I recently went on a date with someone who is also on the spectrum. The next day I was at work and I was sharing how the date went with my coworkers. One of my coworkers said, “Aww, you guys must get each other”. I thought that was a bit odd since there are people I have met on the spectrum who I don’t understand or connect with that well. Just because another person and I share the same diagnosis doesn’t mean we’re going to get on smashingly. I continued talking about the date. I should’ve stopped there but I’m still working on not oversharing, so on I forged with the conversation. I cannot recall what I said but the next question that was asked of me regarding my date was “He wasn’t too autistic for you?”. I was so dumbfounded by that question I sat there in silence. I wanted to break down why this was not a good question and why even asking it in the first place is harmful.
I’d like first to provide some context. I haven’t always been thrilled to be neurodivergent. I can remember a time when I blamed everything I perceived as wrong with my life and myself on the fact that I have ASD. In retrospect, i now understand that everyone has struggles ande most of what I was blaming on my diagnosis had very litle to do with it at all. I remember wanting to be neurotypical so severely. I had internalized so much ableism that i was hating myself. I’m so grateful that my therapist talked some sense into me. I can remember she sat there during a session where I was just bemoaning how bad it was to be on the spectrum. She frowned and asked “Do you think all these issues are related to your ASD or you’re using it as a catch all for what you feel unsatisfied with?”. I have to say, i was surprised. I spent a lot of time thinking afterwards and i came to the realization that there was no way to discern if the challenges i was facing were due to my disability or not. I also understood that wishing i was a different person was a waste of time. While i was busy hating my autism, my autism is what has survived me survive and thrive in so many situations. Hating my autism was like hating that i had brown hair and brown eyes. It’s something that’s baked into my DNA and is integral to my being. I now call it my superpower.
I love the hyperfocus it gives me to absorb information on topics most people i know don’t know anything about. If you ever want a deep dive into the War of the Roses, I’m your gal. Questions about the Crimean War? I’m happy to be of service. I love history. The stories of people from the past and events from so long ago are fascinating to me. I wouldn’t enjoy history so much if I didn’t have the patience to wade through all the information. While I have faced my fair share of setbacks and challenges, I am incredibly persistent. If one way of solving a problem doesn’t work, I’ll do my most damn to find one that will. I’ve been wrong because I can view things so black and white, so when those around me make mistakes, it’s easier for me to forgive. I can observe social dynamics and chart a course through them. I can view situations logically that most either don’t want to or can’t. I’ll be the first to admit that being on the spectrum isn’t easy and society isn’t kind to us most of the time. What I want to never forget is that autism is a superpower. I’m able to view the world differently and that’s something to be proud of.
I and no one else can be “too autistic”. Everyone who is on the spectrum is an individual. Their diagnosis is only a piece of who they are and not the whole story. I have autism. I’m also a history freak, a baker, hiking enthusiast, among other things. Never limit yourself or anyone else to a box because they happen to have a disability. That erases the totality of their humanity and leaves them as a list of characteristics in the DSM. I believe that this world needs people who are different to participate fully just like those who are different need to participate fully. Instead of asking me or anyone else if someone is “too disabled”, ask what it is about them that’s interesting and what they’ve learned from them.
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