When I was diagnosed autistic at the age of twenty-nine, suddenly, my entire world view was shifted, as I began to dig through the memories and moments of my past through a new lens – the lens of autism.
They say hindsight is twenty-twenty.
Well, it certainly is now. It’s like looking at life with a new pair of glasses, as I continued to learn about autism, I was able to see everything with more and more clarity.
Twenty-nine years. I went almost thirty years of my life, not knowing I was autistic. Twenty-nine years of struggling to maintain friendships, feeling like a distant alien, a creature not of this world, but not knowing why. Almost thirty years of migraines and neurological symptoms because I didn’t know about sensory processing differences.
There are autistic people in the world today who may never gain this knowledge…
…or learn the truth. They may live a life of sensory overload, burnout, and illness because they don’t understand autistic health. They will go to their graves beating themselves up for struggling with “simple tasks” failing to recognize the “complex tasks” they excel in.
The lost generation may never know the self-compassion I’ve grown since diagnosis, learning to accept myself when I make “common autistic mistakes.” Before I was diagnosed, I would mentally berate myself for how I thought I had been “missing the mark,” but often, I had set the bar too high – by non-autistic standers. Now, I have the power to let it go and am more accepting when I make mistakes. Self-compassion – I needed that.
Once I finally had the information and was confident in what it meant for me, I was able to re-direct my life to a more positive and healthy direction. I began to worry less over what others thought and expected of me so that I could set my own new, autistic, expectations.
When I tried to speak up and ask for the help I needed, people often met me with hostility, as if my needs were completely unbelievable. “You’re not autistic!” “You never asked for this before.” “It’s not fair to give you the window seat; everyone wants that seat.”
Why were my requests for accommodation and my autism diagnosis so quickly dismissed?
The autism myths and stereotypes were working against me.
Most people in the general public have a very narrow view of what autism is. Maybe they have met one autistic person, or have watched a TV show with some other mythical autistic character who closely follows the DSM like a bad checklist.
I’m continually fighting people’s cognitive dissonance. People have an idea of what autism is, and I’m challenging their views because I don’t fit into the “autism box.” Instead of being receptive to this new information (that conflicts with the information they think they know about autism), people push back, holding on to their narrow, often harmful beliefs. It turns out a lot of non-autistic people think autistics are all emotionless robots incapable of empathy, love, or meaningful connection.
These stereotypes and lies about autistic people are what irked me the most when I was newly diagnosed. Lies, written by non-autistic people, who have observed autistic people from the outside, and assumed they knew what was happening on the inside based on a non-autistic perspective. These lies are published in medical journals and written textbooks all. They are all over the internet. There are even popular blogs, where non-autistic people, complain about the autistics in their lives.
Some of the myths are very dangerous.
If I didn’t know I was autistic or what autism was, and read one of those blogs or even the DSM, I might not be able to recognize myself through all the pathology and misunderstandings that have been portrayed by non-autistic people.
When you start to ask people what they “know” about autism and autistic people, you hear a wide variety of responses, but there are some myths that are more common than others. I found that I was hearing a lot of the same myths over and over again and was curious if other autistic people had had similar encounters.
Since my diagnosis, I’ve asked many questions, but this question takes me back to the beginning, to three years ago, and the reason I started the Neurodivergent Rebel blog. It was an attempt to correct all of the myths and misinformation – my main goal, my mission. It comes full circle.
#ActuallyAutistic #AskingAutistics- what do you think is the most common misconception about autistic people?
That we are childish. Maturity has different ways of showing itself, but a lot of neurotypicals are so blinded by what they see as deficits that they never notice our strengths
All autistics are intellectually disabled. Some people have an additional diagnosis of intellectual disability, but they are both different things and don’t always come together.
Some people believe that autistic people aren’t social. Like anything and anyone else, it varies.
Autism only happens in boys and/or children. Autistic people always have special interests. Everyone’s a little autistic. Autism improves with age. Autism can be cured. Autism should be cured. Autistic people lack empathy. (I know you asked for one, but I had a lot in me.)
Well with me it’s that because I’ve a car license then other people think I can drive anywhere… which I can’t. And then also there’s people that think I don’t like driving in the dark… huh? Some real weird things.
That we have no emotion, empathy, or feeling.
I think a misconception must be that autistics “look” a certain way. How many of us have been told, “But you don’t LOOK autistic!”?!
All the non-expert experts: “You can’t be Autistic. My mom’s friend’s cousin’s dog walker’s son ‘suffers from’ Autism and you’re nothing like him.”
That if we can communicate eloquently (even if only in writing) at any time then that disqualifies is as truly autistic, and we are only “mildly” autistic or have a few traits. 🤦🏼♀️
Read more #AskingAutistics articles by Christa Holmans, Neurodivergent Rebel
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