When scrolling support groups, forums and blogs, one does not need to go very far to encounter autistic people being misunderstood, misunderstanding others, confusion and fallout abound. As an autistic I know I encounter it regularly from both sides, being the one misunderstanding and the one being misunderstood. It can be so very confusing, it can have fallout that are damaging and hurtful to all involved.
There are many times where I am responsible for being misunderstood, there are just as many times where I just don’t understand what is being communicated. One way I think I contribute to this is in generalisations and all-encompassing statements. For example applying We and Us to things and co-opting others that may not be a part of a situation or thought or feeling, or, saying things like always, and every time about situations and behaviours of others. These kind of statements are big contributors to being misunderstood and creating unnecessary fallout that escalate situations, and cause pain and hurt to others.
One way I have managed to do this is to fail to be clear with my family, especially my beautiful wonderful wife, that when I write of generalisations and NT’s in a general way, I don’t actually mean all NT’s or all Allistic people. I most certainly don’t mean you my wonderful supportive family.
My wife, I believe, could be the archetype of an ally for neurodivergent people. #DifferentNotLess is what she is about in all aspects of life, relationships and behaviour. A supporter of difference and diversity whether it be physical, neurological, sexuality, gender or whatever has always been a pivotal part of how she does life. And yet due to my failures I have caused her pain and hurt through generalisations and all-encompassing terms and statements. It is a failure on my part, a failure for which I am deeply sorry.
I know for me, and I suspect other autistic and neurodivergent folk too, that it is easy to forget that we too must walk a tightrope of fine balance when it comes to our relating to others. To be aware of own differences in communicating as much as we ask others to be. To not be surprised when tone is added to things we say when none was actually there or implied. To be aware that missed non-verbal and implied communication may be the reason we have missed something, or felt offended, hurt or ridiculed at times.
I know that at times I am perceived to be being aggressive or unkind, when in my mind and as far as I am aware I am really only trying to be assertive and factual. It is an obstacle I often stumble over, and far too often fall spectacularly and in that fall manage to create fallout, hurt and pain, not just to myself but to those around me as well.
There is a tension to be considered here, especially when it comes to those we love and relate to regularly. To remember that those people especially have our best interests and well-being at heart.
The tension, I think, is balancing the calling out of ableism, the not standing for gas lighting and able splaining, the not accepting silencing and sidelining with the realisation that I get it wrong and that those that love me are more often than not looking out for me, wanting me to be the best I can be and most importantly loving and caring for me.
It’s easy for me to get this wrong and unfortunately what goes with that is me hurting those I love. I get this wrong far too often.
As an autistic, communication, social contracts, sensory sensitivities and executive function are different and diverse when compared to neurotypical people. I call on and rightly expect that the wider world should make accommodations for these rather than label them as disorder, impairment and lack, however, I too have to be prepared to make the same accommodations for the non autistics I encounter.
To be clear, there is far too little accommodation for autistic and other neurodivergent people by neurotypical people generally, however that should not and does not provide reason or excuse for me to fail to do what I ask and expect of others. Just as the golden rule tells us. Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself.
And so, to those that I have unfairly lumped in criticism and generalisations, I am truly sorry for the misunderstandings, the confusion and the fallout.