The curse of the well-meaning

One of the many unexpected outcomes from getting the label ‘autistic’ is how many people’s attitudes towards me have changed.

There are some people who really ‘get’ me; who see me as an individual; who want to help. And that’s fantastic, and I am grateful to and for those people.

But there are more who seem to want to try to help. But who base this on what they have read or seen; what makes them feel good; what they think is best – without considering the needs of the individual.

It’s hard to criticise anyone for that. I wouldn’t expect anyone else to get it right. I don’t even get things right most of the time. And most people are so well-meaning.

Yet I’m sensitive to tone of voice. I hear the change in tone. I hear the condescension creep in. I notice that I am treated as though I am a child, rather than a fully-functioning adult. I bristle at the assumption by strangers that I have a learning disability* and am incapable of understanding ‘normal’ language.

The worst thing is when people start doing the neurotypical version of mansplaining. Yes, I am aware that not everyone has the same interests. Yes, I am aware that not everyone will like everyone else. I’m autistic, not completely clueless.

It often makes me question why people spend time with me. Whether it’s because they like me in my own right, or because they think they’re doing a noble thing and it makes them feel good. And this is one of the problems with autism: I don’t know how to tell the difference. So it makes me more cautious; less trusting; less willing to believe that people actually care.

Which doesn’t help when what I need is a friend…

 

*Autism is a developmental disorder, not a learning disability in its own right; some autistic people have an accompanying learning disability but my IQ is about 100 points too high to qualify!

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