Blogger’s Note, written 28/6/2015: Wow. This post is getting a LOT of traffic. It seems to be fairly high up on Google searches for “neurotypical privilege”, and last night it was posted on various social media sites by the wonderful Autistic Self Advocacy Network and my stats have exploded and it’s scary and wonderful. Thank you so much! I wrote this almost two and a half years ago, when I’d only been blogging for a couple of months, so apologies if the wording isn’t perfect. I absolutely stand by everything I’ve written here, but that might not necessarily apply to all my other really old posts that may appear near this one; I’ve learned so much since I started this blog, and I’m so grateful to those of you who have helped me on that journey. If you’re new, which you probably are, you might be interested in checking out my more recent posts! In particular, because I’m conscious that people might come here looking for a full explanation of neurotypical privilege, I feel like I should point out that this post is based on my experiences as an autistic person specifically, and whilst autistic activists coined the terms of the neurodiversity movement, there is far far more to neurodiversity (and neurotypical privilege) than just autism. As you can probably tell, I lost track of replying to comments on this page a looooooong time ago, but I’m still reading and I really do appreciate your feedback. Finally, sorry about the big Buzz Lightyear thumbnails on social media – it was meant to only be a temporary avatar, honest… Okay, take it away, younger self!
I am autistic, and I’m sick of neurotypical privilege.
I’m sick of hearing that I and others like me can’t live a full life. We can, and we do. We just need a little help sometimes.
I’m sick of being told my experience isn’t real, that I’m just an attention-seeker or a special snowflake, or having those accusations directed at my parents.
I’m sick of the myth that vaccines cause autism. And even if that were true, I’m sick of people avoiding vaccinating their children because they’d rather they get ill or even die than be like me.
I’m sick of autism being compared to cancer and AIDS. The latter two are diseases which can and do kill. Autism is not.
I’m sick of hearing that autism is an “epidemic”. The reason that more people are diagnosed with autism now is that there is so much more awareness regarding autism. The numbers will probably continue to increase for a while, for that reason.
I’m sick of being told I have to pass for neurotypical to be liked and accepted by my peers. I have a great circle of friends who are really understanding and supportive. If people judge me for not being neurotypical, that says more about them than it does about me.
I’m sick of hearing that stimming is a bad thing. If it’s not hurting anybody, I don’t see what the problem is. And if rocking and flapping and twitching is what’s going to stop me having a meltdown, that’s what I’ll do. I’m sick of being told in one breath that you have to learn to cope and in the next breath that you can’t do that to cope.
I’m sick of being told not to scream after I’ve screamed at a sudden loud bang. Emphasis on the word sudden. It’s not like I thought about it and made a conscious choice to scream.
I’m sick of the people around me saying “Stop that, it’s embarrassing” or “That must really annoy your friends” when it doesn’t. I’m especially sick of that under the guise of “We’re used to you, but other people…” when they seem to have more of a problem with it than other people.
I’m sick of all this driving me to a meltdown and then being told that that’s embarassing too.
I’m sick of “quiet hands”.
I’m sick of most of the “treatment” for autism being based on making people on the spectrum pass for neurotypical, rather than social skills or advocacy or something else that might actually solve some problems. I’m sick of living in a society in which the most important thing, above all else, is to comply.
I’m sick of conditioned compliance.
I’m sick of literally greeting people with apologies because of the constant fear that I’m screwing up, that I don’t know how to comply. Everyone who knows me is sick of it, too.
I’m sick of struggling to make minor decisions in public (like what to order for food) because there’s only one right answer, only one way to comply, and I’m sick of not believing people (at the time) when they tell me they really don’t mind what I choose. Again, everyone who knows me is sick of it. Everyone is sick of conditioned compliance, so it seems.
I’m sick of being spoken for.
I’m sick of all the media, the panels, all the publicity surrounding the autistic spectrum focusing on people who aren’t actually on the spectrum – the family, the friends, the “experts”, everyone but the person who knows what it’s like. I don’t want to attack all those people – they’re usually well-meaning and really want to help, and please keep fighting the good fight – but seriously, an all-male panel discussing sexism clearly isn’t a good idea, and I’m sick of people not seeing that an all-neurotypical panel discussing autism isn’t a good idea either. Especially when they don’t listen to people who are actually on the spectrum
I’m sick of not being listened to because I don’t have a child or another relative on the spectrum. I am autistic. Is that not enough?
I’m sick of being treated like a child.
I’m sick of people telling me I’m “not really autistic” because I’m not like another autistic person they know. It’s called a spectrum for a reason. This counts double when they’re a child; if I’m a lot older than them, of course I’m going to be more able with some aspects of life, autism or no autism. Nowadays, I rarely have public meltdowns and I can follow the major social rules (e.g. personal space), but I’m sick of people assuming this also applies to my childhood. It doesn’t.
I’m especially sick of the above when the person telling me I’m “not autistic enough” isn’t on the spectrum themselves. How is it logical that I’m “not autistic enough” to know what I’m talking about, but you’re qualified when you’re not autistic at all?
I’m sick of functioning labels and the assumptions they carry with them.
I’m sick of the assumption that people who are verbal are “high-functioning” and people who are non-verbal are “low-functioning”.
I’m sick of people on the spectrum being told they’re either too “high-functioning” to know what they’re talking about, or too “low-functioning” to know what they’re talking about.
I’m sick of worrying that people won’t understand my needs because I’m apparently “high-functioning”. Similarly, I’m sick of the potential of other people on the spectrum being ignored because they’re apparently “low-functioning”.
I’m sick of being told that Asperger’s syndrome isn’t “really autism”. I’d imagine that people with PDD-NOS are sick of being told the same about that.
I’m sick of the constant thought that one day, there might be a pill or an injection that could wipe out people like me, that could turn me into the norm, that could make me comply, that wouldn’t care that most of my personality is eradicated along with it.
I’m sick of being told I’m selfish for not wanting such a cure, and that the people telling me I do need a cure are somehow not selfish.
Autism isn’t a sickness. Neurotypical privilege is.