You're not taking anything away from autistics by suspecting that you're one of us

Anonymous said to realsocialskills:

I’m 22, queer, female, and I’ve been thinking for a while that I might have Aspergers. But I don’t know if people/doctors would believe me. And I’m also worried that they shouldn’t. It feels like the answer, like it provides a lot of those ‘oh that makes sense now’ kinda moments for me, but I’m also worried that I’m just trying to excuse my behavior by co-opting someone elses real struggle. Does that make sense? I’m probably just a horrible person and bugging you aren’t I? I’m sorry.

realsocialskills said:

I can’t tell you if you’re autistic or not, or whether your reasons for thinking you’re autistic are plausible. I have no way of evaluating that. Here’s what I do know:

There is nothing wrong with suspecting that you might be autistic (even if it turns out you’re not.) It’s ok to find autistic experiences relatable (even if you’re not autistic). It’s ok to find coping mechanisms or other strategies created by autistic people helpful (even if it turns out that you’re not autistic.)

There are a lot of people who find autistic experiences relatable, for all kinds of reasons. (There’s a lot of overlap between experiences related to autism, depression, trauma responses, being trans, being LGBTQ in general, ADHD, epilepsy, physical disability, social anxiety and any number of other things. And a lot of people have more than one thing.) Point being, if you’re seeing yourself in descriptions of autistic experiences, it’s fairly likely that there’s a good reason whether or not it turns out that you’re autistic.

Regarding making excuses: I think that understanding your abilities and limitations well is actually an important part of taking responsibility. If you have a sense of what you can and can’t do, and what support you need to do things, it becomes a lot easier to make responsible choices.

I don’t know if you’re autistic or not. If you think you have reason to suspect that you are, I think the responsible thing to do is to take the possibility seriously. Whether or not it turns out that autism is the explanation you’re looking for, I think that you will learn things about yourself that allow you to make better choices and take responsibility more effectively.

And while you’re investigating possible disabilities, I think it’s really important not to lose sight of the fact that you’re capable, and that your abilities matter too. One point of investigating disability is to figure out what your needs are, and to use that knowledge to figure out better and more effective ways of doing things. Acceptance is the opposite of giving up.

Regarding making excuses: Nothing you said gives me any reason to believe that you are making excuses; I’d guess that you are not. This section is to illustrate some what it looks like when people do make excuses. For instance, giving yourself license to be intentionally cruel would be making excuses. (For instance, by insulting people on purpose and saying you can’t help it because you’re autistic.) Learning to accept your needs and learning to be considerate of others would not be making excuses. (For example, by figuring out that you have a language disability that sometimes causes you to say unintentionally insulting things. And then learning how to effectively convey respect for people in ways that make it clear that you don’t mean your inadvertent insults.)

That said, even if you are making excuses, it doesn’t mean that you’re not autistic or that it’s wrong for you to want help. Making excuses is a human error; a lot of us (disabled or not) fall into it from time to time. You don’t have to wait to be perfect before it’s ok to try to understand yourself and get help; if you did, no one would meet that bar. You’re allowed to be a flawed human being; disability doesn’t come with a halo.

If you’re trying to get a realistic sense of what you can and can’t do, and what your needs are, that’s the opposite of making excuses. It’s actually crucially important for taking responsibility.

Also, I think it’s very common for people who grew up struggling in ways that went unrecognized to doubt that their experiences are real. I’ve felt that way, and I know a lot of other people who have too. Feeling shame and doubt isn’t evidence that you’re doing something awful; it’s a normal feeling that a lot of people have in this process.

tl;dr A lot of people who think they might be autistic feel a lot of shame and worry that they’re somehow harming others by suspecting this, or that they’re just making horrible excuses. That feeling is normal and common. If you have reason to think you’re autistic, investigating the possibility is a responsible thing to do. You’re not taking anything away from others. It’s ok to want to understand your struggles and figure out what your needs are. Scroll up for more thoughts.