January 17, 2021

Autistic life is forgetting the norms

By rosieweldon

Pride is a big thing in the autism community. Are we proud to be autistic – am I proud to be autistic? I argue strongly that autism doesn’t mean you are broken, it means you are different. So, any shame doesn’t come from who I am, it comes from holding myself up against society’s expectations. Expectations that I point blank can not achieve.

One of the most obvious examples of this is crossing roads. I have been nearly hit by cars so many times. Roads are a huge danger to me. I can’t judge how fast cars are going and I can’t figure out if I have time to cross or not. For a long time, I hated this. I felt like a pathetic child that couldn’t just cross a road. But the fact is, who cares? So, it’s not ‘normal’ for a 28 (nearly 29!) year old to use the green man. Well, I’m gonna. If I have to choose between crossing safely and trying to fit in, I’m going to choose crossing safely.

There are so many occasions in my life I am met by this junction. A choice between my own safety and quality of life and forcing myself to be like everyone else. Is it ‘normal’ to open a cupboard and see rows and rows of the same thing? Probably not. Is it normal to open a drawer and see piles of the same t-shirt? Probably not.

My life isn’t normal. I mean, how can it be? If you accept that my autistic brain is wired differently then everything about how I function is going to be different.

When the bus stop at the Bank of America was having road works done to it, I got off at the previous one, a ten-minute walk away. Once the original, closer, stop was repaired, I couldn’t shift my routine back. I spent the rest of my time at the bank stopping at the stop ten minutes away (even when I was on crutches and could barely walk!)

My life wouldn’t make sense to most people. I am still learning to not care what people think. It is so easy for neurotypical to say things like ‘there’s no such things as normal’ and ‘everyone’s weird’. But the honest truth is you have no idea. Most of you can cross the road.

And maybe you can’t do the odd thing I also can’t. But that isn’t autistic life. Autistic life is constantly needing to do things differently. It’s being the only one in the room that does something your way. It feels like swimming against the tide in every activity you go up against.  

There’s the direct easier route that neurotypicals take. Then there’s this long-winded way that I take in order to fit my mind. Whether that’s walking further to cope with change, keeping my brother on the phone while I enter a building or having to hide in my bedroom to let the kettle boil (it’s so damn noisy).

Add this onto our constant sensory and communication battles and there’s few words that do autistic life justice than: exhausting. It’s just exhausting. It is no wonder we hit shutdowns, meltdowns and autistic burnout.

Autistic life is exhausting. Not only can you accept our different ways to support us, you can help us find those detours. Help us find a way to take your world and make it liveable for us.

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