Autism is a neurodevelopmental difference historically defined (in a medical context) based only on deficits, focusing only on Autistic weaknesses and struggles.
While Autistic People often have weaknesses that non-autistic people don’t, being Autistic influences so much more than our struggles (even though medical definitions of Autism continue to ignore this).
I didn’t know I was Autistic for the first 29 years of my life, and not understanding my NeuroDivergent brain (and experiencing a lifetime of blame and shame without knowing why) was traumatic.
Learning I’m Autistic helped me to understand why I’d always felt so alien, why nothing I ever did was good enough for people, and why people often seemed to expect more (or less) from me than I was capable of giving.
My Autistic brain explained a lifetime of being over and underestimated by those around me. It also explained the repeated misunderstandings, regular miscommunications, lost people, and the friendships I’d been unable to maintain. It explained the pain, social confusion, coercion, manipulation, and all the times I could not detect when people with ulterior motives pretended to care about me or what I had to say.
Yes, Autism explains all of my weaknesses and much of my pain, but it is also more than that.
My Autistic brain influences most things in my life:
- Who I socialize with
- The types of relationships I have
- How I process information
- My experience of the world around me
- My hobbies, passions, interests
- Communication style and habits
- Autism is interwoven into how I interpret and fit within social contexts, structures, and hierarchies.
In addition to my shortcomings, Autism also explains all of my strengths and is an essential part of who I am as a human being.
Autistic People are more than a checklist of weaknesses. Still, we are forced to think of ourselves primarily through the lens of deficits – taught to blame ourselves for failing to thrive in systems that ignore our needs (and blame us for failing when we never had the proper tools or support, to begin with).
Many of us are already functioning at maximum capacity because of society’s expectations and what is needed for survival (in a world that is poorly suited for and often blames us for our needs).
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