There are lots of technical explanations of autism and diagnostic criteria. Words like stimming, sensory, meltdown, structure, analytical, development, stereotype, Asperger, routine, spinning, distance, emotion, heartbreak, bullying, neurological, triad, phenotype, agnosia, impairment, alexythimia …the list goes on.
Autism is a way of being human, a way of living, fascinating and quite unlike the life of most people. We are focused passionate and often quite disorganised.
We are passionate people who value truth and saying what we think over social priorities. These being the social priorities of non autistic people. We have our own ways of being social in our culture. We value truth and decency, we won’t pretend at anything we are, we do and we say. We get profoundly upset at the indirect communication, hidden meanings and compromises in life that lots of people use to stay within social and political bounds in society. We don’t do any of that. We won’t do any of that. We don’t play politics for personal gain, we dislike organisational politics and the pretences people use to bond and maintain social hierarchies. We like truth, justice and compassion; they simply work for everyone’s good. We have analysed these things and just know they work. We get passionate about them. We just go for it, wherever our passions lead us. Or passion for “going for it”, our focus and our unwillingness to chat and follow social norms and non verbal cues are often misinterpreted as arrogance and rudeness (we often hold our bodies stiffly and avoid eye contact).
We are most of the inventors, the scientists, computer geeks, engineers and are a large number of the artistic community. We don’t naturally or comfortably sit in the middle of anything, naturally, literally or metaphorically. We are passionate; our brains are wired up for this. We don’t do a little of most things. We do things we are passionate about and endeavour to do each to a very high level. We can spend our lives on the pursuit of one goal. We are the people who will research in an area of human endeavour maybe for a lifelong career. We are the people who will think outside of the box (we do not feel constrained by social convention, or “we just don’t do that” sort of conventions that other people subject themselves to).
Most things we use in life have been invented and developed by autistic people, clothes, machines, medicines, vehicles, computers, houses, ships, ports, aeroplanes, paint and colour, design, new art forms, musicians and a whole load of other things. We are not comfortable with chatting and being sociable for our own sake or to bond with people, we have goals and we go for them if we can. All of this is hard wired into our brains. Our brains are structured differently and have different ways of working from most people.
Essentially autism is straight forward even though there are millions of variations; one for each autistic person. And many other coexisting conditions. No two of us are the same, just like no two non autistic people are the same. I describe autism as a way of living. Autistic people are individuals, yet we share a common culture. A common struggle to get by in life; a common need for peace, connection, communication and sensory comfort. We share a common feeling of alienation and distance from much of everyday life. It’s not that we don’t want to be part of it rather that we find so much of life hurts us sensorily, emotionally, is hard to process and comprehend. The ways of society are optimised for people who are not autistic; the 99% majority. We are ok with being different but what is not ok are the ways we are judged, criticised, put down, discriminated against, educated in ways that we cannot participate in, bullied, few of us have work and most of us are depressed mainly because of the negative ways people treat us. These are many of the reasons that too many of us do not achieve our potential or goals in life. We get put down, bullied and cast out. Our education all too often goes all wrong. We are unable to make the connections in life that would enable us to peruse our goals or influence and impress people. We enter adult life having little or no success in education and our young lives, we must build lives through persistence, learning and simply not giving up. Our preference for pursuing a single focus and doing it to the utmost is often the thing that we can use to drill away at life and keep on going through the pain.
Autistic people, parents, teachers and other school staff, carers, police, families, professionals, nurses and anyone who provides services to people. Relating to autistic people is not rocket science. We want to have relationships. The way I develop these understandings have helped many people to live a happier life with autism.