Sunday, April 19, 2015

Autism Acceptance Challenge 12: Public Displays of Autism

This is a tricky one to talk about. I believe strongly that greater visibility is one of the keys to acceptance. I have been openly queer most of my life and openly autistic since I found the name to describe my neurological differences. I also recognize that there is a load of privilege in this. There are people for whom passing as non-autistic is never a choice. There are also those who pass in order to protect their jobs, families, or even their lives. It is not for me to decide that everyone should be “out.” I do believe that changes in societal attitudes will emerge from the recognition that we are here in the families, communities, and workplaces alongside the puzzle wearing crusaders. I do believe that it becomes more difficult for people to unthinkingly proclaim that autism should be eradicated when faced with the reality that this person would not exist in such a world.

Think of this as less of a challenge, then, more of an invitation. Be autistic in public. Go somewhere and refuse to suppress your own natural expressions. Flap, pace, rock, bounce, squawk. Repeat things. Take an animatronic parrot to lunch. Be yourself.

If you are not autistic, think about the things you do that soothe you. Do you twist your hair? Click your pen? Tap your foot? Talk about the weather? Why have you not been shamed for these things or been told or trained not to do them?

Also, if you are not autistic, go out with people who are. Don’t correct them when they say or do something autistic. Observe how that feels, and how other people around you respond. 

Come back here and tell me your story. You have the rest of April to complete this challenge…er…invitation. If it is not something you are able to do, you can participate by explaining why it isn't possible. What would you need in order to feel safe? And if this is something you already do every day, of course that counts too. Just leave your comment to be included.



  1. I've been openly autistic since I got my diagnosis. I don't really know that I did a very good job of passing before anyway, but now I feel like I can be myself instead of using up all my energy trying to be "normal". - Jennifer V

  2. This needs to be included in the conversation re: privilege, who can afford to look autistic and when.

  3. I'm not autistic; my son is. As he grows into a young man, he is gaining in skills and knowledge and has achieved more even than I would have believed possible when he was younger. He is also more visibly non-typical as he has frequent jerky body movements and he walks and talks in ways that mark him out as "other". He knows that he is autistic and we talk about his body movements often- I tell him that he can move his body any way he wants and that anyone telling him to stop is wrong. I catch strangers gawking at him regularly but he keeps on being his twirly bouncy self.
    As for me, I get panicked and anxious at times such as travelling through airports with all the children or when I'm driving somewhere and am running late and I get myself more and more worked up. Thankfully I'm getting better at catching myself when I start down this cycle but I still need those about me to help me calm down and breath and not to think the world will fall to pieces because of me!

    1. I get nervous in airports and around police too. If "awareness" did anything useful, it wouldn't have to be this way. Thanks for supporting your son to be himself.

  4. I wasn't aware that my autistic traits were autistic, until last year. I thought I was just, well, odd, bad at relating, eccentric, picky, sensitive, a dancer, and had odd mannerisms. I accepted myself as I was, but always felt vaguely worried, ashamed and guilty.

    These days, every day, now that I know, I'm working on turning back some of the compensation, and conforming that was drilled into me as a kid. PTSD (mostly) worked on, now rediscovering the joy of jumping around, running, pacing, squealing (blueberries!), and arching my hands and making acrobatics with my fingers to process things. Looking elsewhere when I'm talking to someone and being able to think. Covering my ears when there's too much noise, because I can and because I bloody well should. It's odd and wonderful to find this freedom.

  5. Self-esteem issues, mostly.

    I think I need a load of 'How to get self-esteem back after abliest bullying' resources chucked at me.

  6. Self-esteem issues, mostly.

    I think I need a load of 'How to get self-esteem back after abliest bullying' resources chucked at me.


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