“Daily Posts Start Tomorrow”
Since April is Autism Awareness Month, I’d like to tell you a few stories from the perspective of a thirty-two-year-old autistic woman, an adult Aspergirl. So starting tomorrow, I’ll update this blog daily with personal anecdotes, hoping to paint my world with words.
Once this challenge ends in April 2018, I won’t update daily again until November 2018, for National Blog Posting Month; but I will update a couple times a month in the interim, to check in with those of you readers who will hopefully stay with this blog long-term.
Before we head into April 2018 though, let’s clear up two things.
💙Can Have Autism💙
I’ve always had to deal with people misunderstanding me.
Misunderstandings can range anywhere from cold shoulders, to unpleasant verbal confrontations, to getting the shit kicked out of you in front of the girls restroom during third-grade recess.
But one of the most difficult misconceptions to deal with is this idea that adults can’t have autism,—or women can’t have autism,—especially when these fallacies mix together. I already have enough issues as a woman without my developmental disorder being placed in question, too; yet this happens!
This happens with strangers;
…even within my family.
Why do we think it’s okay to silent autistic voices like this?
My first experience with this form of ignorance wasn’t at a cocktail party, in a casual conversation during school (although, when I taught K-12, I did have a coworker in the special ed department deny I had autism!), nor was I defending myself from a distant relative who’d long ago abandoned social progress as a practice.
Rather I was visiting a psychiatrist at Clinica Sierra Vista, after my passive suicidal thoughts returned in my second year of graduate school.
Because the MediCal-supported hospital didn’t have a psychiatrist on site, I spoke with a long-distance psychiatrist through a CRT television; the outdated technology suffered from staggered feedback, so her mouth never synced to her words.
Well, you can’t have autism anymore, even if you had it. You would’ve grown right out of it. And it’s more common in men than women, so the chances are extremely low.
Fortunately, I was diagnosed at Kaiser Permanente, but that was only after four years of maddening self-diagnosis, book-after-book to validate and soothe me.
Why can’t autistic people even visit a doctor without the risk of being silenced?
Too often we think of autism as a childhood disorder, a boy’s disorder—not an adult woman’s life; a life that continues to throw curve balls long past eighteen years old—but when Temple Grandin released Thinking in Pictures, not only did laymen learn how she changed our livestock industry, she gave Aspergirls someone to look up to outside of Rain Man:
I’d like to add to the female side of autism more too, because as much as I idolize Temple Grandin, we need more female voices—more people to lift the veil draped over hard-to-diagnose, seemingly “high-function” female autism.
If we bring this narrative to light, we can alleviate suffering from a large portion of society, as well as tap into a lot of potential.
Because autistic people are smart.
We have a lot to offer.
Of course, if you haven’t read Temple Grandin yet, you should; and if you’d don’t recognize the name, you’re missing out. You can either read the above book (affiliated link) or you could try her movie instead (also affiliated):
And if you’re more of the forum-going, Internet reading type, Temple Grandin’s Ask Me Anything Reddit is a super-interesting read.
Also, since you’re on an autism awareness website, I hope you’re already watching The Good Doctor for the male perspective of autism. It’s very good.
🧓Can Have Flawed Parents👵
This is the other misconception that gets me, and the campfire I’ll be dancing around for the first 10 days or so of the month:
Society’s view of parents with autistic children is wrong.
Parents of autistic children (who are different from “autistic parents”) are often portrayed as young adults caught in unfortunate circumstances, suffering through a hardmode parenting experience. And yeah, having a child with autism can test your limits. But that’s the end of the narrative. It’s like the story of autism, ends with the parent’s story of raising a child with autism.
Why doesn’t the story keep going?
What’s the actually autistic person’s story?
I’ve talked with everyone at work about your behavior, and they’ve told me…
So we fail to discuss whether it’s ethical parenting to record an autistic child having a meltdown (or any other seemingly unpleasant autistic behavior); we never ask whether it’s necessary to violate a child’s sense of safety to get some “I feel for ya” +1’s and +likes on social media.
Why second guess it, when the parents are esteemed as doing good?
Parents of autistic children are often pardoned from facing the repercussions of social shaming, based on the excuse, “But what about me?” “Shouldn’t parents be able to share their suffering?”—so the abled are further enabled to humiliate the disabled, in a destructive loop that leaves the autistic children at the bottom.
If you think this is not an issue, perhaps consider this parent’s healthier response:
Usually when a parent records that behavior, it’s to show to a psychologist. We are encouraged to at least write down our experience so that we can better help the psychologist to see where the challenging behavior is and figure out the triggers.
But I would never share any footage of my children having meltdowns on the Internet. It’s fucking disgusting. I see it as a gross breach of trust and privacy.
We also skim over the importance of parents who downplay an autistic child’s sensory sensitivity. What does it do to a child’s perception of the world, when the person they rely on for social-emotional support, always tells them to grit through the pain?
Or even worse, what happens when the neurotypical parent tells their autistic child that their very real sensory experiences aren’t real?
What does that brain fog do to the developing mind?
It doesn’t hurt that bad to brush hair. It just doesn’t.
What future abuse is a sensory-sensitive child being primed to endure, because society told them to trust and love their caretakers, then their caretakers told them to ignore (or deaden) their sensory experiences?
The music is not that loud. Deal with it.
The cigarettes do not smell that bad. Suck it up.
Furthermore, our society still stamps parents with the seal of approval if they respond to their autistic children’s meltdowns and shutdowns as if they were the neurotypically branded “temper tantrums,” when there is a serious division between these two forms of behavior:
We fail to acknowledge that bad parenting decisions are bad—because c’mon, the parents have an autistic kid, give the parents a break!—and so as a society, we keep treating autistic children in ways that aren’t conducive to a thriving life.
So those are some of the suitcases I’ll soon unpack.
Honestly, I’m not that excited about unpacking them. The contents scare the shit out of me. But we need to talk about this…
Kourtnie has an MFA in Creative Writing from CSU Fresno and a BA in English from CSU Fullerton. When she isn't writing or making art, she's moonlighting as a professor at community colleges. Read her writing at Kourtnie.net or Wattpad.com/user/KourtnieNet.