Part of the beauty of being an autistic person is you get used to hearing stuff that is just plain rude. God forbid a person with Asperger syndrome should speak bluntly or share things with someone that are inappropriate, but some of the offensive stuff said to us is never talked about by neurotypical professionals who want to show how socially challenged autistics are in comparison to everyone else. Some things I hear (over and over and over again) are said by the most well-meaning of people, but if I weren’t so understanding of them and their social conditioning, I’d never wish to see these people in my life. Here are some examples of the sorts of phrases presumed to comfort autistics that we hear on a constant basis in our lives.
1. Apart from your autism, I think you’re a pretty terrific person. Ok. So basically, you’re still saying one thing: I can never live up to the same measure of a good person as someone without autism. If that’s how you see me, I no longer wish to know you.
2. At least you’re not like retarded or have cerebral palsy. Yeah, it’s really refreshing to hear ableism combated with more ableism. And in saying this, you’re basically saying you only appreciate my autism in measure with other disabilities, which, according to you are much worse.
3. I don’t care about your imperfections. I like you just the way you are. Thanks, but I don’t need constant reminder of my imperfections. Would you think it sounds endearing to a person next to you in the elevator to remind them of their bad breath, or to tell the family at the next table that they’re being too loud? Should I maybe say to you, “I don’t mind that you’re an arrogant, ignorant human being. I think you’re great.”
4. You’re pretty amazing. I really can’t tell that you’re autistic. Seriously, imagine being a foreigner, in a new country that you’re not familiar with (like we feel like), and someone says to you, “Wow, I couldn’t tell that you’re an American. You’re so in shape and knowledgeable about the outside world.” Basically, reducing autistic traits to anything other than those of a presentable, likeable person isn’t going to make us feel more comfortable. And to be liked, I can’t express something that is a part of myself.
5. Have you heard of Temple Grandin? I have. I think she’s amazing. Congratulations. You’ve taken Autism 101. Have you ever heard of other notable autistics such as Lydia Brown, Amy Sequenzia, Nick Walker, and Paula C. Durbin-Westby? No. Why not? Because no news outlet ever talks about them, is the usual response. Ok, great. You’ve just demonstrated to me that you’re only source of autism information is the mainstream media that has been perpetuating autism stereotypes and myths for generations.
6. Don’t worry. There are people who have it much worse than you do. Honestly, we know that. But how is the fact that someone in Kenya doesn’t have a pair of shoes supposed to help me find a job, live on my own, go to college, or get the respect I deserve.
7. For someone with autism, you’re sure smart/attractive/done well/etc. Thanks. I’m glad to know that I still fit the same substandard category of intelligence, attractiveness, or accomplishment you think all autistics share.
8. I don’t judge you. You’re not like other autistic people. How many other autistic people do you know? And seriously, can you say, having not been in their shoes, that it is you’re place to judge them. And in saying this, you’re implying that I can only get respect by being far-removed from a group of people that are part of who I am.
9. Don’t worry. You’ll outgrow autism someday. Apart from the fact that this is completely untrue, you’re rhetoric is completely ableist. You assume that to be a happy, fulfilled, relatively easy life, I need to abandon something that is part of myself.
10. Everything happens for a reason. First, unless the autistic you’re talking to has those same beliefs that you have, you should not say that to them. Second, implying that all autistic’s suffering is a part of a plan of some higher power tends to make more secular autistic’s feel as though our lives and our welfare aren’t worth as much to some divine being. We are basically just objects for the fulfillment of some unknown purpose that we should blindly accept like the Nazis did with Hitler, and that our well-being isn’t as sacred as that of non-autistic people.