The Aut Rapture

Something transcendent happens to autistic people when we turn 21: We disappear. Unfortunately for me, however, I’m 27, still autistic, and still living and breathing on this planet. Yes, my friends: I have been left behind.

My parents made the mistake of not aborting me. And ABA, CBT, talk therapy, support groups, anti-depressants — none of these things have exorcised my autism. Sometimes, when I go to conferences, self-important parents like to pretend that I’m not really, truly autistic, that I have, in fact, outgrown my autism in the most spiritual and inspirational of ways. Because, honestly, haven’t I heard? The good and faithful autistics all recognize the depravity that is autism and work hard, so tear-inducingly hard, to make their disordered brains and disordered bodies disappear. That my disordered self could still exist… that I even want my disordered self to exist… such a pity. I’m so autistic that I cannot fathom how soul-sucking autism really is.

If I will not make my autistic self invisible, then they must. And if “evidence-based practices” won’t do the trick, ableism just might. So, I’m here providing a few suggestions for further infantilizing me, for facilitating a neurotypical brand of the Second Coming:

1. Remember that, while I may exist physically, I do not exist semantically. Pairing autistic and adult in the same sentence, for example, is a no-no. Other off-limits words include woman, citizen, activist, colleague, and anything with a —sex affix.

2. Although I might be an adult in the chronological sense of the word, stress that I will never be an adult in the developmental sense of the word. There are many ways to assert neurotypical dominance in this regard. You might, for example, correct my use of the words depression and anxiety and replace them with sad feelings and worried feelings. When I present at conferences and seem a bit too comfortable in my empowered adult status, you might knock me down a few rungs and ask me at what age I was toilet-trained. And, every time I remember to bathe, you might write me a 1,000-word email, CC four or five of my family members and/or former employers, and tell me how proud you are of me.

From: Dr. NT Knowsbest To: Token Autie CC: Your Mom ; Your Boss ; Your Math Professor ; Your Old Babysitter ; Your State Representative Subject: Go you! Hi, Token!!!! I heard the big news. I think we ALL need to congratulate you on your hard work!

Other infantilizing measures might include, if you’re a soprano or alto, using a sing-songy voice and speaking only in rhyming couplets. But, hey, don’t take advice from little ol’ me. You’re the neurotypical — you’re the adult here.

3. Remind me that I am incapable of empathy and perspective-taking. If I disagree with you, tell me how self-centered I am. Emotionally speaking, I’m forever lodged in the terrible twos, and I’ll just never understand how bad you have it.

4. Emphasize that, unlike real adults, I cannot maintain mutually beneficial friendships and will always fail to meet your emotional needs. Condemn my black-and-white thinking and preach to me about shades of gray. If I pick up on your sadness and attempt to console you — make it clear that you’re not sad, you’re lachrymose. You’re not depressed, you’re bummed out. You’re not upset, you’re very upset. There’s a difference, and I damned well need to learn it. To facilitate this process, draw cartoon faces on the back of your business card and instruct me to keep it handy in my wallet.

The back of a business card. There are three handdrawn faces with expressions of distress, and there are only minor differences in the drawing. The first is labeled UPSET; the second VERY UPSET; the third INCREDIBLY UPSET. There are lines radiating from the third face, and a handwritten caption says NOTE: THIS IS NOT A LIGHTBULB. At the bottom of the card a scrawled note reads XOXO I HAVE FAITH IN YOU!
This is important shit.

5. Never give up on the messy, imperfectible project that is me. No matter how many times I tell you how cruel you are, no matter how many times I tell you how patronizing you are, no matter how many times I tell you how proud I am to be autistic — keep working on that disappearing act. Remember how glad you are that you’re not some bitter, twisted, ungrateful, disordered half-person like me. Remind yourself that I’m so lucky to have such a wonderful, personal savior like you in my life.

This post brought to you by a big a move, a new job, and my lack of existence.

13 thoughts on “The Aut Rapture”

  1. This is hilarious! I’m sad, though, that you’ve experienced so much of this condescending crap.

    (I think my favorite part of this post is all the email addresses.)

  2. YES. This is amazing. I am so sorry to hear you’re going through so much BS but this post is awesome. I laughed at the part about the faces on the business card, but then I was sad because I realized someone had actually probably done something like that to you.

  3. I love the “rapture” comparison, email addresses, especially “this is not a lightbulb”…

    It drives me up the wall how people like that can understand that most of those comments qualify as emotionally abusive yet completely fail to grasp that it’s still abusive if the target isn’t neurotypical. (I’m not sure if it’s worse when the speaker is being deliberately obnoxious, or when they’re sincerely “trying to help”; my mother vacillates between the two.)

  4. your experience is precisely why my brother doesn’t tell anyone he’s on the spectrum unless he absolutely has to or absolutely trusts them. he doesn’t want to be talked down to or treated like an idiot when he’s as capable as anyone else, and it has pissed me off when i’ve seen it.

  5. I want to say how well written and thought provoking this is, regarding not only the feelings of people with autism but any range of disabilities… but clearly someone else wrote this for you. Would you like some crayons, dear? To draw your feelings? I have faith in you!

  6. i absolutely love this post. i have had 3 accidents resulting in traumatic brain injury, and survived each one, but i have literally had to do various cognitive therapies that basically recircuited my brain, just to that i could return to a semblance of normal functioning, whatever that is these days. the way people talk down to me, lower their expectations of me to practically zero, and patronize me pityingly is not helpful. similar to what you describe–very much so. so i just don’t tell people anymore, especially in the employment realm. thanks so much for your bright insights.

  7. You’re wonderful! I have just been pointed to this blog and it is now on my bookmarked list. Would you be Ok about my putting a link onto Aspiehelp website? (and I hope you might be happy to return the compliment)
    Aspies in NZ are really getting together thanks to Facebook
    (see Asperger Syndrome New Zealand page for starters) and also forging links with the Australian Aspies in the same way.

    These autie/aspie haters are very chilling. It doesn’t bear thinking about. Unfortunately, we have very similar views here in NZ as well. Thank you so much for putting this issue so succinctly and clearly.

  8. Hallelujah, and thrice amen to your latest blog post, H!

    I can really relate to what you’ve written as a newbie recently diagnosed at 55(I self-assessed myself AS after my eldest son was formally diagnosed— then, did it up right). And Leith’s comments are spot on as well! Thanks to you, Leith!!

    I look forward to many more visits to your blog and respectfully request that you keep me posted everytime you add entries, if poss.

    P.S. I’ve asked my NT spouse to read this post as well. She & my middle son struggle living with three ASpies, this I know…

    All the best, Alan

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