Autism isn’t something that there is a “one test fits all” for it. Still, when you tell people you’re autistic, they have expectations.
One of the biggest expectations (besides perhaps an inability to take care of yourself) is that there should be a social deficit. If you are autistic, you shouldn’t be able to understand emotions. You shouldn’t know how to react when someone is upset or even be able to tell that they are upset. What even is empathy?
So, news flash, autistic people can not only understand emotions (though it varies how much), but they also have them themselves. It’s true that one of the key aspects of autism is a trouble with communication and social skills but autism is a spectrum. You are going to have people on all places of that spectrum.
That includes those who are highly empathetic and those who don’t get emotions of others at all and everything in between.
I am not an expert on this by any means. In fact, I’m still trying to understand everything myself. That’s the purpose of this blog. (That being said, if I am ever offensive, please let me know and I will correct it.)
Oh look. ^^^An example of empathy. So I must not be autistic, right?
Or I’m just a kind person who is trying very hard not to hurt people because I don’t like being hurt.
I am a highly empathetic person. And I try to understand what other people are feeling so I can say or do the appropriate things. Someone is sad, you offer to listen or give a hug. If someone is happy, you listen to what they are happy about and try to be enthusiastic about it too. If someone is angry… you stay the heck away until they cool down or seek you specifically out.
Actually I have no idea how to deal with anger. I’ll take suggestions.
So where is my autistic experience here? I haven’t actually got there yet.
Emotionally/empathetically speaking, my autistic experience is that I can’t tell when people are in certain moods. Sarcasm flies over my head. I tell jokes or share things I think are funny and they either think I’m serious or no one laughs (except for my boyfriend most of the time and he is also autistic).
If you sound slightly snappy, I will leave you alone because you are possibly mad at me (even though you are probably just momentarily irritated by whatever you were doing and my interruption didn’t help) (or maybe your serious tone sounds like your annoyed tone). If you are silent and not smiling, I might assume you are sad and ask if you are okay. If we’re in a group of people and everyone is silent, I will feel extremely awkward, even though nothing happened. I just want to break that silence because it feels like we should be talking and I will find something to say and try to figure out how to say it without seeming weird. How do you actually start a conversation?
Also, I have learned to hide my emotions in certain circumstances. I don’t wear my meltdowns and awkwardness on my sleeve. You can’t tell anyone they are or are not autistic just based on the emotions you see.
I don’t expect you to believe I’m autistic just because of the examples above. If we go with just those examples, it just screams socially awkward. There will be more specific examples later that will help but I don’t expect anyone to believe I’m autistic because of just this.
Convincing you I’m autistic is not the point, though. The point is that autism is a spectrum. There are varying degrees of how empathetic and socially savvy we are.
The other point of this is that you don’t get to say who is and isn’t autistic. I don’t care if you are an autism scientist with two autistic children and a classroom of special education students that you’ve taught for twenty years. Even if you yourself are on the spectrum, you don’t get to say who is or isn’t autistic.
By telling me I’m not autistic, you are implying that I should be doing much worse than I am and that the much worse you’re implying is the norm for autism. You’re not leaving room for learning or the fact that some people who have trouble learning. You’re putting autism in a box and saying “this is what it looks like”. You are hurting the people who need more support than most. You’re hurting the people who are wired differently (including me).
There’s not a one test fits all. I’ve seen the criteria. I’ve seen the examples of symptoms in women. I’ve done my research. I have come to the conclusion that I am on the autism spectrum.
I am autistic. I have emotions and empathy.
Kitty, the Book Dragon