April Wears On Me

Image is of a tired teddy bear slumped over a laptop. Creative commons license, image by Nenad Stojkovic.

As I write this, it is halfway through April. Or Autism Awareness month. Or possibly Autism Acceptance month. Or “sell autism merchandise” month. Honestly, it mostly seems to be that last one.

For the past 15 days I have been absolutely bombarded with targeted advertisements for autism-related things. I expect the same for the next 15 days. And I’m already tired.

I expect that I am a particular target for those advertisements because I am autistic and I talk about it openly. It still strikes me as an odd choice, though – do the algorithms think that I need to be made MORE aware of autism somehow? Because I can assure you – I am already VERY aware of the existence of autism and autistic people. I also like to think I’m pretty accepting of autistic people, including myself. 

Ok, I’m only kind of serious there. I know perfectly well why I’m being targeted, and it isn’t to make me more aware – it’s because people are selling things, and they think that autistic people will be more likely to buy their autism-themed wares. Or (and now that I think about it, this is more likely) they think that parents of autistic children will be more likely to buy their wares, and I’m getting swept up with that because I am an adult and they have forgotten that autistic children turn into autistic adults. Whoopsie!

Often, but not always, the products feature puzzle pieces and the color blue. Often, but not always, the proceeds aren’t getting donated to any autism organizations. Often, but not always, when the proceeds are being donated, it’s to A$ or the like, rather than an actual autistic person lead organization. On one notable occasion, the seller had listened to the autistic community enough to feature rainbow infinity symbols and the colors red and gold, but was still donating to A$ which was honestly really confusing.

And it just wears on me. I know, I should just scroll right by. Don’t even look at them. I almost feel compelled to look over them every time, though. What colors are featured? What symbol is being used? Where is the money going? Why do I keep getting a stomach-ache when I look at these things? (don’t answer that. I know why) 

Like so many ills in the world today, I wish I could do something but I truly don’t know what. If the seller hasn’t bothered to listen to autistic voices yet, they certainly won’t bother to listen to me.

I don’t have a pithy wrap-up to this. I have a blog. Obviously, I am in favor of autism support and awareness and acceptance. These are good things that we need more of. But when an ad literally says “Show your support for Autism Awareness by wearing our custom products.” I just can’t even. It’s not like I’m surprised. I know this is how things are, and I know it’s not just autism stuff where this happens. 

It’s just that April wears on me. Which is a bummer, given that in theory, the month is supposed to be about accepting me.

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In Defense of Small Talk

Full honesty here – I might have posted about small talk in the past. I legitimately do not remember, and I just don’t really feel like digging through all my old posts to see if I did. It was a long time ago, and I wrote a whole lot of posts. In any case, my thoughts on small talk have evolved in the past few years, though my overall opinion remains the same.

Just to get straight to the point here: SMALL TALK IS GOOD.

Ok, now for more blather. Small talk gets a lot of hate. Being autistic and introverted and socially anxious, I tend to be in circles that really dislike small talk. People will say it’s pointless or meaningless, I regularly see things about people throwing “no small talk” parties, there’s that “find the others” quotation by Timothy Leary that I honestly find a little unsettling, people are making declarations that they are done with small talk forever – the point I’m getting at here is the consensus seems to be that small talk is attempting to fill a void that isn’t actually there* instead of serving an actual function.

Here’s the thing, though. Small talk DOES serve a function. Now, I’m not going to try to say it never gets overused because I don’t actually know if it gets overused or not. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but even if it is overused, that doesn’t mean that small talk itself is the problem. Small talk is necessary.

Let’s start with the “hi, how are you” ritual that I KNOW I’ve talked about at some point in the past. Is the cashier at the grocery store genuinely interested in how I am when they say “hi, how are you?” No, no they are not. Luckily for all of us, that’s not the point of the ritual! And yes, I am calling it a ritual because I genuinely see it as a ritualized greeting in our society. (and by “our” I mean that I live on the east coast of the US so this is my normal) (I’ve lived in several other regions of the US as well and the “hi how are you” ritual has always been a thing, but it might not be a thing in other countries, I don’t know) (ok, back to the point) ANYWAY. So this is about how the “hi, how are you” script goes:

Person 1: Hi, how are you?

Person 2: Oh, I’m fine, how are you?

Person 1: I am also fine, thank you.

Aaaaaaand that’s about it. Here is what’s actually being said, though:

Person 1: Hi, I acknowledge you as a person.

