If one were to approach a stranger on the street and ask them “what does autism look like?” What do you think they would say? Would they tell of how broad that question is and start discussing the difference between girls and boys and how autism can “hide in plain sight?” Would they inform one of the diagnostic requirements for ‘Asperger’s syndrome?’ Or would they vaguely describe classic autism in boys? Possibly (if you’re lucky…) with an added sprinkle of “My nephew’s cousin’s school friend’s brother has Autism!” Or something to that extent.
My experience would sadly say the latter, because within popular opinion that is what autism looks like. Media portrays autism in an awfully specific manner: the scrawny white boy with brown hair, horrible social skills and no coordination is actually a genius! (Bonus points if it’s in maths or science!) I’m in no way meaning that classical autistic people have no or less challenges because that’s blatantly untrue. Although, it does make life the most minuet bit easier as they are less likely to have people openly devalidating their disability (yey!) But this leaves the other autistics in the darkness. They are so underrepresented that people will think that they are “lying until proven autistic,” which I must say is pretty ✧ableist✧ but ok…
Now the autistic people who do not fit that (oddly specific) demographic are left labelled as “faux autistic” or simply ignored. As someone who isn’t the media generated idea of autism, I can testify that this makes life so much harder. Now as well as my anxiety and the junk in my brain saying that “maybe I’m just faking it for attention” we have the added pleasure of actual, solid, real (influential to my education might I add) people joining in with a most beautiful harmony of lies. All the more reason for the autistic sticks who are both blessed and burdened with the ability to mask (such as myself) to intrench that persona of a neurotypical into their personalities. leaving us all with existential crises’ about if our true, disabled, flawed selves are worth anything if everyone enjoys the company of the faux.
This state of not believing your worth is horrible, I am still trying to escape its clutches. It cloaks one in sadness that can only be taken away by the gush of wind that is truth: to be truthful to oneself, realizing that you are worth the world and if society doesn’t welcome you than you will rise above them in your autistic majesty with ideas, thoughts and experiences that are purely your own. You will achieve what you wish and find hope to strive forward into the next day as yourself, for bearing your bare soul is the greatest risk you will ever take. Some never do, but with the greatest risk comes the most valuable reward. Peace within yourself.
This stereotype can be changed. The lies can be rewritten! Tell people your expression of autism! (Tell me on twitter!) Promote the fact that there is variety and the most beautiful diversity within the autistic community. Express your opinions and together we can re-label the idea of autism.