It is ironic that autistic people are criticized for having a lack of theory of mind when that is literally what privilege is, and what affects so many millions of people in the various majorities around the world, neurotypical people included. Privilege insulates members of a majority against awareness of the struggles of the minority.
Our diversity is dizzying. Our approaches to love will be just as diverse.
And neurotypical people can also learn. They can learn what the differences are between their own social communication and autistic social communication and do their part to help bridge the gap.
And when that gap is bridged, beautiful partnerships can occur. We can learn so much from each other. We can each bring unique strengths to the table. Autistic people can open their non-autistic partner’s eyes to ways of thinking and being in the world that they would not have considered otherwise, and vice versa.
Here’s where the problem comes in – the more you mask, the less energy you have to mask. But the more you mask, the more you are expected to mask. Drop the mask, and you potentially lose vital and important relationships and your survival capacity is diminished in direct ratio to that.
Since masking long term isn’t sustainable, and since expending more energy than you can recuperate on a regular basis will lead to exhaustion and burnout, autistic people who have to mask in order to obtain the basic needs for survival will inevitably crash and burn.
So many of us in the autistic community are already doing immense amounts of emotional labor for non-autistic people by creating lots and lots and lots of educational content, from our unique perspectives, on what it means to be autistic. We’re already doing the heavy lifting.
All you, a non-autistic person, have to do is watch it, think about it, and maybe change how you interact with autistic people a bit. The weight of this process has been on us, autistic people, to advocate for ourselves. The least the neurotypical society we find ourselves in can do is take the time to listen to what we write and say and take it under advisement.
Labels, like the people who created them, are mirrors that can reflect important aspects of our beingness back to us and reveal elements of ourselves that we perhaps otherwise could not see, and in that, they have tremendous value.
But they should always be directing us back to our center of awareness, like a guide sending us home after taking us to the top of a mountain where we can gain a better view of where and how we fit into the whole landscape. They should be a tool for increasing awareness, not mistaken for being the awareness, themselves.
Virtually everything about this season is antithetical to neurodivergent neurology; the bright lights, strong smells, loud music, busy shops, gatherings of family and loved ones and higher than normal expectations to socialize for long periods of time (to name a few.) All things considered, the holiday season is something many neurodivergent people dread, myself included. …
“Wow, you’re so self-aware,” said the neuropsychologist during the interview portion of my autism assessment.
“I’m really not,” I replied, and went on to clumsily explain that I was only applying my current understandings to previous periods in my life retroactively, much like adults do when describing their own childhoods.
I am wired to discuss things which make others uncomfortable, not because I take any pleasure in making others uncomfortable (I actually hate it) but because I see no point in skirting meaningful exchanges in service of perpetuating an illusory status quo. I see no point to existence if we are not discussing real issues that matter or learning from one another or the world around us.
… But do these things translate into a person who is incapable of experiencing or expressing empathy? Or do these things simply suggest that without explicit, clear communication of another person’s “feelings, thoughts and experiences” that there is sometimes insufficient shared experience between individuals of distinct neurotypes for one to be able to experience empathy for the other? And is this inability to decipher cues from a foreign social language a true one way street, or do the native speakers of each of these social languages have difficulties deciphering and empathizing with the experiences of the other?