Autism Is Not Relatable
In the past, I’ve had people tell me that they “understand” my autism, only to demonstrate shortly after that they don’t have the first clue what autism actually is. People want to understand it, so they try to make it relatable to their own experience. They say things like:
“You feel rejected? I’ve been there.”
“You’re different? Hey, we’re all a little different.”
When people say these things, they have the best of intentions. But the truth is they have no clue what they’re talking about. They’re trying to compare autism, a pervasive developmental condition, with their neurotypical (normal person) experiences. It’s a category error.
When neurotypicals say they feel rejected, they usually mean a specific person or group of people rejected them. Us autistic people naturally exist so far outside the norm that we are rejected by everyone by default. It’s not just people mocking us or not getting invited to social gatherings. We expect that. It’s all the little subtle things people don’t even realize they do that lets us know we’re not accepted the way we are. Finding acceptance as an autistic person is like finding a needle in a haystack.
And there’s also the classic “everybody is different” line. Obviously everyone is different, but it’s meant to imply that us autistic people aren’t that different. Well if we’re not that different, then why do we get called “different”, “weirdo”, etc and others don’t? I’ll tell you why. Because while everybody is different, some of us are more different. Much more different.
Here’s what neurotypicals need to understand:
You will never be able to relate to a lot of what I go through as an autistic person and that’s okay. I find the behavior of neurotypicals unrelatable too. There are so many things you all do that I’ll probably never understand intuitively. I’ve just learned to accept the fact of how you are, even though I can’t relate to it myself.
No one is saying you have to like us autistics or invite us to go places. But you do need to accept our experience of the world instead of trivializing it with comparisons that make it more relatable for you. Autism is not relatable. So forget trying to relate to it and just accept it, the same way we accept neurotypicals.