When I was diagnosed as autistic a couple of years ago I started following a few autism charities and support pages on Facebook. I find they often post some interesting articles, help me to understand my autism better and help me to explain to others what it can be like being me as an autistic person. However there are times I get frustrated at some of the posts from these pages.
‘Top Ten Positive Autistic Traits’, ‘Terrific Traits of Autistic People’, ‘Positively Autistic’, Google positive autism and this is the kind of blog and Facebook post titles that come up. These kinds of posts appear in my Facebook news feed from time to time and always manage to annoy me. Sure, autism has some positive traits, but these are outweighed by the negative ones. The fact that we even have autism charities tells you it is not such a great thing to have or we would not need the support. A lot of the traits typically said to be positive, I have actually found to be negative in my life.
|Positive Trait||Negative Reality|
|Makes me honest, straight forward and unable to lie. Some people say they like this about me.||I am told that I can be too blunt at times. Being overly honest can hurt others feelings, or make me appear rude.|
|Very good attention to detail, work more likely to be thorough and accurate.||Too caught up with tiny details that may not matter over all and not always seeing the bigger picture.|
|More focused on a project, less easily distracted.||Even when more important matters may come up, I could be too focused on something that is no longer relevant. Risk of ignoring others to my loss whilst focused on a project.|
|More organised and better at planning.||So organised that I worry or even panic sometimes if things do not go to plan or other people change things without warning.|
|Expertise in specialist interests.||None of mine seem relevant to the job market. Have been told I can seem lecture like on some subjects that I am really into and bore people after a while.|
|Exceptionally good awareness of myself.||Including being aware of my faults and failings which can be depressing at times.|
How am I supposed to be positive about my autism when I am called rude, selfish or an annoying know it all fairly regularly? When you manage to annoy other people on such a regular basis without meaning to it can make you feel less than positive about it.
Some of the worst posts are those phrases you are supposed to share on your Facebook wall such as ‘My child has autism, what’s your kid’s super power?’ or ‘I bless all autistic children’. Almost all of the phrases are about autistic children, it is as if once you are adult you are suddenly no longer autistic or it at least no longer matters. A lot of the phrases make out how great it is to have autism and some almost make out we should celebrate it. While it is not a tragedy, it is not something I am going to have a party for and get really excited to have.
Posts like this do not even mean anything!
It would appear from some posts that I am not an individual, but some kind of clone. It may seem petty, but the use of language matters when writing autism posts. Too often posts are written using pronouns such as them, they, and all. It makes it sound like all autistic people are exactly the same and that we have no individual personalities. Often the worst examples of this can be found more in the comment sections of autism posts. This gets annoying when you find out some of these people who comment are support workers, teachers or parents of autistic people who should know better. ‘They are all so well meaning’ or ‘they are all so wonderful’, makes us all sound like we are too stupid to know any better, and that every time we say something less than helpful or nice we actually do not mean it that way. Yes there are times I say the wrong thing and appear selfish or rude when I do not mean to, but there are times I am less than well meaning. It makes it sound as though we can never do any intentional harm. I do not like to think of myself as a nasty person, but I admit to times I have said or done things that make me less than wonderful, and I knew I was doing it. Not all autistics are wonderful, loving or nice, nor are they all horrible, rude and annoying. Autistic people have personalities that also affect behavior and attitudes, just like everyone else. Some days I am in a bad mood and not so great to be around. Sometimes this is my autism, sometimes it is just me having been really annoyed by something or someone, my hormones or lack of sleep. I am not an all, they or them, I am me.
I think more posts on these pages should be written by autistic people themselves. They can give hints and tips they have found useful to other autistic people and tell parents and those who work with autistic people what it can really be like for some of us who actually have it. One of the best support groups on Facebook I have found is The Girl With the Curly Hair. She is autistic and writes very well about what it can be like to have autism. It is refreshing as an autistic female myself to have another autistic female who can communicate well instead of the usual male bad at communication stereotype. Plus the comments on her posts tend to be from people who seem to understand what being autistic can really be like.
Try not to share those autism phrases that mean well, but actually can come across as slightly patronising a lot of the time. If you should choose to comment on an autism post remember not to lump all autistic people in as one mass. That aside there are some really good posts about autism out there and they can aid understanding, but try to remember not every post will apply to every autistic person, autistic people are individuals.