📆 November 6, 2023 | ⏱️ 4 minute read | 🏷️ autism

Re: You're Not Autistic! 65 Reasons You Can't Be Autistic

In this entry, I’ll be responding to Paul Micallef’s video “You’re Not Autistic! 65 Reasons You Can’t Be Autistic”. I’ll start by listing the reasons that I’ve personally experienced people tell me.

You can’t be autistic, …

Like Paul says, read between the lines. If someone thinks I can’t be autistic because I’m intelligent, then they must think autistic people are unintelligent. If they think I can’t be autistic because there’s “nothing wrong with me”, then they must think autistic people have something wrong with them. It’s insulting.

Paul is also right that many professionals are barely more educated about autism than autism deniers, making it difficult to get an autism diagnosis as an adult. Luckily the person who diagnosed me was autistic themself, so they were not ignorant about autism.

One thing I’d like to add is that autism denial and non-acceptance is, in my experience, just as often implicit as it is explicit like in Paul’s video. I’ll give one example of each from my life:

I was once in a family photo where everybody was directly facing the sun. Bright light is very painful for me, so I held a salute gesture to block it from my eyes. When a member of my family who was also in the photo (I’ll call them Z) noticed, they told me to put my hand down for the photo. They kept repeating it, eventually telling someone else to pull my arm away. I explained that I am sensitive to light. Z responded “I know, but…” and I interjected “No you don’t.” angry that they had tried to enlist someone else to violate my bodily autonomy and cause me pain just for a better photo. Luckily, the person Z asked to pull my hand away had enough sense not to. At no point was autism mentioned, but Z’s implicit message of autism denial and non-acceptance was loud and clear.

For an explicit example of autism denial, a few days preceding this event, Z attempted to shame me in front of several other people over refusing to go to loud and crowded places. I defended myself saying that I couldn’t because being autistic made it too overwhelming. Z then told me “You’re not autistic.” even though there’s undeniable evidence that I am and Z was aware that I’ve been formally diagnosed.

In my experience, it quickly becomes obvious when someone is an unreachable autism ignoramus because they make it my responsibility to simultaneously convince them that I’m autistic and educate them about autism, meanwhile they argue with me and dismiss every autism example I give using the same debunked nonsense stereotypes Paul mentions.

Autistic people are a diverse group, autism has different ways of presenting itself, and some autistic people are adept at masking. Even though I have autism myself and I’ve researched it quite a bit, I still wouldn’t feel qualified to diagnose others, especially not adults. It is monumentally arrogant for someone who isn’t autistic themself, has no medical training, and has spent zero time researching autism to insist that they can disconfirm it in others.

I think the takeaway from Paul’s video is that you’re probably not in a position to confirm or disconfirm autism in others. If someone claims to have autism, unless you have a strong reason to think they’re lying, you should take them at their word, validate their experiences, and give them support if they need it.