Ann discovered she was Autistic at age 11. It wasn’t until then that she saw autism as a spectrum. Ever since discovering she was Autistic, she has wanted everyone to know and be understanding of how it affects her. Unfortunately, she has had negative experiences with stereotypical assumptions, talking about her behind her back, and ignoring her. This week Ann discussed inclusion, friendship, and the dangers of making assumptions.
How did you first become aware of your Autistic identity?
I was 11 years old when I became aware. Before then, my mom had brought me to some awareness events, but I never thought that I would be one of those kids. I thought I was typical, through and through. We moved to my current location a month after I turned 11, and when we found the right councilor, my mom brought up why we were coming. The councilor informed us that my explosions were symptoms of autism. I know now that I have it.
What is difficult about forming friendships? Describe the types of friends you are drawn to.
Social interactions in general. I also feel like it takes a long time. It takes forever, and everybody just turns away during that time. I want friends who are understanding, but all of them just turn away for some reason. I don’t know what that reason is though. I’d like to find out, so I can fix it, but, I don’t know how to find out.
What’s one or some of your pet peeves/frustrations/microaggressions related to a lack of autism understanding that you see/experience?
Here’s my big one that covers all of it: assumptions. People assume I don’t have autism, and hold me to high standards in the wrong categories. People assume that I’m trying to be rude, and I get treated like I’m a jerk just because of how I come across. People assume what I want, they assume what I can do, they assume that, just because I have been academically smart, all my life means I am amazing at social skills. Long story short– none of that is true! Nobody decides to confirm or even try. Most of the things that people do that I don’t like are because of an assumption. From what I have seen, I think that to stop making assumptions would be a good idea, and it could possibly stop a lot of fights. Most people here would say we automatically make assumptions, but that’s not 100% true. We automatically suspect things, and think things, but nobody confirms it, they just assume that it’s true. Suspect, but confirm.
Describe situations where you feel included, engaged, and/or welcomed.
I feel included in environments with people who will understand me. I definitely prefer spending one-on-one time with friends than groups. If I can find a group, that would be awesome, and I’d be great with that, but for me, it’s harder to maintain, so I feel a lot more included in one-on-one conversations, especially since I will know they’re talking to me and not somebody else if we’re having a one-on-one conversation, because if they’re talking to someone else, then it’s not really one on one. Group environments can’t make me feel included because most of the time I just stand there, listening and hearing everybody talk and come up with things to say, but nobody lets me talk. Definitely one on one.
In what ways have you learned to self advocate (either at school, work, social settings, etc.)? If other people you know are curious about autism, what do you recommend is the best way to learn about it? Where/what/whom do you direct them to?
I will friend someone if they are willing to accept me, and I’ll get their contact information. I’ll give them warnings, when they do some thing wrong– that is normally OK for somebody who does not have autism. I also might send them an article that describes how things are for me and why I don’t like that.