Person 2: Thank you! I acknowledge you as a person as well.

Person 1: Thank you! We are both people!

You may notice that this ritual is almost entirely done between people who are strangers or are otherwise poorly connected. If I say “hi, how are you” to a close friend, I genuinely want to know how they are. If I say it to a cashier, it’s because I’m using a social ritual to make it easier for us to interact for that minute or so that we need to talk to each other.

Beyond the aspect of social rituals, small talk serves another vital purpose – finding similarities, and through similarities, connection. There’s a reason small talk almost always starts with the weather – it’s because as a rule, we can all AGREE on the weather. It’s a common starting point where people who know absolutely nothing about each other and might be wildly different can agree on something. Even if, say, one person loves rain and the other person hates rain, we can all agree that it IS raining, and possibly that the rain is inconvenient, and that wow, it’s so wet out there. We can all agree on that regardless of political beliefs, religious beliefs, whatever else. 

When it’s a brief interaction, that’s generally all there is. A tiny, short connection with a person we had a tiny, brief time with. And that’s fine. At other times, though, this can continue. Maybe we’re talking to a new person at a social event. We have acknowledged each other as people (“Hi, how are you?”), we established that we can at least agree on one thing (there is weather outside!), now we gradually move into other topics.

Generally this is done step by step. One topic at a time, we can approach territory we’re less likely to agree on. One topic at a time, we find what we have in common. It let’s me find the Star Trek people who I can talk trek with, and the crafting people I can talk crafts with, and whatever other people I have things in common with, WITHOUT just starting a discussion about the moral implications of some specific Star Trek episode with everyone around me regardless of whether they’re interested in it or not. That is considered rude, particularly because we have established social rituals that exist to help us find other people who are like us. You know, like small talk.

I have spent years now injecting tiny bits of small talk into my micro-interactions, and the results have always been incredibly positive. Maybe I’ll compliment the cashier’s nails, or comment on how I walked to wherever I am in the rain and now I’m wet, or whatever. Something that’s pretty meaningless in the big picture, but as it turns out is incredibly meaningful in the small picture of day-to-day interactions with people.

As I type this I am made very aware of the fact that my skills here are going to be rusty because, well, I haven’t really gone anywhere other than the grocery store and doctor’s offices in a year. My social skills are getting way less practice than they used too. 

ANYWAY. In conclusion – please stop hating on small talk. Sure it can be annoying sometimes, but to be real – when I started realizing what it’s for I found myself significantly less annoyed by it. I already struggle to connect with people. Why in the world would I reject a tool that specifically exists to help us all connect with each other? 

No reason I can see.

* Oh no, now part of my brain is off thinking about how voids are literally defined by the absence of stuff, so can a void ever really be said to “exist” in a meaningful way and wow my brain just goes off in its own direction sometimes.

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Pushback Against Autistic Headcanons

The root of this post is a reddit thread I came across a wee bit ago in which our poster talks about how they started an Instagram about fictional characters they headcanon as autistic, and the strong pushback they got against it. They were wondering why people were reacting so strongly against, apparently, the very idea of seeing fictional characters as autistic if they weren’t explicitly stated to be so by the writers. 

And OOH do I have OPINIONS on this matter. I can’t say exactly why THIS pushback happened in THIS instance because I am not psychic, but I do know why SOME pushback happens in SOME instances. So let’s get started.

First of all, let’s talk about headcanoning. A “headcanon” is a personal belief someone has about a fictional character or story that has not been actually stated IN the story, but makes sense to the person who has the headcanon. It’s pretty common for autistic people to headcanon various fictional characters as autistic because, let’s face it, autism representation is kinda sorta completely terrible. There is not a lot of autism representation in fiction in the first place, and what little there is leaves a lot to be desired. Autistic people are generally either objects of pity, quirky geniuses, or simply displayed for comedy. We hardly ever just get to be, you know, people. 

This is hardly an uncommon thing in minority groups, of course. Nor is it uncommon in those minority groups for people to headcanon a fictional character to be like them in some way – to fill in the gaps of representation, in order to see themselves when they otherwise wouldn’t. Personally, I’ve seen this a whole lot in queer people headcanoning characters as queer in some way – gay or bi or trans or something along those lines. Because representation is important.

