Not Wanting to Pass for Neurotypical.

I was reading a comment on a Facebook group where a mom was asking how to tell her Autistic daughter that no one was coming to her birthday party. She had invited 30 people to her daughter’s party and didn’t know how to tell her. Seeing that bothered me and reminded me of many of my own birthdays a child and as a teenager.

Autistics are highly intelligent but socially awkward in most cases and sometimes we do things that make other people uncomfortable or give us strange looks. And that leads to social isolation and depression. Autistics have a high rate of depression because of this isolation. We are not always isolated because we want to be, but because we don’t read social cues and often are faced with an lack of understanding from neurotypical people who, because they don’t understand us, often exclude us from social activities. Human nature is to discriminate and segregate that which we don’t understand.

In order to survive in this world we Autistics are expected to pass for neurotypical. In other words, hide who we are. We have to learn proper behavior in classes or in groups or in one-on-one sessions with behaviorists.  Autistics like me take behavior classes to learn acceptable behavior when neurotypicals aren’t taking classes in tolerance. We basically have to learn to behave and think like a neurotypical person. That is not always easy for us, but it is not impossible. It takes a lot of energy to behave like an NT person. We can be charming and friendly, but it takes effort on our part.

Unfortunately this places an undue burden on us and it’s not something I am willing to do.

Behaving like a neurotypical person also means needing to learn how to think as a team at times. The idea of thinking as part of a team is foreign to us, but it is not impossible for us to learn. It just takes time and a bit of creative thinking and a bit of patience from neurotypicals. Still, understanding the deficits Autistics have in this area can go a long way to making the process easier. When there is no understanding it can be frustrating for us. I for one don’t always understand when people don’t know much of anything about autism. I suppose this is similar to what happens to neurotypical people who don’t know anything about autism meet an autistic person for the first time.  I can imagine how frustrating it can be when we don’t respond to something they have said because we are so fixated on something. That level of concentration can be a real boon especially because it allows us to pay attention to minute details especially when doing the research. I can also understand when say exactly what we are thinking how it can make neurotypicals uncomfortable. Autistics are notorious for their lack of guile especially when it comes to their thoughts and feelings. Neurotypicals seem to very good at not letting their thoughts be known especially when they know that by saying what they are thinking could prove disastrous.

That singular fixation we Autistics have can be the cause of our social isolation. I believe that its important to look up from what you are doing every once in a while and say hello to the people around you. That way people will at least know that I am making an effort to be social. Life is only enriched through the connections we make with other people. Making friends takes effort even for neurotypical people, but it takes an even greater effort for me. I know that in my case I have to make a conscious effort to be social with people and learn the rules of the social road.

I often forget that much of the strife Autistics experience in life is caused by the fact that we expect neurotypicals to understand us and force us to act more like them. I, for one don’t believe that most of the neurotypicals I have met are inherently mean or intolerant. I think autistics don’t understand the world of the neurotypicals as much as neurotypicals don’t understand our world. This lack of understanding on our part leads to us feeling that the neurotypical world is inherently unjust when in reality we just don’t think in terms of greys like they do. The expectation that all people will react the same way is an unrealistic expectation that develops as a result.

I think autistics have to spend lots of time being forced to be things that they are not. We should be allowed to be ourselves but often we are not.

Autistics have difficulty understanding abstract thought. I for one am no exception.  Living life is an abstract thought. There is a lot of unknown in the world and I am not afraid to try and understand the abstract world I live in with my objective and factual mind. Yet, as a person with autism, I see and experience too much ignorance. It frustrates me. I wonder when it is going to end. Then I realize its not when it will end that matters but how it ends. The manner in which you face injustice is the manner in which it ends. If you handle it with dignity and grace it will end quietly. The way to make people accept you is to be yourself and to accept them in return.

4 thoughts on “Not Wanting to Pass for Neurotypical.”

  1. I have been able to make plenty of friends without “passing for neurotypical.” I did not always get warm welcomes from my peers at school, and I did not have an easy time connecting with other college students. I still do not attribute it to my own behaviors. I did everything I could to be polite to the people around me and have interesting things to talk about. The people around me were too caught up in their own lives to be willing to get to know me better. But that did not stop me from finding good friends elsewhere.

    I have a very understanding boyfriend who loves me exactly the way I am, even when I have my meltdowns and rants. His family is perfectly fine with me choosing to go to a closed room to read a book while they are socializing at a family function. They don’t label me “rude” for doing it, because they know that I am not trying to shut them out. A little explanation goes a long way with the right way.

    You can read through all my posts and see for yourself if you really believe I should have made more effort to “pass.” Have I passed, I might have had more casual friends, but I surely would not have had my true friends.

    However, if you were only talking about invasive behaviors that would for sure make people feel uncomfortable, that is different from making someone “pass for neurotypical.”

  2. That is exactly my point. I was writing about how people expect us to behave a certain way because they don’t understand autism so they try to make us act more like them which is unfair on their part. I mean they make us go through therapy, ABA classes and other such things without accepting us for who we are and letting us be ourselves.

    1. You might want to consider re-writing this, because the tone of this post suggests that you think passing is a necessary evil.

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