We’re all a little bit autistic
We’re all a little bit autistic. Probably the most pointless, nonsensical, and least-useful thing you could ever say to an autistic.
You just went Full Stupid.
And you should never go Full Stupid.
The simplest and most obvious problem with the statement is it makes no sense at all. Autism is the shorthand we use for autistic spectrum disorder. The fact we use the term "disorder" means there's a set of parameters we generally accept as being "normal" (spare me the "there's no such thing as normal" bullshit, puh-lease).
So, if everyone has this disorder, then no one has it because everyone's outside the set of normal parameters... which means there is no set of normal parameters.
If you now feel like we're going around in circles and in danger of disappearing up our own behinds, you're right.
So, why do people say it?
I think there are a few reasons.
The first is...
We're all a little bit autistic is inclusive
At least, it seems that way at first blush.
It's almost like a kind of acceptance when they say it, isn't it?
It's like when they say "you don't look autistic" — they're effectively saying the differences between us are small and not worth our while worrying about and they're happy to accept us as we are.
But I think that's being too charitable because what they're doing is letting themselves off the hook. Because if they can kid themselves we're just like they are, they don't have to make any effort to accommodate us but can still maintain their self-image as a decent and caring person.
Unlike many autistics I don't have a massive sense of entitlement and I don't spend my days examining everyone's every utterance for things to get offended by. I'm perfectly sanguine with the idea there are people out there who'll discriminate against be because they're too dumb to understand my differences are hard-wired and my rudeness and (to them) weird traits and behaviours are no more under my control than is the colour of my skin or eyes.
Don't get me wrong — being autistic doesn't give you a free pass for being an arsehole and violating others' rights and boundaries. But before you judge arbitrary behaviour (like not making eye contact, not engaging in small talk, or ignoring your "obvious" hints).
The simple fact is we are different and we are frequently discriminated against because of it.
Most people like to think of themselves as decent, caring humans who tend to do the right thing
Unfortunately, when they're confronted with someone who's autistic (and doesn't "look" autistic, of course 🙄), it's easier to retreat back to a position of bigotry and prejudice than it is to seek to understand and accept.
By saying "we're all a little bit autistic" they can pretend we're one big, happy family and the differences in us they struggle and find uncomfortable to deal with can simply be explained away as "bad behaviour", "making excuses", or "overreaction" on our part.
Don't like bright lights?
"Well, I don't like bright lights, either... and we're all a little bit autistic, so you can just man the fuck up and stop derailing my neurotypical view of the world".
That's effectively what they're saying.
Hey, I've had it happen to me and been told more than once "You're just using autism as an excuse".
I have no idea where to begin unpacking that one, even.
We are not all a little bit autistic in the same way as we're not all a little bit pregnant.
And the sooner people get this into their heads and then either acknowledge our differences or accept they're happy to remain ignorant, uninformed cockwombles, the better.
Jon McCulloch, The Evil Bald Genius
Author, speaker, business owner, and autism advocate