Alright, back to autism representation. This is where it gets a little more ugly. The fact of the matter is that in real life, autistic people are rarely ever actually seen as people. We’re seen as objects. And as objects, we are very much NOT seen as having autonomy or the ability to speak for ourselves. For example, I’m sure we’ve all seen how it’s basically stated that if an autistic person can speak for themselves in some way, we are not autistic enough to “count” (honestly, what a terrible thing to say. It astonishes me how horrible people can be sometimes).

But it also means that to at least some people, when we headcanon a character as autistic, we are essentially saying that the character isn’t really a person. Which, yeah, if we were saying that it would truly be terrible. But we aren’t saying that. We’re saying that we see ourselves in that character. We identify with that character. We want to imagine that character is like us in a way that is meaningful to us. Which, to be clear, is not a conclusion we make carelessly, despite what some people think. 

And by “some people” I mean Benedict Cumberbatch (and others, but he’s always the one that comes to mine first for me). I don’t really want to dig a whole lot into what he said because quite frankly, I find it upsetting. So here is a link to a quick summation of this mess, and to summarize the summary – basically Benedict Cumberbatch thinks it’s “lazy” to headcanon people as autistic, and that imagining brilliant, successful characters as autistic “offers false hope” to autistic people, since apparently we cannot be brilliant or successful. And despite autistic people pushing back against that incredibly harmful (and cruel) narrative, it looks like there are people out there who agree with him.

Which brings us back to that reddit user’s Instagram, and the pushback they’re getting against seeing characters as autistic. It’s not at all surprising to me that they are getting this kind of pushback, but I do find it incredibly sad. Someone just wants to showcase characters that they think are like themself in some way, and people get incredibly angry about it. Because of course they do. Because instead of seeing us as people who are seeing aspects of ourselves in fictional characters, they see laziness or accusations of fictional characters being objects or whatever else. I hope that person continues their Instagram, because personally I am really into the idea. There are some fictional characters out there who I personally headcanon as autistic, because they seem like me in autism-specific ways. And you know what? IT’S OK THAT I DO THAT. 

PERIOD.

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Ranting on Autism Purely Defined as a Deficit

The image is kind of random, but I like capybaras, and two capybaras greeting each other just felt right. Because hi!

Hi! Starting with the elephant in the room – I’m trying to be back. Yes, it’s been some five years. Right now I’m just trying to get my brain thinking in blogging terms again. Turns out there are indeed some topics about which I have Things To Say. That said, I am very VERY interested in hearing about what you would like to see me talk about (or see anyone talk about). I can’t guarantee I’ll take every topic, but I really want to get ideas bouncing around in my head, and I really appreciate anyone who can help with that.

And now, on to the post itself.

I have so many thoughts on this particular matter, but in this instance let’s start with a study. (Disclaimer – I have read the abstract, but not the paper itself as reading full scientific papers tends to be a bit above my level) Here is a pubmed link to the abstract. To summarize the summary – some scientists did a study on information transfer between autistic people and neurotypical people. They did this by basically having different groups play a game of telephone with a story, and then seeing how much of the story remained intact by the end of it. They had chains of entirely autistic people, chains of entirely neurotypical people, and chains with a mix of autistic and neurotypical people.

The findings, which I imagine will not surprise a single autistic person, were that autistic people transfer information to other autistic people just as well as neurotypical (NT) people do. The problems happened in the groups that were mixed autistic/NT people. THAT was where information was most often lost. To me, this seems obvious, but I have definitely learned that this is NOT obvious to many NTs.

Now as we all know, autism is defined in terms of deficits, not differences. There are SO MANY aspects of this I could rant on, but I’m really going to try to focus on interpersonal interactions for this post. There is certainly plenty to say even on that.

This concept of autism as a deficit shows in how when autistic people are confused by something NTs do, it’s because we are deficient; we don’t understand. It shows in how when NTs are confused by something autistic people do, it’s because we are deficient; we are confusing. It shows in how often NTs are extremely aware of any tiny thing they do to accommodate autistic people, but are completely unaware of the measures autistic people take to accommodate NT society. Am I uncomfortable in a loud and chaotic environment? Do I struggle with sensory overload? I am deficient. Does an NT struggle and feel uncomfortable in an environment structured for me? I am still deficient. It is ALWAYS my deficiency.

So I like seeing a study like this, which actually does an excellent job highlighting the problems with this way of thinking. I think the best way I have to explain my thinking here is to tell you about some things people have told me in the past.

