The Aspie Adult – An Uncomfortable Reminder?

Ostrich This is a challenging post to write, but never one to shy away from speaking the truth, I decided to go ahead – and hope it would make people think – and not jump to defensiveness.  Buzzing around in my head, were questions such as “will it offend people?” and “will it alienate people?”  As an adult with Asperger’s, I have been only too aware of my differences over the years and the difficulties I have faced.  Granted, I was not diagnosed as a child, so I existed without any of the supports that are available today for autistic children and it could be called into question whether I would have fared better with those supports – but I suspect not.  I slipped under the radar – as do many Asperger’s females, people might have thought I was shy or a bit anxious, but no-one ever questioned me being “normal”.  The majority of high-functioning adults of today, were not diagnosed as children, many are still undiagnosed, but we exist.  Childhood supports or not, you can do nothing to undo the fact that you are autistic – and will always be autistic.

As an autistic adult using the virtual world of online forums, I have found that there is just as much (in fact probably more) risk of communication problems with others as there is in “real life”.  I wondered if I was singularly argumentative; didn’t realise that my directness was viewed as just plain rude by others and I questioned myself.  But this still didn’t explain it, bearing in mind that no matter how cross someone might make me online, I remain calm and collected and respond as professionally as possible.  At times this seemed to inflame people even more, because they were losing their cool and I wasn’t.  And what puzzled me even more, is that these were people already immersed in the world of autism, who were criticising ASC traits, or communication style, in an adult, yet their children had those same traits that they were asking society for understanding of.  Then I started reading of the experiences of others on the spectrum, who also faced problems on forums.  It struck a chord, when one person described themselves as being targeted and pushed out, by parents of autistic children, who they assumed would be grateful for a window into the mind of an autistic adult, to enable them to understand their own child better.

I have found this too and I am still trying to understand why.  Of course there are the social games that exist in NT society, those games we on the spectrum fail to understand; do not play and tend to either fall victim to – or are blindly oblivious to.  It stands to reason I guess, that those games will be the same on forums.  I have realised that parenting forums, seem to be about exchanging mutual stories and supporting one another, but that the expression of oneself as an Asperger’s adult, doesn’t always seem to be appreciated, especially if it involves the hard facts of life.  The NT parent often doesn’t seem to want to face, that no matter how much supporting/treating/attempting to “cure” their child, they will still be highly unlikely to have the same life as an NT.  They will remain autistic as an adult, even if they are existing in a mainstream way, they will have anxiety over things that NT’s won’t; their sensory difficulties will always play a part in their lives even if they manage to mask the impact of them for periods of time; they will always need a certain level of control; they will usually be exhausted by socialising and may avoid it; they will misunderstand others and be misunderstood by them; struggle in employment (around 75% are unemployed or only in part-time employment) and relationships – including romantic ones.  Even those with the so-called mildest form of autism will struggle and will be prone to mental health issues, due to trying so hard to fit in, but always having difficulties doing so, or it just being so plain exhausting.  This link gives some examples of how autistic adults struggle: http://www.iancommunity.org/cs/adults

Parents love their children and desperately want the best for them (I’m a parent too!), are trying to ensure they are able to “fit” into society, but this is part of what is driving the lack of acceptance, lack of understanding, lack of reasonable adjustments, for us ASC adults.  We don’t want to have to conform to an NT way of being, we want to be allowed to be us – and for that to be OK.  NTs wrote the rules for society, but they often don’t fit us, why can’t new rules be added, most of the existing ones are ridiculous anyway!  It’s why I challenge my autistic children’s schools to make those adjustments, to adapt things for them, because they are suffering in being forced to fit in and change is needed.  If you don’t believe me, ask yourself why places like Autscape and Autreat exist.

So I came to the realisation, that it is because an autistic adult is an unwanted reminder, an uncomfortable acknowledgment for some parents of autistic children, that their child will be like me one day.  An autistic adult, still having struggles.  For any parent, they want their child to have equality and be able to achieve.  Admitting that it might not happen, certainly not the way they hoped, could be a tough thing to face.  That all those supports that help their child get through school, and catch up with childhood milestones, might not bring the idealistic end result they hoped for.  There are parents veritably traumatised by their child’s autism diagnosis, they go through a kind of grief, depression and sadness.  So perhaps they plough all their efforts into obtaining those supports, hang on to the fact that it must be helping and their child will somehow “recover” enough to not seem autistic.  But what they don’t see, is that sometimes, this might enable an autistic child to grow up to “pass” as NT, to mask many of their difficulties, but inside, they are often still going through the same torments, difficulties, challenges and stress as they ever were.  An acquaintance told me once, that she had immersed her Asperger’s daughter in as many play-dates and sleep-overs as possible as a child.  She grew to be a past master at fitting in, but it did her absolutely no favours as she was suffering greatly inside as a young adult.  The pretence actually adds to the pressure and the stress we suffer.  It’s what I advocate as being ill-advised, the square peg into the round hole mentality.  I understand that it is doing a child a service by giving them speech and language therapy, potty training them and calming aggressive tendencies, but there are so many autistic traits that need to be accepted as just, OK.

It just saddens me, that NTs often want to play those games, to make themselves feel better.  So here are some questions for NTs to ask themselves:  Can’t we celebrate some of the positives of having autism?  Can’t we allow autistics just to… be?  Do we have to be shocked and angry when someone tells the honest truth without malice?  Do we have to shut people out because they don’t conform?  Do we have to expect them to be like “us”?  Do we have to continue to force these square pegs into round holes?  Because society is currently blinkered, does that mean it has to continue to be?  When we face an autistic adult, can we not stop turning our faces the other way?  Can we not stop criticising their traits as something to be ashamed of, or ganging up to ostracise them?  Is this what we want for our children?  When our children are bullied or ostracised in the playground, is this what we want to replicate as adults?  Or do we want to be like those playground bullies?

