Seeing autistic communication as a cultural difference

I like to imagine that autistic communication is similar to a cultural or linguistic difference. Here’s how it goes…

Imagine you move to another country. You learn the language and the customs but it never really sits well with you. You manage OK – hold down a job, have some friends, but you never really feel at home. Then imagine a friend from your home country arrives. You speak your language with them and you know all their ‘in’ jokes. Their customs are your customs. You love spending time with your compatriot and feel 100% comfortable in their company. It is nothing like interactions from those in your adopted country.

Now imagine there are two people – one speaks German and the other speaks French. Most other people speak German and when someone speaks French they assume that they are speaking German badly rather than a totally different – and equally valid – language. This causes no end of misery and confusion for the French speaker who not only struggles to understand the German speakers but also struggles to make themselves understood!

Both of those scenarios relate to differences between Autistic and neurotypical communication. As autistics, we are like expatriates in a strange land. We are like French speakers when everyone else speaks German and has no idea that French is a seperate and equally valid language. However, autistic communication is definitely different not less, as these examples demonstrate. Neurotypical communication is not preferable or superior to autistic communication – it is simply different. We don’t need to be forced to speak neurotypical. Instead we need to be accepted and understood with our autistic communication and language.  These examples also demonstrate why so many autistic people love autistic space (where most or all people in a group are autistic). And how nice is it when neurotypical folks recognise this and try to learn the autistic language and customs!   

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