See, years ago I had NT friends, but only a few autistic friends. I knew I felt very comfortable with my autistic friends and we were able to communicate in a way that I could not with NTs, but it was pretty clear that my NT friends didn’t see that and weren’t aware of it. I would occasionally express that I thought it would be really nice to be in a relationship with an autistic person. From my perspective, it would give me intimacy with someone who thinks and functions much like I do. Someone who speaks the same language as me, metaphorically speaking.

Well, not everyone agreed with me on that. I was told, very bluntly, that that was a terrible idea, because I am just sooo rigid, and require sooo much flexibility from other people to accommodate my rigidity. That was honestly incredibly hurtful to hear, and I never quite knew how to respond to them. (it’s hard for me to get words to work in moments like that. It’s why I write) They were clearly extremely aware of any bending they did for me, and were extremely unaware of all the bending I did for them. And I did a lot of bending for them. But it seems that anything less than fully adapting myself to NT norms and standards counted as “rigidity” to them, and since I am unable to fully adapt to NT norms and standards, only NTs can deal with me. Yeah, I’m a little lost on their logic at this point.

In any case, I am in a relationship with an autistic person now, and it’s going exactly how I thought it would – MUCH EASIER than relationships with NTs. Our communication is better than my communication with NTs, we understand each other better and more easily than between myself and NTs. It aligns very well with what that study showed, which is no surprise to me at all, but might be a surprise to the people who told me that autistic people couldn’t possibly be in relationships with each other. 

I have no idea if those people even remember saying that to me. I’m still close to one of them, and I still remember their words and how much those words hurt. It’s satisfying to finally have science on my side, supporting what I’ve been trying to say all along.

We need new ways to look at autism. The deficiency-only model is flawed at its core, and it seems that science is finally starting to notice. I hope it continues. 

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The Gruen Effect

I just recently read something about the Gruen Effect (or Gruen Transfer) that got me thinking about how I seem to work, and wondering if the Gruen Effect operates differently with autistic people.

So before I go any further, I want to ask you – what is it like when you go shopping? How well do you stick to your plan?

Ok, onwards to the post. First of all, let’s talk about this Gruen Effect thing. I actually remember learning about it (or, well, an aspect of it) in school back in the 90’s, but I guess until I was reminded of it I didn’t really think about it since. Basically, apparently when shopping, a fairly common thing to happen is to lose track of what one is shopping for, and grabbing extra things that one sees around. Stores now are often designed to encourage this and take advantage of it. When in school, the thing that my teachers talked about was specifically grocery stores – how they are designed in many different ways to manipulate your shopping experience and encourage impulse purchases. I don’t actually know how common it is for people to grab lots of extra things, but various things I’ve read seem to indicate that it happens a lot.

What I do know, though, is how I shop. And this Gruen thing does not seem to apply to me at all. AT ALL. When I go grocery shopping, I do need to bring a written list with me. However, this is because if I don’t, I just won’t get anything, or I’ll only get a very small number of things that I can remember we need, but anything I don’t remember I don’t get. And I don’t get extras.

When I do go in with a list, I ONLY get what’s on that list. I will, maybe, get some things not written that I simply know need to be gotten every week, so I feel less need to rely on the written list to get it. But otherwise, if we need something and I didn’t write it down, I don’t get it. This has actually happened to a fair extreme a few times. Sometimes we need milk, but I forgot to write it down. When going into the store, I might remember that I need to get milk, and make a mental note to get it. If I don’t write it down immediately, though, I ultimately won’t get milk. I will walk right past the huge, impossible to miss dairy display because I am so focused on my written list that I can’t remember anything else that I might need.

What’s really telling to me, though, is what happens when Nee and I go grocery shopping together, as opposed to me going on my own. When we go together, we wind up getting a LOT more than what was on the list. Nee will see things and go “hey, that looks good!” or “we could use this!” or “hey, let’s make a dinner out of that” or whatever else. Also of note, when I am alone I never, ever, grab myself impulse candy in the checkout aisle. When Nee is with me, I sometimes will, but generally only after Nee suggests it, or I watch Nee grab candy for themself.

Oh, and we do this in defiance of typical stereotypes, as I am female and Nee is male.

So that got me wondering if there’s something about me that means I operate differently. Maybe it’s an autistic thing. I couldn’t actually find anything in my initial googling, so I’m left to wonder. Which is why I’m asking you – how does shopping work for you?

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How Do I Adult: Large Tasks

In my How Do I Adult series, I do my best to break down tasks that might seem large and overwhelming into small, bite-sized, easily understood portions that can be taken one step at a time. Knowing how to break down tasks like that is a skill unto itself (I know, because it is a skill I have not always had), and it occurred to me that it could make a How Do I Adult post unto itself.

