Shit Neurotypicals Say to Autistics
“I don’t have a problem with autistic people, but I hate weird people.”
You might be fooling yourself by using the terms weird, awkward, strange, etc. as a euphemism, but you’re not fooling me. You’re not the first person to call me those things. I’ve heard it all a thousand times from elementary school up until college. I know what those phrases really mean. People use words like weird to insult autistic people without it being too obvious to others or themselves that they’re an ableist.
Maybe you don’t hate all autistic people, but you definitely hate me for being autistic. Everything you say is “weird” about me is textbook autism. You would know that if you had done any research.
“I know an autistic person and they’re not (unbearable) like you.”
While all autistic people have common traits, we’re not all identical. Like any two people, we have different upbringings, life experiences, opportunities, social influences, and genetics.
I find certain people unbearable to be around as well. For example, intolerant neurotypicals who purposely make my life hell just because I don’t cater to them by wearing my fake neurotypical alter ego every waking moment.
“Just get over it.”
I can’t simply “get over” autism any more than a person confined to a wheelchair can “get over” their legs not working. When you say I should overcome autism, you’re imagining that there’s a little person in my brain (the real me) fighting for control against this big bad autism monster. No. There’s just this one brain and autism is what describes it.
Even when “I” seem to be overcoming “my autism” with masking, I pay a very heavy psychological cost for it. Masking accrues a kind of autistic karmic debt that must eventually be paid back. It’s impossible to tyrannize myself into being someone I’m not all the time without paying for it through side-effects that affect myself and others.
“Why can’t you do that?”
There isn’t only one way of doing things. I’m autistic, so trying to force me to do things the way everyone else does results in them not getting done. Instead of focusing on the why, focus on the how. How can I do things in a way that works for me and also completes the goal?
“Why don’t you try eating this? Just try it!”
I’ll try almost any food once, but don’t complain when I spit it out in disgust nine times out of ten. No, I’m not “psyching myself out” or trying not to like it. I have no fear of trying new food. The fact is there’s just a lot of food that tastes awful to me.
“You’re making a big deal out of nothing.” / “You’re too sensitive!”
What to you is simply an everyday experience can be extremely overwhelming for me. You’re in no position to say whether I’m making a big deal over nothing, because you don’t know what it’s like to be autistic.
“Are you paying attention?”
Sometimes I’m not paying attention, but that’s not the only reason I may not understand you. Sometimes my mind doesn’t parse the mouth noises you make into words. Other times it does, but the words have no meaning. For instance, I’m able to repeat back to you what you just said, but I do not know what it means.
I may have to ask you to repeat yourself multiple times or explain yourself in a different way. Be patient with me. I’m not trying to frustrate you.
“You’re not autistic.”
I may not seem autistic if you only talk to me for a few minutes. That’s because I’ve spent my whole life forging an entire fake neurotypical personality through brutal trial-and-error just to survive socially. I’ve gotten good enough at it over the years to fool you, but it is all just an act.
You don’t realize how insulting it is when you deny my autism. It’s insulting for a few reasons. To begin with, it’s why you say it. You see autism only as this awful, crippling affliction. While it is crippling, it also lets me do things that neurotypicals can’t. Like I said in my previous entry, it’s more of a trade-off than a pure disability. The biggest reason autism is so crippling for me is the way other people treat me. We have to be very careful in distinguishing how much of autism is a disability because of inherent deficits and how much is a disability because of society’s unwillingness to accommodate people who don’t conform to the norm.
I have been mocked by family members because of my autism. I have been ostracized by my peers and targeted by bullies all through my education. During most of this, I had no clue I was autistic. I had suspicions in my late teens, but even then I didn’t realize how much it was shaping my life or how my life could’ve gone differently had someone noticed and got me the support I needed earlier on. When you deny that I’m autistic, you’re denying my past and present reality.
“Everyone’s different.” / “Aren’t we all a little autistic?”
You don’t have to be autistic to be different or special. You don’t have to be autistic to be bullied in school or rejected by peers or family members. But autism is a distinct kind of different that isn’t comparable to the ways neurotypicals differ.
Autism lies far outside the bounds of neurotypical neurodiversity. Neurotypicals push the norm on purpose and they’re labeled edgy. Autistics naturally exist much farther outside the norm without even trying and we’re told that we’re broken, something is wrong with us, and that we need to be more neurotypical.
