You’ve met one autistic person.
(The quote is a variation of Stephen Shore’s, but I’m allowing myself to write my own expansion of this.)
A lot of people tell me, when I reveal my recent diagnosis with autism, “You can’t be autistic.” They tell me I’m too smart, too capable, too successful, too empathetic, to be autistic. Some of them even say, “I know an autistic person and you’re definitely not like him, so you can’t be autistic.”
Please reconsider the ignorance you’re revealing here. Autism is not a personality diagnosis. It doesn’t tell you anything about what areas of interest a given person has. Autism is also not a skills diagnosis. It’s not an intelligence test. Yes, there are autistic people who also have profound intellectual disabilities. There are autistic people who are unable to speak. There are autistic people who memorize “useless” trivia. They are all humans who deserve to be seen as fully human.
There are also autistic artists and writers. There are autists who are brilliant activists. There are autists who have high IQ’s and low IQ’s. There are autists who are fascinated by trains, calendars, sports minutia, and the order of the American Presidents. There are also autists who are fascinated by social rules, languages, knitting and crocheting, triathlon, nutrition, environmental policy, and anything you yourself are interested in. They are all fully human.
Yes, autistic people are often seen as social awkward or rude, as overly blunt, and as unempathetic. But I put it to you that autistic people simply require more blunt communication. It isn’t that we refuse to ever listen to other people (though that trait can be seen in non-autistic people, as well as autistic people — being selfish or unempathetic isn’t really a trait that can be located solely in one group of humanity). Most autistic people (in my experience) want to be kind, and are simply bewildered by a world in which they are expected to guess what other people want. Why can’t you just say it outright? Why is social interaction some kind of arcane game of hinting indirectly at everything?
There are similarities in autistic styles of communication. There are sometimes similarities in styles of humor. There are often similarities in the lack of wanting…