Are You Autistic, Too?
There is a strong genetic link in autism. I suspect multiple people in my family are diagnosable with autism (more than the three that openly embrace the diagnosis). But it wasn’t until the younger generation began to be diagnosed, and then treated, that (some of) my generation began to be more honest about our own autistic traits. I’m not saying that every autistic child has a parent with autism, but if your child is diagnosed with autism, you might begin to look around your family and reconsider who your “weird uncle” is or why your grandmother is always so blunt or yes — why you yourself have always had such a strong dislike of perfumes.
I try these days not to diagnose other people with autism. I really do. But sometimes it is like chewing on my hands, watching parents of autistic children talk about how difficult it is to deal with autistic traits, when it feels obvious to me that the parents have plenty of diagnosable traits themselves. Not always the same traits, but variations on the typical traits that often come up as red flags. This is largely because when autism was a diagnosis from the 60s to the 80s, it was largely with a certain subset of what we now consider autism: nonverbal, head-banging, repetitive behavior. We were fascinated with autistic savants by Dustin Hoffman’s portray of Rainman in the movie, but we still thought of it as very rare, not something we’d ever come across in our own lives.
If you begin to see autism in the generation younger than you, you might consider whether you yourself are autistic, or have more than one autistic trait. The main reason I suggest this isn’t because I want there to be more people who see autism as a spectrum rather than a disorder (though that would be nice), but because I think that parents are going to be a lot better at raising autistic children if they spend less time focusing on how difficult autistic behaviors are and more on their commonalities. Neurotypical parents love to look in the mirror and see their similarities to their children, and pride themselves on a child who follows after them in talents. If autism is a talent, and I think there’s a good argument it is, then what traits in yourself might you begin to see differently if you didn’t feel ashamed to label them as autistic?
1. Difficulty with change