Unless folks are personally immersed in the world of neurodivergence and advocacy, it is rare to find people who understand how to kindly, respectfully, and effectively interact with autistic individuals. I have found myself in the position of educating not only friends and family, but professionals, healthcare providers, and others. Honestly, it's exhausting. So to save myself future spoons, I figured it made sense to make a single post that I can easily refer people to. I hope this is helpful. Don't forget to click on the embedded links to get more detailed explanations. As a reminder, I am speaking from the perspective of an adult, autistic woman who has become very good at masking my autistic traits over the course of 4 decades (which contributed to a massive amount of developmental trauma and other really hard situations). I do not speak for every autistic individual.
Let's start with things not to say when somebody tells you they are autistic.
As far as perceived communication "deficits" go, here are a couple more things to check out:
- Autistic peer-to-peer information transfer is highly effective
- Milton's double empathy problem: A summary for non-academics
I prefer Identity-First Language, not Person-First Language. I am an autistic person, not a person with autism or a person who has autism. I am definitely not a person who suffers from autism. If you're not sure how someone prefers to be addressed, here is is a sure-fire way to know. Just ask.
I'll tell you what I do suffer from though. I suffer from living in a world where unkind people often take advantage of and bully vulnerable individuals. I suffer from sensory assaults on a daily basis - fluorescent lights, mind-numbing cacophonies of sounds, perfumes, fabric softeners, and so much more. I suffer from living in a state / country where it is incredibly difficult to access appropriate diagnoses and supports. (I had to pay $1500 out of pocket and drive over 6 hours to see a specialized neuropsychologist who was able to assess an adult woman and provide an accurate diagnosis). I suffer from years of internalized ableism. "Try harder. Suck it up. If they can do it, why can't you? Stop being so sensitive." Yeah, none of that is helpful and it is actually very harmful. I suffer from severe PTSD because I wasn't officially diagnosed until I was 40 years old which made me more susceptible to all kinds of abuse. I didn't realize just how different my way of being in the world was and that it made me so very vulnerable. I suffer from anxiety that comes from... well countless sources. I suffer from the effects of a lot of miscommunication and misunderstandings, living in a passive, midwestern culture where people often don't actually say what they mean. Did I mention, that my autism does not affect me mildly?
I will continue to add to this post, which will undoubtedly get much longer, but this is a good start. Here are some Facebook pages, in addition to my own page, The Autistic Acupuncturist, that post a lot of good information on this topic:
- Kristy Forbes – Autism and ND Support
- Neurodivergent Rebel
- Trauma Geek – Trauma and Neurodiversity Education
- Neurodiversally Unbroken
- Not Another Autistic Advocate
- The Autistic OT
- The Neurodiverse Woman
- Hello Michelle Swan
- Autistic Not Weird
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