So here’s something that makes me very unpopular amongst my fellow autistics, and sometimes society in general:
I don’t believe your average autistic tries hard enough.
Now bear in mind, when I say “autistic”, I mean higher functioning ones like me, and those who were previously Asperger’s before that diagnosis was taken out of the DSM. If you’re low-functioning to the point where you’re nonverbal, or constantly rocking/hand-flapping, other stimming behaviours, and generally cannot function in any level of day to day life like a neurotypical, let me be clear: I AM NOT REFERRING TO YOU. I am referring to former “Aspies” and high functioning autistics.
Now with that disclaimer out of the way, let me explain:
I never had very good social skills, in fact, mine were possibly worse than your average autistic, coupled with the fact that after enough years of bullying, I decided to say “fuck it” and not even try to be social anymore. However, when I was thirteen, my parents took me to a new counselor, who specialized in AD/HD and Autism, and teaching life skills and social interaction to kids with these disorders. It wasn’t the happiest time of my life, and the program wasn’t easy. In fact, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do (and that is saying something, because I’ve done some very hard things before). But it did something: It taught me to think about how other people might be affected by the things I say and do. (And NOT just pay lip service to it, but actually think about it.) It couldn’t teach me every social skill on the face of the planet, but our counselor taught us how to people watch, and to observe appropriate behaviour from other people. After even a few short weeks, we could point out inappropriate behaviour from each other, and even had ideas to correct it.
Three autistic girls who went from having next to NO social skills (although one of the girls was a little better than myself and the other girl), to at least being able to get along in society somewhat. To this day, I have an extremely active social life, am loved in my workplace, and my friends (who still point out when I have my “moments” and faux-pas in an attempt to help me.)
So there’s my story in a nutshell. But I look at other autistics my age, and ones around my level of functioning.
Man, they don’t even try. One (now ex) friend’s mother begged me to teach her daughter social skills, and I tried. I wasn’t near as tough as my old counselor, but I was firm when she did something wrong. Well, she blew up at me. She didn’t want to learn, she thought the entire world should cater to her as an autistic. I was floored, and apparently a lot of autistics I talk to think this way as well.
No. No way in Hell, people. Look, I’ve got several disabilities, both mental and physical (autism, obviously, I’m in a wheelchair for a heart condition, I made a post about DID awhile ago, I could make a shopping list of the diagnoses and treatments I’ve had through my short life). I expect accommodations only in that I can live the same life as a non-disabled person, no exceptions. In my wheelchair, I expect ramps so I can get up stairs, but I don’t expect someone to push me up those ramps (because walking people don’t get carried around.) As an autistic, I expect someone (namely a friend, I DON’T expect this of a complete stranger) to tell me when I’m being rude, and ideally they’ll answer my inevitable questions as to “Why was that rude? Was it because I said this? Or did I inflect wrongly?” Because I want to understand why I was rude. (And a good example of this happened last Wednesday, my friend and I were talking over dinner, and the topic came to his ex-girlfriend. “So what happened there?” He started to talk, but trailed off. Later on in the conversation, I mentioned that he did that. “Oh, i trailed off on purpose.” It took a second to understand, but then “Oh! I understand now, my apologies for bringing it up again.” I realized that he didn’t want to talk about his breakup with me right now, or possibly ever.) BUT I don’t expect to not have repercussions if I do something in the same vein again. (Like if I ask him about his ex-girlfriend again, I’d expect him to be irate, and possibly offended and/or mad at me. He’d do the same for a non-autistic who was pestering him, I should be no different.)
As I explained to my Abnormal Psychology class when we were discussing if people with disabilities should get sympathy when they behave badly: “Hell no. It doesn’t matter if I’m autistic, if I have a meltdown in a restaurant from sensory overload, then I’m still going to get kicked out because I’m disturbing other patrons. And rightfully so.” People with disabilities do NOT get a free pass to bend and break the laws of society to fit their wants. We MUST have reasonable accommodations for our NEEDS (again, the ramps for my wheelchair example, or a friend/companion to explain to me when I’m being rude, for instance.) But beyond that? You’re in the same boat as non-disabled people, and that doesn’t grant special treatment.
Besides that, just SAYING to someone “I’m sorry, I’m autistic, so I might have trouble understanding social cues, if you’re being subtle, I might not catch on, just to warn you in advance”, that can go a LONG way. My employers, my teachers, and my friends all know. They know that if they’re sarcastic, then I might not get it (sarcasm is one of those things that I have tried for years to grasp, and still can’t, but damn it, I’m trying.) They know that if I’m about to have a meltdown, I’ll carefully excuse myself and go somewhere private and ideally soundproof. They know that I won’t always get the subtleties of their conversations, or even begin to understand the “office politics”, or other such things. Most of all, they know that I’m TRYING.
I don’t expect perfection from other autistics, or even any mentally or physically disabled people, but god damn it, I expect us to TRY. We shouldn’t be pitied, we’re not some helpless entity who can’t do anything and can’t improve, and for any of you who believe that you’re helpless, a slave to your disorder, then I feel damned bad for you, because if you have a decent level of function, then you CAN learn, and you CAN be better. Sure, you may still trip up (I do), you will probably still stim (I do), you will probably still have meltdowns (do I ever.) But you can live a semblance of a life that a neurotypical does. You can go out to eat with friends, you can get along in an employment setting, you can have hobbies, ties to people, you can have a full and wonderful life. It’s not like the rest of the world is hidden away for you because you’re autistic.
It’s still there, but you have to put forth an effort to get there first.