Why I need autism acceptance

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I occasionally post carousel slides that could be, or have been, their own blog post. This post was one of them, but there is more nuance to why autism acceptance is important and why I myself need it that I can’t expand on inside Instagram.

As more autistic people are sharing their experience, I am finding ways to articulate my own experience and new sources to share when I still can’t articulate my experience.

The world sees what I let them, most of the time. It’s a highly controlled visual that you get of me and my autism. Although autism functioning labels are still crap on account of the fact that functioning level is dynamic and not static, I do appear high-functioning.

  • I have a job.
  • I own my car and drive it regularly.
  • I rent an apartment.
  • I’m amazing at my special interests.

But these are just stereotypes. You don’t see the overwhelm — sink full of dirty dishes, several loads of laundry I haven’t had the energy to do at the laundromat, lots of food deliveries, chaos packing for a move.

Woman sitting in front of kitchen cabinets with hand to side of head

Stereotypically speaking, I check several more boxes of low-functioning autism.

But that’s the thing — it varies. You can never know anyone’s functioning level at any given time because they could be masking. You don’t see everything.

Functioning labels don’t do anything but give off major “better than” vibes.

Factor autistic burnout into that mix — thanks to masking, the art of passing as an allistic counterpart instead of your actually autistic self so you can hope to survive in a world made for non-autistic people — and any so-called “high-functioning” autistic person will seem like the complete opposite version of themselves that you thought you knew.

The world is created for, and caters to, non-autistic people.

Autistic people are expected to mask themselves so they appear or seem less autistic and fit into social norms. Without masking, autistic people may be bullied or ostracized for not confirming to societal norms and sticking out.

Autistic people grow up hearing that uniqueness is GOOD, but told that the autistic things that make them themselves are BAD and that they should hide it.

When a non-autistic child plays with a toy in a unique, not-originally-intended way, it’s “creative” and “imaginative”. When an autistic person chooses to play with toys by first organizing them into certain parts, types and/or colors, it is “wrong” and “unnatural”.

I used to spend three hours sorting and organizing my Polly Pocket accessories, because my mom didn’t understand that I wanted to keep that shit organized, so I would have to throw it all into the same toy bin. I rarely ever actually got to “play” with it. This could have been remedied by giving me an organization system to work with so that the accessories were sorted already.

How do non-autistic children play with toys despite the chaos? I’ll never understand.

ALSO, I MISS POLLY POCKETS. Not the tiny ones, the ones most like Barbie, but more hip. I’m actually tempted to buy them, even though I’m an adult, because that’s a special interest that never died.

Autism “treatments” seek to condition autistics to normalcy.

Therapies and treatments for autism seek to diminish autistic traits by conditioning, or training, autistic people to behave in a way that society has deemed normal and acceptable.

Rewards include treats and candy. “Mild” punishments include removing special interest tools (books, music, etc.), constant tapping, over-correction (e.g. cleaning up water 3x).

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has been compared to dog training for humans.

Selfie taken while laying down; hand facing palm-up over face

When I was a child, I couldn’t stop stimming and definitely couldn’t stop my Tourette’s Syndrome tics. Both annoyed the people around me, including doctors, to the point that I would frequently be strapped down to doctors’ tables until I could stop and stay still. I would freeze from the trauma and dissociate into oblivion. You’re not a human child when you’re neurodivergent — you’re an alien specimen.

Autistic people’s boundaries are seldom respected.

My boundaries as an autistic person are often disregarded because “good intentions” are at play and it’s my autism preventing me from seeing that.

Friends and family have asked me to ignore my values and be less of myself so I could get a job, an apartment, love interest, or role in a project.

Healthy boundaries need not to be conditional, but I am weak against their retaliation.

Despite my lack of consent — not just verbally, but by physically pushing people away — I have been hugged and held. Like a cat, I’ve tried to escape, but I would be villainized for it, because what is so wrong with me that I don’t want to be hugged? What is so wrong with me that I can’t just be held?

I am unable to express my anger without people chastising me.

I do not throw tantrums. The only way I can force people stuck in their ways when I am attempting to enforce my boundaries or stand up for myself is by talking over people.

When that doesn’t work, if it’s been piling up, I either start crying out of frustration or speaking more aggressively.

At this point, the allistic person decides I’m unreasonable and problematic & silences me.

Pretending to not be autistic, or trying to seem less so, kills me.

It aches. I cry over it. It depresses me.

The same people tell me that I need to ignore what people say because I know them not to be true — unless, of course, they have “good intentions”, in which case I need to suck it up and accept that the real issue is miscommunication or my inability to see the so called “good” intentions.

Don’t take it so personally.

This is gaslighting.

My autism is viewed as either a negative trait or a token.

In the workplace, autism is often viewed as a negative trait that I should hide from anyone and everyone. If it affects a certain aspect of my job, it’s an annoyance.

Forbes and similar media romanticize hiring yourself a token autistic person.

Social justice activists often reference, use and/or summon me to prove points in their agenda.

I have to fight my urge to run away and start over.

My boundaries are not respected, and I am expected to deal.

Toxicity exuded from other people is dismissed under the guise of “good intentions”, ergo the lesson is that it’s okay to be toxic if you mean well.

I know running away won’t fix anything, but I don’t know how else to stop the toxicity completely because I don’t comply with allism.

Every time I post something like this, I am expected to have solutions ready.

I don’t have solutions. Why is it the job of disabled people to educate and resolve problems so they can better their quality of life?

Moreover, a world that accepts autism as a normal just as much as they accept dimples (a birth defect) is but a pipe dream.

It doesn’t exist, and I don’t have hope that it ever will — at least not in my lifetime.

I need autism acceptance because “autistic” is still viewed as a bad word, “autism” is viewed as a negative business trait, and non-autistic parents of autistic children still get upset at autistic adults advocating for autism acceptance instead of awareness.

Until accommodating people regardless of neurodivergence diagnosis is the default, all neurodivergent people need acceptance. Not every neurodivergent person has the privilege of accessing/funding/obtaining a diagnosis. Many medical professionals refuse to diagnose autism in adults because they believe it to be applicable to children only.

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