I’ve wondered about what are considered “autistic” traits and whether these are really traits of a “condition” or understandable reactions to the experience of growing up different.
For much of my life I’ve ended up extremely reserved and apparently shy or passive. Apparently before I went to school I was more expressive – sang to myself and danced about – but most of my recollection is being so reserved as to be practically mute in some situations, not wanting to draw any attention.
In retrospect this looks like a reaction to being placed in an overwhelming environment, teased by other children, bullying by some teachers given that I had no idea what I did to make them so angry or single me out, ending up with bad friends more than once. Eventually it seems easier to not say anything or get involved with anyone.
Is that me “being autistic” or me being made to feel weird for being a certain way?
Getting poor reactions from others when trying to connect leads to isolation – is being isolated “autistic” or simply a reaction to regular rejection? I think I have been more unlucky than some autistic people because any friends I’ve had have been compromised and tried to be in control of the relationship somehow. It’s no wonder I’d more or less given up by the time I was 13 – at best I had a few kids I could relate to at school but nothing extended beyond school after being burned by and experience with a bad friend previously.
The lack of friends or shyness can be linked to “interpersonal communication difficulties” – but as more effort has been made to de-normalise the “typical” perspective, I think it becomes apparent that autistic people can communicate, and our natural style is foreign to people who interpret it as rude, or subversive, or self centred – when people are giving off indications that they are uncomfortable or seem to try and avoid talking to you more than once it seems like “failure” – in reality the other person can have a lack of patience and just find it irritating if they are put to some extra effort.
When I’ve been fortunate enough to speak with autistic people the “problems” disappear.
It’s frequently reported by autistic adults.
When autistic people develop repetitive behaviours, that can be interpreted as innate. Routines, rituals, needing things the same. Is that in fact a response to high levels of stress? An anchor of control when there doesn’t seem to be anything else within that person’s control. Are they more likely a result of chronic trauma so they seem to be part of the person’s behaviour?
Somewhat like an animal in a zoo with a cage that’s too small? If an autistic person has been put in an effective invisible cage (often a sensory overload induced cage) – is it surprising that repetitive behaviour should emerge?
Considering all of that, I find it easier to see many stereotypical traits are created by other people in an autistic person’s life, and painful environments people congregate in, and institutions that punish being different. The “defects” are created by pressure to fit into an impossible mould.
What’s tragic about this is that so much of the suffering is completely avoidable with some understanding and a bit of patience. So I hope the diagnostic indicators of autism can be eventually be separated from being autistic.