Being autistic is not a thing that can be taken lightly. In fact, throughout my childhood and teenage years, I’ve found that society tends to treat people with autism like they’re six-year-olds principally because we think and behave differently, often completely outside the box. In fact, the very fact that I have autism and think in such a radically different way has lead to a tragically familiar phenomenon. Throughout my childhood, whenever I’ve lashed out, my parents would try and convince me and others that it was all down to my autism, as though I had no free will at all. Whenever they wanted to explain some weird thing about me, they always said “it’s his autism”, and it was fantastic bullshit.
Yes, autism might have something to do with the inner workings of my mind, but it’s not some objective thing that has control of my mind. I always hated that, mainly because they adults of my day had literally no idea how I worked, and most people didn’t even try. In fact, I feel that the whole “it’s his autism” approach actually caused more problems than it was supposed to help. I felt it was robbing me of any sense of individual identity, and today I feel that this must have been happening to other kids in my position. Of course, now and then I would lash out in those days, when I actually had no idea what I was doing a decade ago, but I never attribute that to autism. In fact, today I’m more likely to attribute some of the incidents from my childhood to a generally shakier mental state.
Ten years ago, I must have been whacked out of my gourd (something I attribute to still dealing with a kind of culture shock associated with living in the UK), and the fact that few people understood me didn’t help. I was also surrounded by a prevailing culture which I found odious. It was a time when the news media kept reporting on gang culture, terrorism and global warming, and reality TV was at the zenith of its popularity. The kids of my day were also doing things and acting in ways I did not relate to (sometimes, I’m very much thankful for that), but nobody knew how to handle me. Due to both my autism and my time in America, nobody had seen anyone like (and my twin brother, for the record), but the neurotypicals already had a preconditioned idea of what to think. They thought that autism was a problem, often believing it to be a disease that must be cured or prevented (P.S., if Jenny McCarthy’s reading this she can go straight to bowels of Hell). Worse still, I felt that around the globe, people with autism were made to feel bad about being autistic.
To be fair, my experience with autism sucks now that I’m an adult, but when I was a kid, being grouped into a broader special needs category had plenty of perks. I had lunch earlier, and I left school earlier each day, and I didn’t have to do Welsh or Music (just as well, I’ve heard the school I went to didn’t teach music very well) but that kind of privilege did much to isolate me from my fellow man. No wonder I didn’t figure out how to socialize outside the “special needs” circle until after I left school. Also, for a long time, and I swear this continues to the present day (much to my chagrin), people tended to treat me very gingerly because they didn’t quite know how to handle me unless I actually talked to them, and that often made me feel like a ghost. If any of that had anything to do with autism, it was because of how people acted around me in school, not just because I found it hard to talk to people back then.
My point being is that the whole “it’s his autism” excuse is perhaps one of the worst ways a neurotypical parent can deal with autism. I’ve been through that, as well as the awful consequences as that mentality, and thus I worry about subsequent generations of autistic children whose parents may go through contortions trying to explain away their actions. I can’t deny that my autism has been one of the contributing factors of what makes me different, but as far as I’m concerned, most of why I’m the way I am is because of me always trying to go against the flow, because that’s just who I am, and being a non-conformist thinker has nothing to do with autism by itself. In fact, I’d say that I became the person I am today because I got tired of being defined by autism. I never liked it, and loathe it today, so the next time I hear parents say “yeah it’s his (or her) autism”, I’d go to them and give them a piece of my mind.