So next time you are online (or even in “real life”) and you don’t like an ASC adult challenging the status quo, delivering information in a factual way, or saying the things no-one else will say, maybe try opening your mind and realising that if we don’t do it, perhaps no-one else will.  Everyone has their purpose in life.  Some of the greatest minds that have existed are thought to have been autistic.  Sometimes, it’s the black sheep that makes the biggest mark.  And that person allowed to be themselves, could be your child.

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6 thoughts on “The Aspie Adult – An Uncomfortable Reminder?

  1. Reblogged this on Sonnolenta… A Neurodivergent Journey and commented:
    This is a very relevant post from Planet Autism. For me, at least. I know I’ll always be different, yet I still struggle to try to fit into the neurotypical world. I am transparent about being Autistic because I am both hopeful, yet incredibly naive in thinking that there has to be some people who will be open minded and kind about my Autism. Someone who will- instead of turning away, or claiming that their knowledge of my Autism “makes them uncomfortable”- will instead stop and consider the fact that if it makes them uncomfortable? Just think how uncomfortable the Autistic person is every minute of every day- struggling to communicate and fit into a world that is too sharp, too loud and too fast.

    That’s what I hope for, every time I reach out and am transparent about who I am. And every time I find myself slapped back into submission, and informed that I don’t belong. That I should just keep my big mouth shut. That my Autism makes people uncomfortable. That I should ALWAYS let someone else speak for me, and that person needs to be neurotypical, because I’m not capable of communicating.

    Dear neurotypical people- it’s challenging enough to get through each day. I really don’t need to constantly be reminded of how I am not welcome in your world. It hurts. It undoes my forward progress, damages the self esteem I am constantly trying to piece together, and makes me feel that even trying to reach out… is futile.

    Please click through and read the whole post, in particular the statements at the end:

    “Can’t we celebrate some of the positives of having autism? Can’t we allow autistics just to… be? Do we have to be shocked and angry when someone tells the honest truth without malice? Do we have to shut people out because they don’t conform? Do we have to expect them to be like “us”? Do we have to continue to force these square pegs into round holes? Because society is currently blinkered, does that mean it has to continue to be? When we face an autistic adult, can we not stop turning our faces the other way? Can we not stop criticising their traits as something to be ashamed of, or ganging up to ostracise them?”

    “So next time you are online (or even in “real life”) and you don’t like an ASC adult challenging the status quo, delivering information in a factual way, or saying the things no-one else will say, maybe try opening your mind and realising that if we don’t do it, perhaps no-one else will. Everyone has their purpose in life. Some of the greatest minds that have existed are thought to have been autistic. Sometimes, it’s the black sheep that makes the biggest mark. And that person allowed to be themselves, could be your child.”

  2. Thanks for your comment Sonnolenta. It’s a bit like when people say you are a pessimist, and you reply that you are in fact a realist. Rose-coloured spectacles only get you so far. And they make the reality (or the adjustment to it) all the harder to bear when people face it.

    It’s a bit like a realisation I had the other day. As a child, I was the passive subtype of autistic. I was desperately unhappy at school. I went home and cried a lot. But my children don’t just come home and cry, they come home and get aggressive and have meltdowns and it’s all more extreme. You have to wonder – did nature make it so, because tears alone didn’t get the message acoss? Animals react to our environment, evolution happens. Perhaps this is the reason many autistic parents who appear milder, give birth to more severely autistic children. Nature is fighting back, because our environment is wrong.

    The autism rates are rising too. But we can’t be a wave of suppressed autistics trying to fit in with an increasingly less majority for much longer.

    Truth will out, eventually.

  3. you might be interested in reading this

    https://rootlessintrospection.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/what-are-we-afraid-of-why-we-label-and-shun-the-others/

    with the thought in mind that we people on the spectrum are an unknown “other”, a foreign element to neurotypical people. They feel save among themselves because they know what to expect and what is save and what isn’t. From their uneducated point of view all bets with us are off. Yes it’s uncomfortable to be reminded that one should learn to understand and deal with this foreignness rather than just press their privilege and force us to appear as NT as possible. (Hello ABA!)

    Looking at it from an outsiders point of view at some point you can not blame them that they are not educated because for a long time there was little to do to learn. Now some parents are willing to read up, to engage with us and learn and I am happy for each and every one of them.

    The others… on some level I can’t blame them in a way for wanting their child to be happy the way they know how to be happy. It reflects a deeply broken theory of mind that they do not understand how much havoc this inability leaves in it’s wake. I do see how they want to do the right thing very often and they are human. They make mistakes, with a child on the spectrum it’s much easier to make more severe mistakes because there is so much misinformation surrounding the spectrum (Hello Autism $peaks!). Personally I try to be compassionate and understanding towards the parents but I do think some of us need to smack them in the face and hard for the damage they are inflicting. Whatever works 😉

  4. I read this prayer in this church cafe the other day which went something like this “Blessed are the artists, poets, musicians, misfits, and outsiders for they force the world to see life differently.” Its about time society grew up and accepted autistic people for who we are as we’re here to challenge the status quo, and help the human race to grow ( or ascend as New Agers believe).

  5. Pingback: “Fluffy” Forums Exclude Autistics | Planet Autism Blog

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