Contrary to many allistics’ (non-autistics’) perceptions, Autistics disclosing our Autism to them is not a “get out of jail free card” or an “excuse for bad behavior.”
Yes, often we disclose our Autistic status in order to try and make our lives a bit easier, but under the circumstances, that’s not necessarily a bad thing and is often a very necessary thing for our basic well being.
You see, we have to try hard and be extremely careful nearly all the time with around 98% of the people with whom we come into contact. If we choose not to work hard then we face the very likely probability of being grossly misunderstood and treated horribly even when we have the very best of intentions.
Working hard at social interactions is a nearly constant thing. It never really lets up, even when we’re around allistics who care about us and try to understand. Sometimes when I’m having conversations with Autistic friends, there’s at least one allistic person nearby who might join in or need extensive clarifications at some point. Or who’s just sitting there quietly making wrong assumptions based on things we don’t even realize we’re doing with our bodies and voices
The hard work continues sometimes even when we’re only with other Autistics because it can be difficult to accept that we aren’t going to be misunderstood constantly if we let our social facade relax for a bit.
We have to work exceedingly hard in order to come to any sort of decent understanding with allistics. This is true whether or not we have a label yet or whether we choose to disclose that label at all to those with whom we’re in contact.
Also, most of us don’t disclose our neurological status to everyone we meet. I often prefer to keep things surface with many people rather than have to explain and face the possibility of being further misunderstood due to the misperceptions of autism and prejudices towards Autistic people that have been widely spread by organizations like Autism $peaks (link is to a boycott site describing many of the issues with A$ – not the A$ site).
If I choose to disclose my status to someone then that generally means I’m either distressed or exhausted to the point of requiring assistance or that I implicitly trust that person with that information about myself. Occasionally I’ll disclose simply because I know I’ll be around that person enough that it would be beneficial to both of us if they know why interactions often go unexpectedly with me.
Unfortunately, sometimes disclosing doesn’t bring the hoped-for support and understanding.
Sometimes disclosing brings with it the accusation of thinking we’re “special” and wanting “special treatment” or wanting to “make excuses” for what is perceived by allistics as “bad/rude behavior.”
In reality, when I disclose, I’m hoping that the other person will be willing to work a little bit harder so that I’m not the only one working hard during our interactions.
Even the smallest adjustments from the other person can make a huge difference for me and for many other Autistics.
Simply being willing to ask for clarification or to believe me when I respond in ways that might seem incongruous with my tone of voice or body language can be the difference between a successful interaction where we both come to a greater understanding of each other and an interaction that results in me being exhausted and discouraged from ever trying again.
Once someone has shown a pattern of disdaining my requests for assistance or understanding, it’s usually not worth my time and effort to continue trying to communicate with them. I’ve tried before in the past, often to the point of meltdown, and I’m pretty much done with doing that.
I now believe people when they show me who they are and what they’re willing to do or not.
If someone who doesn’t have to work hard when communicating with around 98% of the population isn’t willing to meet me part-way by making very small adjustments for me, then I’m not willing to continue exhausting myself in attempts to meet them all the way.
My time and effort is valuable. The time and effort of other Autistic people is valuable.
Disclosing our neurology isn’t an excuse, it’s a request for support and increased understanding. Part of disclosure might include a disclaimer of some sort, but I don’t see that as an excuse either – more of a reason or even a warning that I don’t communicate in the same way an allistic person would.
I spent months of my life immersing myself in the study of body language, facial expressions, and tones of voice. It was exhausting and didn’t do much good, practically speaking, which is why I became overwhelmed and eventually gave up on learning it all.
Now, I mainly just try to make sure my voice and body movements don’t actively contradict my words and that I pay quite close attention when communicating with others, as much as I’m able to manage.
That’s just some of what I and many other Autistics have done in order to try and be better understood by and better understand the allistics in our lives and nearly all people whom we run into every time we leave our homes.
We are only asking that allistics shoulder some of that burden by trying to understand and accept our ways of communicating, moving, and being – much in the same way we’ve had to do with them.
Meet us partway as part of the neurological majority.
However hard allistics have to work in order to try and communicate successfully with us is only a very tiny taste of how hard we have to work every time we attempt to successfully talk to the vast majority of people in the world.
It is utterly exhausting to do that nearly all the time.
One thought on “Not an Excuse”
I studied body language from books as a kid.
Now I just tell new people that I can’t see their facial or body expressions when meeting them in some real life event, especially if I just try to “pass” as a person without disabilities. Sort of like hiding being an aspie, but for the other issues… I might notice if someone is really tall or short or unusual shape or uses a wheelchair or a service dog. Less of chances of noticing details like haircuts, if someone is 9 months pregnant or if they give the stinkeye or pretty much anything else visual. The eye stuff kind of mixes well with being an aspie, when I can use some of my own accoomodations like shades etc.
But on the same time, I still stress a lot with in person communications in the meatspace (aka offline). You are supposed to look at the other person’s direction when they talk or you talk to them, and the same for listening. Remove sunglasses indoors – because it makes the NTs nervous as they can’t see your eyes. (Well, there you go, one of my accommodations. They’re with prescriptions so no one can whine when I wear them. Darker environments also mean less eye pain). So do I seem to look enough to their direction? Am I using the “correct” kind of facial expressions? And enough of them?
Like some other aspie said somewhere, “I don’t speak body language”.
I’m still studying the tone of voice thing. Use it when speaking so the NTs will find it easier to understand you, but on the same time I still wonder do they use the tone as a subconsciuous, automatic thing or do they also have to put it on actively? It sure must feel wonderful just seeing and hearing all those little details in person without spending 80% of your brainpower in trying to constantly troubeshoot people (and then 10% or more in trying to decipher what they really mean when they say or do something).
For some reason it seems easier to just disclose of having a disability and then keep it at that, no further details in person. (And even then I would only do that when relevant, such as when I might need some work accommodations or to mention why I might not drive etc).
LikeLiked by 2 people