I first learned that I have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) back in 2016 at the age of 53. At first I was skeptical, but I eventually came to see that my doubts were mostly grounded in my own ignorance regarding autism, and somewhat grounded in the fact that many autistic people have huge challenges that make my own seem quite trivial in comparison. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have an ASD, or that my autistic neurology doesn’t create significant challenges for me, but it does mean that I’ll probably never be the subject of any Oscar-winning movies.
For the record, I am also visually impaired, but I don’t need my books written in Braille. My eyeglasses work just fine.
In any case, the last two years of my life have been intense and overwhelming — not just for me but for my family as well — and in retrospect I think a lot of that chaos arose from a single assumption I’d made early on and which turned out to be false: that my medical diagnosis was some sort of credential that automatically entitled me to things like sympathy and respect from others.
I called it my “license to weird”. It was a joke, of course, but only partly so. In my mind I really thought I could just go around telling people that I was autistic and they would automatically know what that meant, accept it as true and subsequently adjust their perception of me in some sort of favorable direction. Maybe they would find me more likable, or maybe more understandable. Maybe they would find my irritability and frustration less irritating and frustrating.
Well, in the past two years I have learned the hard way that this is definitely not the case. Although folks differ widely in their responses, the general principles seem to be that almost nobody understands autism, lots of people flatly refuse to accept the diagnosis as correct or relevant, and telling people that I have an ASD is possibly even more likely to harm my reputation than to improve it.
At it turns out, my ASD diagnosis is really nothing like a “licence to weird”.
I hope that’s helpful!
Image Credit: succo on Pixabay