Why Can’t All These Answers be True?

IMG_0098.jpg

As you read each of these, answer them for yourself as True or False.

1) My differences are seen in the most positive light possible.

2) I feel comfortable discussing my autism with others.

3) If people notice my neurodivergence, they are less “revolted” and more genuinely curious to learn more.

4) The way I offer different and ‘weird’ inputs is well-received and appreciated.

5) I feel more shaped and supported by my success than shamed and slighted for my failures.

6) Others are honest about where I am challenging, but more honest about helping.

7) People ask how they can adjust their misunderstandings and seek better understanding about autism.

8) Others thoughtfully accept my explanations of autistic attributes and adapt where sensible.

9) My mistakes, missteps, failures, and faults aren’t first assumed to be negative and malicious intent on my part.

10) I feel safe.

11) I don’t worry about someone finding out I’m autistic.

12) I feel like my life has meaning.

13) People appreciate me for me. 

14) I know people undoubtedly love me, differences and all, and that my differences don’t ever appear to jeopardize that.

15) The autistic experience feels like it will get better every day.

 

It’s Autism Appreciation Month.

If you’re autistic, I hope these are all true.

If you’re not, but you read this or otherwise support an autistic loved one, help us make more of these true. Please.

 

 

Being Ridiculous

IMG_7803.JPG

“Hunter, can you check outside and see if there’s a package?” asked my wife.

“Sure.”

I stepped outside our doorway into the chill and gentle flakes of springtime snow, and there I spied the familiar blue and white markings of an Amazon envelope.

“Yep. There’s a package,” I confirmed, stepping back inside and shutting the door behind me.

“Well, where is—wait, did you just LEAVE it out there?”

I smirked.

“You didn’t tell me to bring it in.”

For my many laments, jeremiads, diatribes, and other howling cries of support with autism, there are times I play the card. 

When I do, it’s usually a joker.

Sure, my autism makes many things an uphill battle, but I’ve found places where it rolls downhill instead. It is my neurodivergence after all; I can jest and make light of it where I see fit.

Growing up, I had a problem with stealing other people’s belongings; apparently, I do tend to take things literally. (Ok, that was worth a try.)

Hugs can be a touchy topic, but I’m OK turning it into a dumb joke about “having a hugs quota” or telling people that they’re getting “one of my five allowable hugs per day.”

More recently, I’ve parlayed my penchant for pedantry into hypercorrections. When people mention things like “We’ve had a lot less time to turn this around,” I’ll amend it and chat “you mean fewer.”

“Sorry, we’ve had a lot fewer time to—wait — Hunter, you ass.”

With great power comes great responsibility and even greater irresponsibility.

I once styled myself a serious man, in a hopeless attempt to appear brooding, austere, emanating this undefinable vapor of intrigue, commingled with refinement and a superior air, in the sense that my comportment would be of ‘top shelf’ quality – assured, distant, thoughtful, and unmoved by the whims of lessers.

Yeah, I was an idiot.

I’m a dad now. I have two daughters, both of whom have more joie de vivre in their pinkies than I have in my whole body. It’s rubbing off.

Though my autistically-hyperfocused tastes in music are esoteric, offbeat, and scarcely normal – the kiddos find a way to dance to some of it. And I join in.

I take two hits to my dancing abilities, being 1) a dad, and 2) autistic. I’m patently terrible. I know I’m terrible. I’m 100% confident in my maladroitness on the dancefloor.

But that’s the trick: I’m confident, and I dance like it. The kids love it.

I have learned some things about being autistic. About being ridiculous.

As long as I can be me.

The Next Step: Autism Appreciation

Screen Shot 2020-04-12 at 3.00.02 PM.png

I get that you’re autistic, and I know that some things are a challenge for you, but —

^ that.

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:

Autism appreciation.

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.