Disclaimer: I’m not sure how this post is going to go. Trying to explain how to break things into pieces is actually kind of challenging, but I am going to do my best.

I’m going to use a couple of examples to walk through this: cleaning the house (which is generally a huge task for everyone) and raking the leaves (which many people consider an easy task to figure out, but not everyone).

So let’s say you have decided that you need to clean your house. This is a huge, overwhelming task. So you try to break it into smaller parts. Thing is, the task of breaking up the task can also be huge and overwhelming. There is just so much involved! How do you put it into smaller pieces that make sense without missing things?

My answer to that is to start with big chunks, which can each be broken into smaller chunks, which can again be broken into smaller chunks, and you can keep going until each task size is manageable. So for a house, the big chunks might be rooms. Bathroom, bedroom, living room, kitchen, etc. Pick one room, and figure out the best way to go about cleaning it.

Some people go by surfaces – clean a desk or a dresser or a bed, and clean surfaces one at a time. Other people might go by type of task – throw away trash, then get laundry together, then put away clutter, etc. For a bathroom, you might go by bathtub, toilet, sink, etc.

So we’ve broken it down to rooms, and items in the room. The task in front of us is cleaning the shower and tub. This can reasonably be called a single task, which we can break down into individual parts. These can be broken down into bringing together the tools needed, actually doing the cleaning with those tools, and then putting the tools away again. For something like this I may try to think through the process of cleaning and jot down the various tools/cleaners needed so I don’t forget anything only to realize I need it halfway through.

Another aspect of breaking down a task into manageable parts is figuring out how much is actually manageable. A friend of mine, Laura M, has a number of autoimmune disorders as well as an arthritis. Much of her life involves figuring out how to make tasks manageable for her, and she gave me a lot of wonderful information. For her, even a “small” task like raking the leaves can be large and unmanageable.

There is also the question of just how small of pieces you need the task to be broken into. Some people do fine with just “rake the leaves.” Other people will need it broken down a bit more, into gather tools, rake, bag, haul to curb. For yet others, it may need to be broken down even more. For instance, “gather tools” might need to become a number of individual tasks like take any necessary medications, put on appropriate clothing, take out rake and bags (assuming you are bagging your leaves).

For all tasks, from “clean the house” to “rake the yard” you need to decide how much you can reasonably do at a time or in a day and plan accordingly. This is not simply a matter of time, either. It is a matter of your physical or mental capacity, of sensory stimulus, of what how much you can do at a time before getting tired or overwhelmed. Basically, it’s about your spoons. So for my friend Laura, who has a number of physical challenges, she might need to break up the yard into quadrants, and then rake, bag, and haul to the curb one quadrant at a time. She may only be able to do one or two quadrants per day.

If I were going to rake a yard, the primary limiting factor would probably be ambient noise. I am very sensitive to sound and would need to either pick a day when it’s quiet, or if I can’t do that, take frequent quiet breaks to recover from the noise. Or, of course, wear earplugs or listen to music. Earplugs bother my ears, but for some reason ear buds for listening to music are ok.

Another thing to consider is the tools you want to use for breaking down tasks. Personally, I like to go into google docs and make lists. I start writing down what I need to do, and what is necessary to do them. I like to do this digitally because while I am in the process of writing, I tend to remember thing in random fragments or flashes of images. It’s helpful to be able to freely edit my lists and add to them as I think of things. Plus, since I never seem to be able to remember a full list all at once, it’s helpful to have it all written down for reference.

Ultimately, remember that figuring out how to do a task is often a task in and of itself, and it can be very useful to treat it as such. Approach this task thoughtfully, and work through it a piece at a time. Remember: big chunks, then smaller chunks.

How do you figure out how to accomplish big tasks?

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Ramble on Stimming

This post might be a bit unfocused. We’ll see how this goes.

I’ve seen some disagreement in some of the autistic spaces I’m in around the idea of “stimming is communication.” Apparently some of us are really against that idea. It’s rather made me want to weigh in with my take on the matter.

And my take is – stimming is communication, in the same way that other forms of body language are communication. Some of the arguments against stimming being communication is that sometimes (or many times, or often) stimming is done without the intent to communicate. Apparently to some people, that means it’s not communication.

