I get that you’re autistic, and I know that some things are a challenge for you, but —
That is where autism awareness gets us. Is that as far as we can go?
Once we’ve had another decade of Autism Awareness Months, I think by that time we’ll all be aware of autism.
But for all my love of routine and enjoyment of hyper fixations, I can bore of similarity, so maybe we need to take this great leap forward toward the better option sooner:
We can’t just stop at awareness, and we can’t end at ‘acceptance.’ The destinations are understanding, empathy, empowerment, and appreciation.
If I were to sum it up, autism appreciation is less “maneuvering awareness of the ‘deficits’ we may have” and more empowering acknowledgment of the strengths we do have.
For example, we’re not always the best at taking part in “brainstorm” meetings that lack for lucid lightning and drown in ambiguous deluges. Rather than seeing this as a need to accommodate, why not state and appreciate?
“I know these brainstorms get bogged down. But you’re direct, and you cut through a lot of the noise when you sense it’s getting unclear. I’ll back you, because we need your skills and strengths in this.”
Or even when it comes to social gatherings, I’d rather put in places where we can be useful.
“You’ve got a knack for tuning out the noise and doing stuff when you need to. If you’d rather take some anxiety off of having to mingle, what do you think we can do to get the best of both worlds here?”
Instead of seeing our hyperfocus as rude and standoffish, find where it comes in handy. Instead of bristling at a big word, see this as a way to learn something new without trying.
Rather than think less of someone with rigid routines, or of those who need a ritual for self-soothing, or toward those expressing themselves directly, or even detached from emotion — there may yet be a benefit you’re failing to appreciate.
So when you’re aware of someone’s autism, great — let’s look ahead to where acceptance and empowerment better inform appreciation, too.
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