Learning that I was Autistic was a daunting, overwhelming thing.
On the one hand, it explained everything. Learning that I’m Autistic has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
But, on the other hand, it’s overwhelming and discouraging to think about how allistics (non-Autistics) will likely never understand and will only rarely attempt to understand me.
They’re mostly good with awareness – hence the allistic-focused Autism Awareness Month.
But, I’ve discovered a great deal of resistance from allistics when I encourage them in moving forward to the next steps.
Once someone is aware, they can’t just stop there. They need to move on.
Awareness on it’s own can only get someone so far. Other bloggers have written quite eloquently about this issue.
Of course awareness can lead to acceptance, which is a great next step!
Acceptance, to me, means recognizing and accepting that someone is the way that they are. Not trying to change their essence. Working with their strengths and weaknesses in order to help a situation be as good as it can be and in order to support that person in surviving or maybe even thriving.
Along with acceptance there needs to be respect. Respecting who someone is, respecting their personhood, respecting their words and boundaries.
Only with acceptance and respect can there someday be the possibility of understanding.
It often seems as though my entire life has been a fruitless quest for others’ understanding.
I’ve failed in this more times than I could ever possibly remember.
But for so long I was missing an essential piece of information about myself. I couldn’t even understand myself without that information so how could I expect to accurately present myself to others? To expect their understanding?
When I learned that I was Autistic, I thought that finally I’d be understood by others. And I am! I feel amazingly understood by other Autistic people. I have found my community. I have people to whom I can relate ❤
It’s a truly amazing thing.
But allistics haven’t come much closer to understanding me. The same communication issues are still issues. Knowing what and why and how they’re issues does help to a certain degree, but not if I’m the only one reexamining these bad situations (repeatedly) and taking responsibility for the subtle cues that I constantly misread or miss completely.
I’m not the only person involved in these social situations. By definition there is at least one other.
Why do I feel as though all the responsibility on my shoulders?
A good friend of mine phrased it thusly:
I feel like I am dealing with myself and them! They feel like they are dealing with me!
And my response:
Because they don’t take responsibility for their differences, but expect us to take all the responsibility for ours.
Acceptance and respect have to go both ways in order for this to work.
It cannot be one-sided only on the Autistic side. Miscommunications are happening on both sides and allistics need to take responsibility for the ways in which they communicate that all too often tear us apart inside and prevent greater understanding.
If allistics are going to become aware of anything this April, I would like them to become aware of their own part in these misunderstandings.
I would like them to become aware of how much we do every single day in order to accommodate them so that maybe they will refrain from saying things about how we shouldn’t expect accommodations from them. Maybe they could also refrain from making a big deal about how grateful we should be when they toss us a few crumbs and meet us ever so slightly partway.
Our accommodations for allistics (also known as “passing” or “blending”) are often required and come with a threat. If we don’t accommodate their expectations well enough,then we often don’t get acceptance or respect or even treated like equal human beings. If we fail to anticipate every single assumption that they’re going to misread into our words, like some twisted never-ending game of whack-a-mole, then we are the ones blamed for the resulting misunderstandings.
Burnouts, meltdowns, and shutdowns are the results of sustained “passing,” even when done successfully, because of the sheer amount of energy it takes to maintain even a minimally acceptable allistic facade.
It’s a lose-lose situation for Autistics as long as the responsibility is only on us.
We can’t win. Constantly trying to accommodate allistics will destroy us from within and either refusing or being wholly unable to accommodate them could very well destroy us from without.
I want acceptance, understanding, respect, and appreciation for myself and for all my lovely Autistic neurosiblings!
But we have so far to go and we cannot bridge this gap on our own. The folks on the other side have to be willing to reach out, accept, and respect us.
They also need to accept responsibility for their own contributions to our miscommunications. They need to actually listen to what we’re saying, not insist we really meant what they’ve decided we’re saying based on what we didn’t say.
This is their world, built for them. They are the majority. They need to shoulder at least some, if not most, of this responsibility.
That is what I’d like allistics to become aware of this month.
12 thoughts on “(Mis)Understanding and Responsibility”
This is an amazing post for two reasons. I see myself in how you describe learning about being autistic.
It’s also the best post I’ve read when it comes to why awareness isn’t enough, and what kind of awareness we actually want. It explains its contents well without being hard to follow. I wish all allistics interested in promoting autism awareness would read this post. Thank you for writing this.
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Thank you so much for your kind words and feedback! ❤
So many good points in this post! I was also just thinking about how I always feel like I’m the one trying to take on everyone else’s point of view (in daily interactions, family life, etc) but no one ever seems to try to understand mine.
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Thank you for commenting!
Yes, that’s exactly what it feels like! I couldn’t pin it down until my friend put it into words. I love so much how other Autistics can put things like that into their words and then I can find my own words to expand upon theirs. Such a lovely thing ❤
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I used to do these round-up posts all the time; I’ve gotten out of the habit. It’s an auspicious occasion to resume: All the posts I could find for Autism Acceptance, listed. Yours is included.
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Thank you so much for including me and for providing such a wonderful list of other posts to check out! ❤