Let’s Talk About: Not A Compliment

First of all, I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything in the last year-plus. See Update & Devastating Last 6 Weeks on my Other Blog for some of the details.

Onto the topic of conversation: why “I would never have known you were autistic if you hadn’t told me” is most emphatically not a compliment.

So, some of you (any who have read the aforementioned post, definitely) will know that I broke my ankle in April. Yesterday was my last appointment at the Orthopedic Clinic (it’s well-healed). I was talking to doctor there and happened to mention that I was autistic, and the above paragraph mentions what she told me in response.

This is definitely not a compliment. This is, in fact, a summary of just how badly our culture/society regards autism/treats autistics.

What she was saying, essentially, was: “You seem neurotypical to me.” (She also said, “You’re obviously high functioning,” which, arrggghhhh!)

First of all, she was basing her opinion of “autistic” on the fact that she does work in the IWK, the Halifax children’s hospital. I’m a minimum of 27 years older than any patients she sees there. Of course I’m going to be different from them; after all, I’m over twice their age, and so more mature. (See Autism is a Delay, Not a Stop for more ranting about this.)

Secondly, what she’s seeing in me is the result of 35 years of masking. (Well, 30 years of it, I guess, since I was 5 when my social difficulties really started – 5 or 6 tending to be the age where autistic females really run into social issues.) Masking that has resulted in burnout (bad burnout), exhaustion, fatigue (yes, those are two different things; exhaustion is short-term, fatigue is long-term), and putting on an appearance/behaviour set of being close to neurotypical. I know how to do basic small talk and automatically “run that program” as long as I’m not too affected by other stuff in the moment. (I don’t like it, but I can do it.)

Third, she’s seen me for a total of about 20-25 minutes, maybe, over the course of eleven weeks. So… yeah. Not really enough time to get to know me properly.

I tried to point out the issues with functioning terminology (hopefully I got through to her on that), but I didn’t know how to respond properly to the fact that she clearly thought she was complimenting me. I didn’t really work out what was so upsetting/irritating/condescending about her comment until this morning (see a whole bunch of mentions everywhere about processing speed, especially in the post about Alyx), and I’ve since been running it through my head trying to work out a script for this post. (Which didn’t get followed except in the broad strokes, of course….)

So, I’d like to hear other opinions/comments about this. How would you respond to something like this? Anyone have any ideas?

Let’s Talk About it!

😐 tagÂûght

[P.S. The links page is back up and working again!]

2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About: Not A Compliment

  1. crossovercreativechaos

    Just last week I was having a political discussion on another blog (I’ll spare people details, the politics part isn’t important here) and mentioned Autism Speaks’ goal of eliminating autism even prenatally, as an example of people assuming they could speak for a “minority group” without ever asking what said minority wants, and the evil results that leads to.

    In reply a guy started ranting about how he would have had his autistic son aborted, if he’d had the option, because of the young man’s poisonous views on people and politics.

    I replied along the lines of, don’t blame the autism for the guy’s political views, he’s young, keep talking to him and maybe he’ll grow out of it.

    His reply – I will paraphrase – was that maybe I was just fine with my tax dollars being used to support his son but a lot of other people wouldn’t be.

    I replied that I was autistic, and doing my best to take care of my own finances, thank you, and I had completely different political views from his son, that’s not autism.

    He didn’t have much to say to that. Other commenters on the blog also pointed out that autism does not equal political beliefs, guy, think!

    So. Yeah. *Headdesk*

  2. Cal Desmond-Pearson (The Social Hermit) (@CalSocialHermit)

    The comments of the medic were totally uncalled for and highly unprofessional!
    I’ve only just discovered your two blogs through googling for autism blogs. I’m trying to get seen by Adult Autism and Adult ADHD Assessment teams but there is an 18 month plus waiting list for both! I’m in the UK.
    I’ve subscribed to both your blogs and look forward to reading your posts.


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