So Your Loved One Might Be Autistic, How to Respond

Autism like anarchy is almost a dirty word because of some of the connotations that come with it.

It’s true that the societal view of “autism” does not accurately portray the reality for most autistic people. This is something I’ve become aware of sense I delved into this world.

I discovered my autism almost 2 years ago but only have discovered how much it effects my life in the last few months mostly thanks to Facebook support groups. In the last few weeks I’ve taken the effort to remove the mask so to speak as far as my social media community is concerned. And I’ve gotten mixed reviews which inspired this post.

This post is for the friend or family member of someone discovering autism for themselves.

For me, truly understanding my self through understanding autism has been WORLD SHATTERING but in a good way. Its more or less just broken so many walls and hangups I had about my past keeping me from truly being myself. I’m no longer mad at myself for my choices but understanding finally of why I made them to begin with.

Turns out the sickest and most unhappy I was happened to be when I was trying to mask the most, when I was ignoring my nature. I was reminded of this during Anarchapulco where I was very aware of my masking the entire time. And honestly I was exhausted and didn’t get to have as many real interactions as I wanted.

So if you see a friend considering the fact that they may in fact be autistic, this post is for you.

This post is more about the concept of live and let life. This could apply to anything really. This is what you should do and what you SHOULDN’T do when a loved one approaches you about their autism.

DO THIS


Be sure to listen:

We learn the most when we really make an effort to listen to what the other is saying. Cast aside preconcieved notions and really give them a chance to say what they need to, without interruption.

Ask questions….WITH CURIOSITY:

There’s two ways to ask questions and one of them is gonna make an autistic person shut down and give up on the convo. The first is to genuinely ask questions from a point of curiosity for more understanding. The second is from a negative biased point of view generally. The end result is trying to discredit their self analysis.

Keep an Open Mind:

Understanding that even if you know autistic people you might not understand what it truly means to be autistic. Every autistic person is different in some way that could make them seem “neurotypical” to someone even if they aren’t. Also understand that autism can manifest in more feminine or masculine regards and that’s not always related to biological sex. For example a woman could fit into the “male autistic” stereotype while a male feels more like the “feminine” autistic state of mind.

Encourage Self Growth and Self Discovery:

The value that comes from an “autistic” label is the ability to start embracing your nature. As far as I’m concerned, when you try to cure autism it’s a disorder. When you embrace it, it becomes an extraordinary special way to exist. Autistic people are highly perceptive and this can lead to anxiety. Treating anxiety with things like stim toys makes a huge difference in the mental clarity and peace of an autistic person, especially in social situations. Being extremely sensitive to well…everything…things like weighted blankets and noise canceling headphones can be the difference between a meltdown and total peace.

Accept Self Diagnosis:

Especially with the internet, consider self diagnosis to be as valid as official diagnosis. In reality official diagnosis is only needed for legal reasons and pharmaceuticals. With the plethora of information out there available on the topic, we are more than capable of diagnosing ourselves, especially if that diagnosis brings us more peace and happiness. The majority of autistic people are totally fine with self diagnosis, even those who paid for official. It’s generally the “neurotypical” world that demands that official label.

DON’T DO THIS

“Compliment” with “oh, so you must be high functioning then, right?”:

This is a common thing people say to me. I get people just want to make us feel better but it doesn’t help anyone. Like in a video I saw recently, it only reminds the autistic person how much effort they go through to pretend, which is EXHAUSTING. The problem with the concept is that all autistic people experience low functioning times. And by calling someone high functioning, you are implying that they don’t suffer which invalidates their experience. The truth is, high functioning usually is just a way to say “But your autism doesn’t affect me!!”

“You don’t seem autistic”:

Again this is another reminder that we mask. We generally try and keep our autistic tendencies to ourselves so it doesn’t affect those we love. Some people have better control over this than others. Just remember just because someone’s autism doesn’t effect you doesn’t mean it doesn’t effect them.

“You’re Not Autistic, you have…“:

This was somewhat inspired by a family member who has very little influence in my life claiming to know me and to know I in fact am obsessive compulsive. This isn’t helpful and is a sure fire way to push people away from you. Trust in your loved one to continue their journey of self growth to the right solution if somehow autism is not. The thing is I have yet to meet someone that identifies with autism that doesn’t actually seem autistic.

“You’re perfect, don’t label yourself”:

This one comes from a place of love but it doesn’t help. If others understood the personal peace and understanding that autism has brought me they wouldn’t discourage me from a label. I have no interest in official diagnosis because I don’t need it to understand myself. However at this point I’m proud of the autistic label because it means I get to think about and experience the world differently from others.

If you are accepting of their autism, don’t fool yourself into thinking you can cure them.

With therapy and stims an autistic person can become MUCH happier and thus more fun to be around. However this is as good as it gets, you cannot cure them of the behavior all together. Take away their stims, special interests and other self soothing techniques and they will become “low functioning” before you know what even happened.

The Only Time It’s Okay to Discourage Autistic Behavior

An expansion on this don’t encourage them to be “less autistic” for societies sake. The only thing you should encourage as a love one is healthier coping mechanisms as it’s common for autistic people to develop unhealthy habits like picking at acne. If they need to move their bodies, let them. Don’t force physical contact with ANYONE if they are sensitive to that. Let them have their space when they need it ect.

Autistic doesn’t mean Broken

And finally it’s sad this needs to be said but don’t just default to treating people with less respect because you do not understand them. Autistic people are notorious for not getting their point across as intended in social situations. There’s a big chance that they are going to have a hard time explaining their feelings on their autism to you. This doesn’t make autistic people deserving of less respect but more understanding. Just the simple understanding that you don’t understand is PLENTY.

If you’re still reading you obviously care about those who may approach you with being autistic.

Or maybe they already have and you feel you made some mistakes. You may be reading this and find you are guilty of some of these things. If that’s you, reach out to your friend or family member!

And like I said, this is applicable to anything. Just replace “autistic” with “black” or any other sensationalist buzz word out there right now. Be excellent to each other, and live and let live!

This was originally posted on PeakD as a Hive Original by @highlyfunctional and is now being cross posted here.

Did you find this post interesting? Check out this post about how the carnivore diet and autism saved my life.

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