Where Society Meets Autism

I know this sounds weary, but I am tired of always being the one who has to adapt to any given situation. Because, although people are generally kind and tolerant of those with disabilities, most people don’t even know I have a disability (see previous post). Even when they do, they make no allowances; they still touch me on the arm, joke with me, and expect me to put up with the most god-awful environment without a murmur of dissent. Even my (otherwise supportive) husband groused at me recently, “why do you have to always take things so literally?” Er… hello?

Okay, I accept most people don’t know anything about autism (except what they’ve learned from Rain Man and reading the Daily Mail), and I can’t realistically expect them to understand all the issues I have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. But if they’ll go out of their way to help someone in a wheelchair (as they should), I wish they would do it for me, just sometimes. In short, I’m envious of the care shown to those with more obvious disabilities, and wish people could have a greater understanding of how autism affects my ability to interact. All day. Every day.

But, no. I’m expected to fit in, to shut up and put up with it all. Just as the wheelchair-bound used to face narrow doorways, head-high cash machines, and stairs. I applaud society’s gradual drift towards a greater understanding of disabilities, but I can’t help wishing it would be our turn sometime soon. Unrealistic, I know, but I would love it if people didn’t automatically think I was being difficult. I would love it if I didn’t have to explain to my son’s teacher that he was upset not because he’d been told off, but because he didn’t know why he’d been told off. I would love it if those with autistic children weren’t treated like bad parents. I would love it if people said, “Oh, you’re autistic, is the lighting okay in here?”

Feel free to make use of the picture!

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13 Responses to Where Society Meets Autism

  1. Really well written post. I know it can be difficult but the key I think is understanding what your difficulties are, and being able to explain them whenever problems arise.

    The other thing society needs to work at is providing the right types of support services for people on the spectrum. Yes, more and more people have a rough idea of what asperger’s is, but few still understand the symptoms of asperger’s and their effects on people’s lives, such as difficulty making friends and developing a healthy and dynamic social life. It’s something the counseling and life coaching communities have largely neglected or just not known how to deal with.

    I think it’s down to those of us living life on the spectrum to educate people!

  2. Dani says:

    I pride myself on having learned to ‘pass’, in the right crowd (I do tend to avoid crowds where there isn’t a positive bias towards individuality and quirkiness). I am openly ‘out’ as having AS though. Often when it comes up in conversation people tell me that they find it hard to believe I have AS. Sometimes I take this as a compliment but sometimes it does upset me a little because I am acutely aware of the fact that the only times they will see me out anywhere are on the good days, when I have the energy to expend trying to integrate. They don’t see me after I’ve left, when I’m having a melt-down from exhaustion after it taking too long for me to get home or when on the days that I refuse to leave the house at all because of anxiety or a sense of distaste at having to act ‘human’ at all (because I feel so insincere expressing myself in human terms, even when I try my best to translate myself accurately into nonverbal communication for them).

  3. Have I mentioned recently how much I LOVE this image? It is so true. Thanks :)

  4. Anouschka Schutte says:

    Yesterday, I sat in the waiting room at the doctors office. 2 rows of 4 chairs each, all empty. So I sat down. In comes this woman and instead of selecting any seat in the otherwise empty waiting room….she sat right next to me. Her arm touching mine. And her funny smell…..blegh! So I sat in another chair. In comes another woman….and now SHE went to sit next to me. This lady was obviously a smoker. At this point I was really overwhelmed, so I put on my sunglasses and sat as far away as I could. Aparently, that was rude of me, but I couldn’t care less….they really had no clue about personal space and touching and smell….blegghhhhh!

  5. Beth says:

    This is really interesting, because I’d love to say that if I met you again I’d be able to know what would make it easier for you and what not to do… but I haven’t got a clue. Are there any resources out there for the well-meaning but clueless??

    • Leigh Forbes says:

      There are many resources – am in the middle of writing a new one myself – and Google is your friend in that respect. But probably the best way (albeit also the most time-consuming way) is to read the blogs of the autistics themselves :o)

      Thank you very much for caring. It’s really appreciated.

      • Beth says:

        Once I’ve had a bit more sleep and have a brain that’s a bit more functional, I’ll do some reading. Look forward to reading your resource though!

  6. I read this with a lot of interest because as a parent I have seen this expectation on my children as well. Hopefully one day things will change. Love the picture. Deb

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