I disagree. Humans communicate all the time without necessarily putting intent behind it. Over on the neurotypical side, people generally agree that body language is communication. And sometimes NTs will put deliberate effort into their body language, so that it communicates something that they choose. However, many times body language just happens, without forethought explicit choices involved. And when that happens, it’s still communication. NTs like to talk about how up to 75% of communication is nonverbal – and they’re meaning that for themselves. Their own communication is dominated by nonverbal cues. Facial expressions, body language, tone, things like that.

I am firmly of the opinion that stimming is (among other things) body language. When an NT laughs, they are probably not thinking “I wish to communicate my amusement, so I am going to make this particular sound to convey it.” Laughing is simply a natural result of amusement. Same with stimming. Whether I’m flapping my hands because I’m excited or rocking because I’m overstimulated, they are natural results of my mental state. They are also expressions of my mental state, and, among the various things they do, they serve to communicate that to others.

When I say that stimming is communication, one of the things I mean is that NTs should learn to pay the same kind of attention to it that they do to other forms of body language. I am saying that all behavior is communication, and stimming counts too. I’m saying that stimming is another form of body language, and that is one of many many reasons why we should stop trying to stamp it out.

When I stim, I am generally not thinking about communication. I’m excited or happy or stressed or overstimulated or maybe just needing to rock. Frequently I’m alone, so communication doesn’t make any sense. However, I still say that stimming is communication, the same way that facial expressions are communication. I say this because intent or not, they can communicate information to others, if there are others around who know how to read it.

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Not a Cure

The cure vs. not cure battle seems to be continuing to rage on. Ages ago I made a post with my take after someone accused me of not needing any kind of help, since I am against being “cured.” It seems that to some people, it’s a binary. Either we’re just fine as we are and don’t need help or treatment, or we need to be cured. The reality is, of course, more nuanced, with different individuals needing different amounts and different types of help and treatment.

So, looking at the cure stuff, it seems that there is a pretty big disconnect between the broader autism community, and how some parents think of it. See, to autistic adults, most of us see autism as an identity. As a neurology. To get rid of the autism is to fundamentally change who we are.

I gather, though, that to some parents of autistic children, they see it differently. See, autism is diagnosed by behavior. While scientists are slowly researching how autistic brains are different from neurotypical brains, it’s still an area that we don’t really understand, and we are very very far away from using that kind of information in diagnosis. Behavior is all we have. So “having autism” is, in a sense, synonymous with “being diagnosable.” Of course, there are problems with that logic, and one of the big ones – the one I am wanting to talk about here – is how some people use it for their idea of “cure.”

Basically, for some parents, “curing” their child only means making them no longer diagnosable. And making them no longer diagnosable means making them get rid of the behavior used for diagnosis. And when I think about that, well, it’s quite distressing.

See, I could probably learn to stop stimming. But it would leave me constantly tense and uncomfortable, it would eliminate a huge part of my body language, and I would have to keep a fairly significant portion of my attention dedicated to preventing stimming. Sure, it would reduce how diagnosable I am, but it would not better my life in any way. Quite the opposite.

If there were enough external pressure, I could probably succumb to not showing my sensory issues. I could choke down food that makes me gag (well… maybe. The gagging can get pretty bad). I could sit in silent agony as clothing tags dug their way into my skin. I could learn to not flinch at painful lights and noises (which, actually I did learn that one a little. It’s not a skill I particularly enjoy, and I am working on getting rid of it).

I could take intensive social skills classes. Which, actually, wouldn’t necessarily be bad. My social skills are way behind other people in my age group, and this is very much an area where I need help. As I’m pretty sure I’ve written about before, my ability to handle parties or similar forms of group socialization is approximately nil. I just can’t do it. So teaching me to handle stuff like that would be good.

On the other hand, not all ways of teaching “social skills” are about bettering an autistic person’s ability to actually interact. Sometimes they are about hiding our weirdness. Things like forcing eye contact regardless of the pain involved. Or forcing us to touch people even if it makes us feel sick or panicked.

So if my childhood had included all that kind of “help,” and somehow I learned to cope with that stuff without more or less constant meltdowns, I might have stopped being diagnosable. But the thing is, I would still be autistic. I simply would have learned how to hide my autism. And it wouldn’t even be able to last long term. As life continues, as the challenges of life increase, it would take more and more effort to maintain the facade. My ability to do anything else would diminish more and more. Eventually, the house of cards would crumble. Inevitably.

Making the autism invisible does not get rid of it. All it does is make it so neurotypicals can happily pretend it isn’t there.

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