What This Autistic Teacher would like Professionals to Know . . .
ONE: Some of us on the autism spectrum embrace the word “autistic” and prefer the use of autistic over phrases such as “with autism” or “with Aspergers.” Autistic isn’t a bad word. How one refers to oneself is a personal preference.
TWO: Autism Spectrum Disorder is the correct terminology for an autism diagnosis. “Disorder” serves its purpose in diagnosing and receiving services. But some on the autism spectrum would prefer “condition” over “disorder.” Autism is a neurological condition. “Disorder” implies that something is out-of-order. Condition is more so a state of being.
THREE: “NT” means neurotypical and is a common word used in neurodiverse circles. NT means someone who is not autistic. NT serves a purpose but in some ways creates further lines and separations between autistic individuals and mainstream folks. A growing trend is found in using the word “non-autistic” instead of NT. NT became a bit derogatory for a while, and some of us steer away from NT now, out of respect to our non-autistic friends and colleagues.
FOUR: Disability inclusion in the workplace is a beneficial practice for everyone involved. Disability inclusion is most beneficial when the process includes input from disabled individuals and not just non-disabled people; this seems commonsense, but is something that is sometimes overlooked. Input from the minority about policy, accommodations, and implementation of accommodations is not only important, it’s vital.
FIVE: The best source for autism is an autistic person. Adult autistics, LGBTQ autistics, autistic parents raising autistic children and/or autistics married to autistic spouses have a lot of information they could offer out about autism. In addition, books, videos, and blogs created by autistics are a valuable source.
SIX: Common search terms on social networks can lead to the autism community. There are hundreds of autism groups on Facebook and many autistics connect on Twitter. You can use hashtags to find us. #autism #asd #aspie #neurodiverse #autistic and my favorite #actuallyautistic.
SEVEN: We don’t lack empathy. That’s a huge myth. Most of us are overly empathetic. There are specific reasons we might appear to lack empathy. One reason is because some of us take time to process our emotions, especially if the emotion is extreme, such as elation or sorrow. Also, we sometimes show empathy in ways that aren’t expected or in ways viewed as atypical. But we do have strong feelings, especially about suffering, manipulation, bullying, discrimination, hatred, and the like. And generally speaking, we have huge compassion for the underdog, animals, and nature.
EIGHT: We do make eye contact. Not always, and not all of us, but we can. A lot of women who seek out a diagnosis are told they can’t be autistic because they make eye contact. That’s wrong. We also can dress well, look professional, and blend in. We don’t all fit one stereotype. We all have quirks and we sometimes even like our quirks, even embrace them, but we have learned that in order to blend in and not be shamed, it’s sometimes best to hide a part of ourselves. In addition, females on the autism spectrum are commonly very effective at putting on a façade. Not necessarily on purpose, or even at a conscious level, but in order to socially survive.
NINE: Not all of us are good with technology and not all of us would consider ourselves “geeks.” We are all different, just as much as people who aren’t autistic. Our interests and vocational choices vary greatly. There are some commonalities in career choices, but they aren’t across the board. Women on the spectrum are sometimes drawn to careers in teaching, psychology, counseling, writing, nursing, and animal care. But the list is practically endless. Unfortunately, a large percentage of adult autistics in many countries, up to 80% according to some studies, are either unemployed or underemployed.
TEN: For the most part, autistics are comfortable and kind around other autistics because we know what it feels like to be ostracized and misinterpreted. We are generally very accepting of differences and open-minded. We are sometimes over apologetic, explaining ourselves, as that’s what we are used to doing. But in autistic groups we can be ourselves. And, after a lifetime of not fitting in and not being understood, that is very freeing.
I have corresponded with more than 5k individuals who are diagnosed with autism and thousands who believe themselves to be on the spectrum. I can’t speak for everyone, but I believe I speak for many of us.
Other articles that might be of interest
Professionals Often Miss the Mark in recognizing autism in adults
There are specific traits that might be prevalent in the autistic adult
Getting an official diagnosis or recognizing ASD in one’s self can have beneficial results
An extensive resource list of various autistic professionals, advocates, artists
More traits of those of us on the autism spectrum
About the author of this article: Samantha Craft is the author of Everyday Aspergers. Ten Years in the making, Craft’s book is receiving positive reviews and support from professionals in the field of autism and autistic individuals. Craft is in touch with thousands of autistic individuals throughout the world. Her book is available on Amazon in soft back and as worldwide e-book in many countries.