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