We’re autistic, not broken (and why you need to stop trying to fix us)
We autistics spend our lives trying to fit in. I was no different, even well into my 50s.
But it's is a mistake and predicated on the idea we're "broken neurotypicals" rather than having a legitimate neurological pattern of our own (broadly, of course — it's a spectrum, and once you've met one autistic, you've met one autistic. In the same way neurotypicals are all different, so are we).
Now, I want to be clear: I'm not one to drone on about "inclusivity" or "diversity".
Frankly, neither interests me for their own sake, and I think forcing the issue often does more harm than good. We can't make people like us and put up with our strange ways, and they won't do so in any meaningful way until they see it's in their own rational self-interest.
This is just human nature — why should an NT take the time and effort to get their head around, say, my lack of empathy unless there's a benefit to them of doing so? I don't blame them for a minute. The poor loves can't help it.
Besides, without wanting to seem ungrateful or cynical, my experience is those most vocal about these things are the most insistent on it being done their way and on their terms, regardless of its utility, efficacy, or suitability for those it's meant to help (I find it amusing and irritating in equal measure how NTs so often see fit to tell us how we should be feeling and thinking, and how we should want to be understood, accepted, and accommodated, without doing first taking the most obvious step of asking us what we really want and what's going to be helpful).
But I digress...
Where was I?
Oh yeah... autistics fitting in.
We spend our whole lives trying to fit into the NT world — playing the game by their rules, if you like.
But... it's like they're playing golf and we've been given a football and told maybe if we jump up and down on the football long enough and hard enough we can force it into the hole.
And when we manage it, after a fashion, we're congratulated on having made "progress", everyone gets a clap on the back, and they all go home to their NT lives satisfied with a job well done.
But there's a problem: we've not changed one iota. The only difference as far as we're concerned is we're now even better at pretending and have learned to play your game of golf a tad better.
We're still not allowed to be ourselves.
But while we don't want to fit in, we'd often love to be allowed to join in, and be allowed to do so in ways we can manage.
And I suspect the massive cognitive dissonance and consequent stress that causes is at the root of the mental health issues many of us experience.
You can't fix what isn't broken
This sounds terribly PC and so utterly unlike the Jon you know and love, but we autistics really aren't broken and we don't need fixing.
In fact, we can't be fixed because there's nothing to fix. We're wired up the way we're wired up and that's neither intrinsically good nor bad.
It just is.
It's qualitatively no different from being, say, wired up to be gay, transgender, or a lover of cheese. The real problems arise when you're told your wiring isn't acceptable to others and either you've got to change, pretend you've changed, or have people patronise you and condescend to "accept" you for your "flaws".
How about you stop doing this?
How about you take autistics for what we are, show a bit of forbearance for our foibles and strange ways (and let's not pretend we don't have them, eh?), and let us join in your game in the way we want to and can manage without it driving us crazy?
Jon McCulloch, The Evil Bald Genius
Author, speaker, business owner, and autism advocate