We don’t call neurotypical people high-functioning or low-functioning. We don’t look at their intelligence and use it as an indication of how well they are. We don’t assume intelligent equals fine, and unintelligent equals problematic. We look at the whole person.
Autistic people are no less whole. We are no less complicated. If you wouldn’t categorise the majority of the population as high or low functioning, then you can’t caregorise us in that way either. It doesn’t work.
Autism is a normal neurological variance. Some people are left handed, this is a normal neurological variation. Some people are double-jointed, this is a normal physical variation. Some people have green eyes, this is a normal physical variation.
Society seems to be stuck in the throes of panic about the sudden appearance of this normal neurological variation.
“Where has it come from?!” We cry, “Why is it here?! How do we stop it?!”
It’s not new. That’s the first answer. Those of us whose autism came with an average IQ, just carried on as best we could. We were the quiet child who liked reading and didn’t socialise much. Or we were the party animals who always had a drink in hand to override the processing issues.
Those of us who had below average IQs, who couldn’t hide, were hidden for us. They were institutionalised. Locked away. Their families were told to forget about them and move on with their lives.
I do wonder, if we could magically find every autistic brain in the world, we’d find that autistic IQs were largely representative of neurotypical ones. That we have as many geniuses and average people as everyone else. That there isn’t necessarily a link between braintype and intelligence. That instead the link is between visibility and the ability to create our own coping mechanisms.
Those autistics who are unable or unwilling to mask because it is hard work and goes against our own drives, will always be the most visible. And possibly the most happy and true to themselves given the right environment.
This week the autistic community coined a new term: Autistic-Ninja. An autistic person who has learned enough social rules to mask well enough to pass for normal when they choose to.
It was coined whilst discussing the idea that perhaps adult, autistic women who are seen to be coping, should not be given a diagnosis.
We were discussing it, as a group of adult autistic women. There was complete consensus (and given that we are all very different people, with only a neurological-type in common, this can be a rarity!). How do they know that she’s coping? How can someone see what it is that she needs and make that decision for her?
We were discussing this exert.
But of course the choice lies with the individual. She’s either seeking answers and help, or is out getting on with her life unaware of any issues. Coping means coping. It means there are no major issues that would lead to seeking help in the first place.
How would that work in practice? Would she be denied the answer or lied to? That’s where the ethical question comes into place. That and the statement demonstrating a perpetuation of the stigma of autism.
Autism isn’t a stigma. It’s not a puzzle piece. It’s not any one behaviour. It’s simply a way of seeing the world.
I would love to spend a day as a neurotypical, but probably not longer than that. Autism gives my world such colour. It connects everything with everything else. It is patterns and interconnectivity.
Sometimes I wonder if the reason neurotypicals spend so much time seeking human contact, is that they don’t feel connected to the world in the same way that I do. They don’t see the patterns we all make as we clumsily bumble through life together.
It wasn’t so long ago that left-handed people were forced to write with their right hand. Now it’s an accepted difference. Left-handed scissors were created so that they weren’t disabled when it came to cutting things up. It now seems really wrong to force someone to do something that doesn’t come naturally to them, just because that’s how the majority are built.