When you build up the courage to tell somebody about your diagnosis the most insulting and unfortunately common response seems to be, ‘but… you don’t seem Autistic?’. I truly believe 90% of the time this will be a response said in good faith, meant to make us feel we appear, ‘normal’ to the world.
In reality, their response is denying us of the recognition we deserve for coping as well as we do. I hide my Autistic traits through mimicking social skills. I have observed and mastered – simple things such as, forcing myself to make eye contact, laughing when I think a joke has been made or commenting on the weather. Due to this behaviour I can understand why many may not initially believe I am Autistic. I can behave as is socially acceptable but, this does not mean in the background my brain is working thrice as much as a neurotypicals to ensure I hit all the correct ques and reactions; one of the many reasons why daily life can be exhausting for those on the spectrum.
I told my best friend – at the time – that I was undergoing an Autism diagnosis and tried to explain why the doctors believed I may be. They responded by informing me I couldn’t use this an excuse for everything, that I was exaggerating what the Doctors had told me and I probably wouldn’t receive the diagnosis as I clearly wasn’t Autistic. Thankfully, I no longer see that, ‘friend’. I do have to give them the benefit of my doubt that they didn’t know how to respond, maybe they were trying to reassure me that I wasn’t Autistic and the doctors must be wrong? Either way, this has not been the only occasion when I have received a negative response after opening up about a very private part of me. I once got asked if I take medicine to treat it – I found this response hilarious. I don’t expect everyone I meet to know what Aspergers is – I didn’t know myself until I did some research at the start of my diagnosis. Most people in my life still don’t fully understand my condition and that’s fine, what matters to me is that they try and learn as their time with me in their life continues.
I have received caring responses. People genuinely interested and also sympathetic in how hard my life can be. My favourite response was from a close friend who simply said, they did not know what Aspergers was or how it must effect me but, if I ever need any help they will be there to do all they can. They were honest and I understood and was grateful for their simple acknowledgement that there are days when I must struggle.
If someone ever tells you they are on the Autistic spectrum please acknowledge what they have said positively – let them know you are there for them and give them credit for how well they have coped throughout their life. Alternatively, if you yourself are on the spectrum and receive a response which hurts your feelings try to shrug it off and remember that for the majority they will mean well. As for the few who genuinely believe you can not be Autistic unless you are nonverbal, unable to maintain relationships and couldn’t possible achieve academically… ignorance is bliss.