“You laugh for no reason.”
Some people call this “inappropriate laughter”. I reject that phrasing because it implies I’m broken just because I laugh at things others don’t. I prefer the term “unshared laughter” instead.
Sometimes my emotional reactions to things are completely off-putting to neurotypicals. I laugh or smile when something is so terrible that there’s nothing that can be done. For instance, if I find out tomorrow that I meteor is hurdling toward earth and we’re all going to die soon, I might laugh. Who would win? Two hundred thousand years of humanity, ten thousand years of civilization, and thousands of years of technological progress or a big ass space rock? It’s a cosmic joke!
I can’t explain the humor to you any better than that. But my reactions to things aren’t “wrong” or “inappropriate” just because others don’t react the same way.
Sometimes I laugh at things I’m thinking about, not the situation in front of me. To the outside observer, it’s not obvious what’s funny. So they make a guess at what I’m laughing about, which is always wrong. And before I know what’s going on, I’m being castigated for what they assumed I was laughing at. The whole situation becomes so ridiculous that I laugh even harder.
But no, I don’t laugh for no reason. Just because my sense of humor isn’t identical to yours doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me. It doesn’t mean I have malicious intent or that I’m a psychopath. It doesn’t mean I don’t have a reason to laugh. It just means I’m different than you and that’s all.
“Why can’t you just be normal?”
I’m autistic. I cannot and will not ever be “normal”. I also disagree with the premise of being “normal” as a goal, especially since I’m high-functioning. If I could wave a magic wand and make my autism disappear, I’m not sure I would. I would counter with the question “Why can’t you just accept other people for who they are?”
“You act immature. You need to grow up!”
As long as my behavior harms no one, then it is nobody’s business how I act. I’m not saying I’m never immature or that autistic people can’t be immature. I’m just saying the word “immature” is like the word “weird” in that neurotypicals constantly use it as a euphemism to insult autistic people.
Just because autistic people don’t socialize the way you do doesn’t mean we’re children. So please don’t treat us like children. We are adults with different needs and abilities than neurotypicals.
On the other hand, neurotypicals have lots of qualities that seem immature to me. For instance, their inability to incorporate hard truths without sugar coating, herd mentality, lying as a standard part of socialization, and the tendency to become upset and hateful at those who fall outside the norm.
“You’re making excuses!”
Some autistic people cite autism for their behavior even though what they’re doing is not a symptom of autism. I think the opposite problem is more prevalent though. Namely, that we are unfairly blamed for autism symptoms we have no control over.
“Come join us! You’re missing out on the fun.”
What’s fun for most neurotypicals isn’t what’s fun for me. When neurotypicals try to force me to join in their “fun”, I end up miserably bored being called a buzzkill, party pooper, etc. There’s nothing interesting to me about playing party games and the atmosphere causes me sensory overload. It’s like being tortured. I’d much rather be studying recreational mathematics, programming, or philosophy.
By saying this, I’m not trying to appear better or smarter than you. I enjoy what I enjoy and you enjoy what you enjoy. It’s fine. Just don’t tell me that I must have fun the same way you do.
“People would like you more if you would…”
I was once told I would never find love unless I pretended to be more normal. Not only was that not true, it was a hateful thing to say. It’s no different than saying I’m unlikeable/unlovable the way I am. What a horrible thing to say to an autistic person.
“You have to meet people in the middle.”
The assumption here is that I’m not even trying to meet neurotypicals in the middle. I’m an autistic person living in a neurotypical world. I’m always pushing my limits to meet neurotypicals where they’re at. I don’t even necessarily agree that I should be expected to do that. I just do it because it’s impossible to function in the world otherwise. So don’t tell me I’m not trying. Maybe you ought to try to meet me where I’m at.
“I didn’t mean it like that.”
Sometimes neurotypicals say offensive things to autistics without meaning to. That’s why it’s important to educate people about what autism is and the different ways it can present itself.
There are people out there who look for things to be offended by, but I’m not one of them and I don’t imagine that most other autistic people are either.
There are more things I could add to this list, but I think I’ve covered the main points. My hope is that neurotypicals reading this will gain a newfound respect and understanding for autistics and that other autistics reading this can relate to what I’m saying.