The Life Autistic: Is High-Functioning Autism just a Shield?

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I recently came across some autism-related news; it’s unfortunate the autism mention came in defending one’s poorly-chosen actions:

“I understand I came off as super rude but I’m rude and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

[Becky] said she suffers from Autism and that having Obregon stand outside her home made her feel trapped.

“As somebody with autism I’m extremely uncomfortable with having strangers in front of the house,” she said. “It’s extremely triggering to have to walk out and see a stranger there. To me, this person might attack me, I don’t know.”

As I read this article (and the, uh, interesting takes that followed), it got me thinking about the all-too-fine lines between ‘autism as a reason for actions’ vs. ‘autism as an excuse.’

I’ve even had to endure some difficult conversations about to what extent I “hide” my negative actions (brusqueness, directness, ignorance, insensitivity) behind my autism.

That line of thinking both makes and misses the point:

Autism is not a shield, nor is it meant to excuse our worst attributes.

I’ve had episodes similar to Becky’s, thankfully with less racist/ableist optics.

I’m not proud of when I’ve yelled and cussed at people, or when I’ve ever lied, or grabbed the last piece of cake.

Some actions are just bad, and autism doesn’t explain them away.

Autism doesn’t justify racism, prejudice, lies, grift, or many hosts of other sins.

In fact, it doesn’t justify anything.

Things like ‘rudeness’, ‘insensitivity,’ and ‘brusqueness’ — now that is where autism gets its bad rap.

But do I get a pass on those? Do I get a “Get Out of Civility” free card?

No, and I shouldn’t. And I won’t use a shield for that.

Instead of a shield, I’d rather have context, something that moves my stance from “Don’t Blame Me” to “Do Understand Me.”

 

 

The Life Autistic: So I Wouldn’t Make It in the Air Force?

IMG_7770.JPGMy wife is fond of joking, “Hunter was a Navy brat. Now he’s just a brat.” I don’t object, as it’s quite true.

As is the case with many military kids, we often consider joining the service ourselves.

But apparently, that would have been a bad fit for me.

Could I make it through basic? Eh, probably not. Could I survive wearing those big goofy glasses? Not likely.

Beyond that, there was something more fundamental and situational.

I remember frustrating my dad to no end growing up. He was quick to point out my skills, but I tended to get in the way of my own potential.

“Hunter,” he said, “you could be just about anything you want! A lawyer, a doctor, an anesthesiologist! But — not an Air Force pilot.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because you always have to ask why.”

He clarified:

“When you’re flying your jet, and you get that order to EJECT, EJECT — you’re not going to have time to say ‘Gee officer, why do I have to eject?’ There’s nothing wr—’ and then BOOM!” he exclaimed, “you’re hit by a missile.” 

It’d be some sweet irony to write this and say, “Well, hah — I’m a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force with over 200 sorties flown—”

No.

It’s always mine to question why.

That mindset doesn’t always fit everywhere.

I’m far from a rebel – I mean, I survived four years of Pensacola Christian College of all places. But I’m not always a rule-follower either.

I’d like to say I’m just unnaturally curious, but I’m too lazy for that.

There’s a different sort of autistic slant.

We’re quick to question logic — we need things to make sense.

I know that’s not the way the world, society, people always work. But the autistic mind rests in understanding, putting pieces together — if they fit, then that helps dispel so much objection, reaction, and question.

There’s a world of difference between “I’m not sold, but I see the logic,” vs. “I don’t even understand the intent here.”

I’m always one to make reply,
And never cease to reason why,
Theirs but to do and (try not to) die (if I don’t have to)

And for what it’s worth, I could always fly commercial airliners. Not like I’d need to rationalize ejecting out of one of those . . .