This post will dispel some of the foolish statements that crop up all too often… Some relate to autism and others to diversity more broadly. I wish I didn’t have to write a post like this!
‘We’re all on the spectrum somewhere’
This one is very prevalent. Sadly it is often said with good intentions – trying to have some fellow feeling with autistic people. In fact the opposite is true. It is a statement which belittles autistic experience and dismisses our reality and culture. If everyone was on the spectrum somewhere there would be no autism diagnosis it would just be called being human. For many of us our autism is a key part of our identity and to have someone who is not autistic basically claim to be is an invalidation. I guess its an example of that adage that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
‘You don’t look autistic’
What the crap does autistic look like? Autistic people come in all colours, shapes and sizes. We look like ourselves. There is no autistic ‘look’. I often ask people who say this to define what autistic looks like and why I differ from it.
‘My child has ‘real’ autism’
As an autistic advocate I get this one scarily often. It goes to the idea of functioning labels for autism. Apparently some autistics are more ‘severe’ than others. I tend to find that this given the ‘severe’ label are non-speakers. You cannot compare different people’s experience of autism and tell someone that they have no right to talk about autism because they aren’t ‘severe’ enough. The struggles I face as a verbal autistic who can do everyday stuff like hold down a job are pretty significant too and the act of doing those ’everyday’ things takes a huge toll. You cannot compare the challenges of autistic people – or any people – as you do now know what is going on for them.
‘You can’t say you are autistic. Yours is very mild’
This was actually said about me by a manager many years ago. Highly insulting and goes to the point on functioning labels above. Who gets to decide if my autism is ‘mild’ and what does ‘mild autism’ even mean? Just ditch the functioning labels everyone. They do more harm than good!
‘I’m not a racist but…’
Not an autism one but a doozy of ignorance and bigotry. This statement is ALWAYS followed by a nasty piece of racism. Basically anyone who says this almost certInly IS a racist.
‘Autism? Isn’t that like being a psychopath?’
I had someone actually say to me once ‘isn’t autism like being criminally insane?’ My brain went into overdrive at this point and I am surprised it didn’t explode! These views that autistics are all dangerous criminals or that we all lack any empathy or human connection are really dangerous. As an advocate this kind of thing always gets to me because it sets back our movement so much. Some autistic people do commit crimes for a variety of reasons but they are a small minority of the autistic population. And far from being psychopaths, many autistic people are kind and thoughtful and have a keen sense of ethics and respect for people and nature. Some autistics do have issues with consequences and some get involved with the ‘wrong crowd’ but these factors do not make them psychopaths.
‘Non-Binary? That isn’t a thing’
Non-binary gender is definitely a ‘thing’ or why would there be so many non-binary people out there (including me)? Just because a description for something is relatively new does not negate its validity. I can vouch for myself and say that my non-binary identity is a key part of who I am and that coming out was one of the most liberating things I ever did.
‘Some of my friends are [insert demographic group the person is being rude about here]’
Firstly this is probably a lie. It is unlikely they have any friends from the group they are putting down as why would someone from an oppressed group want to hang out with a bigot? Secondly if a person has friends from a particular group then why are they being prejudiced about that group?
‘Equal marriage upsets God. That’s why there are bushfires’
Oh please! This is the most ignorant thing I have heard in a long time. The recent bushfires were – to my understanding – caused by a range of factors including drought and climate change. It wasn’t God that caused the bushfires but more likely influenced by people though burning fossil fuels and polluting and things like that. Also why would God wait for a couple of years after the marriage plebiscite to start the bushfires? Was he checking out how things would go before acting? Just utter silliness! And anyone who believes in a supreme being that is supposed to be caring and good but then gets snippy about some people demonstrating their love and burns half the country might want to rethink who they worship because that doesn’t sound like a very nice supreme being to me.