“But you’re not that autistic, are you?”
This is something people say to me all the time. I think it’s supposed to be received as a compliment from people who don’t understand that being disabled isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a compliment is the last thing I see it as. The observation isn’t exactly helpful, either.
This opinion is mostly upheld by people who know me on a professional level as opposed to a personal one. In principle, people seem to understand that a lot of my behaviour occurs as the result of masking my true behaviours in public, because I’ve explained this a lot in the past, but in reality, this understanding is often forgotten.
If you know me on a more personal level, you’re likely to see things that other people don’t. You’re likely to notice my social blunders, like the way I initially act overconfident in a new environment, and my inability to understand the social rules in new places, before I settle into a pattern of observation that is often mistaken for shyness, which lasts anywhere from a few weeks onwards before my true personality is revealed.
My communication struggles become more evident over time, too. Like when I’m tired and I talk out of turn or interrupt someone by accident because my brain is too tired to tell me to wait, or when I respond incorrectly to a simple question such as “how are you?” because I’ve been relying on scripts to get me through, and my scripts become confused.
You might even begin to understand my sensory issues, like how I struggle to process verbal communication when there’s background noise going on because I am unable to filter it out and will instead subconsciously try and process everything, which doesn’t often work. You might learn that I avoid certain fabrics, and some are so gross for me, that I’ll physically gag just talking about them. Velvet is a good example of this; even writing it down makes me feel like my skin is crawling. The thought of touching it is even worse.
The truth is, people who believe I’m not that autistic probably don’t know me as well as they think they do. They’re probably yet to experience my behaviour in an environment I feel comfortable in, or comfortable enough in to let my guard down and stop trying to act completely neurotypical, at the very least. I believe part of my desperation to hide my autistic behaviours—although it’s already more common in females—comes down to the fact that I received a late diagnosis, and that sometimes, I don’t even realize that I’m hiding my behaviours in order to fit in, or at all. Sometimes I do notice, but I’m finding it hard to verbalize what I want to say, and in those cases, hiding who I am is just easier than getting frustrated because my brain can’t do what I want it to be able to.
Overall, I think it’s important to remember that autistic people are just as individualized as neurotypical people are. We all have struggles and difficulties that may not be apparent at first glance, as is the case with neurotypical people we all come across on a daily basis. You wouldn’t go up to someone and make observational comments about other aspects of their identity, so why is making an assumption about someone’s disability based on the way you view them any different?
Like I said earlier, I understand the sentiment behind this comment, but it’s difficult not to feel like I’m being disbelieved when I hear this on an almost daily basis on my everyday life.
I’m not sure why, but despite the amount of people who say this to me, I have yet to come up with a scripted response to say in return. This means I often feel out of my depth, and throw the comment off with a nervous laugh, but I hope from now on I can show people this blog post and they will realize why it’s not as much of a compliment as they once thought.
Thank you for reading, and until next time,