We live among you like aliens. We look like you – superficially. Some of us can pass, some of us simply can’t, some of us are bone-weary after years of trying look normal and can’t be bothered any more. We are not aliens, though, because we evolved from you. We are just different. And no matter how hard we try to be like you, you can sense the difference, somehow.
Most of us are missing some or all of the social genes. The world has a set of rules that were not given to us at birth, and we have spent vast amounts of time and energy deducing what these rules must be from watching you, learning by rote what comes to you instinctively. And so very often we get it wrong.
We are subject to a constant barrage of overwhelming information. Some of us are blessed and cursed with the ability to synthesise this data and draw immense, creative conclusions from what we experience. Some of us can’t cope at all, and are cursed and blessed with the ability to disappear entirely into worlds of our own making. The majority of us are somewhere in between, retreating at the end of every day to the safety of our own familiar spaces, exhausted by the effort of dealing with constant sensory overload, and having to live by rules we don’t understand.
Some of us have greatly increased sensitivity, feeling emotional and physical pain with an intensity that you find baffling. Some of us are so disconnected from our bodies or our feelings that we have trouble identifying when we are in pain at all.
Some of us are geniuses, some of us are very bright, some of us are of average intellect, some of us don’t display anything like conventional intelligence. Most of us have the ability to focus on what interests us to the point of obsession. Some of us can make good use of that in the wider world, and some of us just enjoy it.
We are the weirdos on the bus, waving our hands around and having conversations with ourselves out loud. We are the children melting down in a café because they don’t serve the only food we can tolerate, or the lights are so bright they’re like knives, or the sound is so cripplingly loud we can’t function. We are the socially awkward, well-meaning members of your committees or groups or organisations. We are nerds and geeks.
We are introverts and extroverts, we are self-conscious, we are totally uncaring of what others think of us. We are hugely creative and imaginative, we are completely literal. Some of us can be all of these at the same time.
Some of us will be incredibly successful in our chosen fields, some of us will never be able to live independently. Some of us will find love, some of us will not find happiness in a conventional relationship. Some of us don’t want to.
We are intricate, many-dimensional, multi-faceted beings being hammered flat and squashed into round holes.
We are autistic. More accurately, we are people who are on the Autism Spectrum. We live among you, we are all around you, and there are more and more of us every day. Soon we will reach critical mass, and autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and all of the comorbidities will be as common, as unremarkable, as easily accommodated as red hair or a love of football.
Look around you. Look at yourself. And understand that whichever group you fall into, wherever you land on or off the spectrum, your way is not the right way. It’s just your right way.