Save Yourself: Why Autistic Self-Advocacy Matters

I love my daughters dearly, but when two of them woke up from their naps right as I was signing into a meeting that I couldn’t postpone much further — well, I still love them, but the dry-twig bundle of my sanity began snapping.

“You know, this just isn’t going to happen. I’m so sorry.” I apologized, aborting out of this meeting just as soon as it began.

My youngest was crying, my second-youngest was about to lock herself out of the iPad, and I was scarcely holding any part of these situations together.

Yes, interruptions happen. Yes, I’ve given myself room for calamity. But even with (MAXIMUM SARCASM QUOTES) “high functioning” autism, I found this strange intersection of events (kids waking, meeting needing to happen, internet being down) all tripping a wire that made me feel like my day’s foundation shifted far forward far too soon.

And that’s just it.

In the autistic experience, you can kinda “manage,” until you can’t. I felt like I’d been hit with an out of body phase shift that just undercut the range of expectations — it hits you in the core, and while it keeps the shelves up, the plates and cups come tumbling down from that plane shift.

It felt bad, and it was bad.

Sometimes I’ve got to duck a little early and “be 100% dad” whilst at work, but 40 minutes early felt just too soon, ripping my headspace out of place.

You may be reading this and think: “Yeah man, it happens.”

I know it happens. And that’s just The Life Autistic – getting wrecked by these sorts of things.

So here’s where it got interesting.

I called this person back over the phone to salvage the rest of the meeting; he was more than gracious about it. Meanwhile, I’m just trying not to overspin and overspill and blow the calamity combo out of proportion — after all, it’s hard to explain why these things throw autistic me more out of whack, right?

“Hunter, don’t worry, man, I get it. I get it. I do follow your blog and catch some of your YouTube channel—” he assured.

Folks, that right there. This is why I self-advocate.

I can’t always just tell everyone I’m working with.

I can’t explain autism and impact from ground zero with everyone. It’s exhausting. I don’t have the time. I cannot summon the energy.

And coming from the defensive, it’s even harder.

So when my stakeholder here volunteered that info, I think I intentionally sighed relief.

I could level with him on WHY this tremor of events earthquaked me instead. I may have even laughed, just shocked with joy that I didn’t ruin this transaction, that, in some way, I’d laid out enough rope.

To where I could grab hold, hang tight, be glad that I’d saved myself in this moment. I could have cried, had I not been pivoting to “the next thing” so quick.

But I do feel that way, when I think of all the past judgments, scorn, impatience, misunderstandings that came before.

People didn’t know. I didn’t know. I didn’t say anything.

No one did.

I still make mistakes, fall short, imperil myself with dumb things. But when it comes to my autism, how it affects me, and how I manage: I can advocate for that now.

You should too.

It matters.

To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Instagram.

Oh, in case you missed it, check my first ever Life Autistic Q&A!

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