The Trouble with “Normal”

Sometimes Telling People You Have Autism Clears Up Nothing.

It has been sometime since I wrote something on autism/aspergers, partially because I didn’t have anything I wanted to write. But I stumbled accross an article on Facebook that reminds me of the situation that I face on daily basis.

It’s been nearly 10 years since I was diagnosed with Aspergers or High Functioning Autism. When I got the diagnosis, I was relieved. It was something I could hang all of the difficulties I faced as an adult in relationships and employment. I was hoping that I could explain to my employers what was happening with me and that they would understand.

Boy was I wrong.

The problem with having High Functioning Autism is that you don’t look like you have autism. I can “pass” well enough for people to think I don’t really have any issues. But that’s not true. A recent article on the challenges those of us with High Functioning Autism face explains:

I’ve experienced this situation over and over. I can work to try to fix my mistakes, I can go over and above to show that I can do my work well and at the end of the day, it is not enough. I am told things that sometimes cut to the heart, even though you know that you’ve tried to be the best worker in spite of my shortcomings. But you have to suck it up and try to function even though you’ve been shamed and told that you aren’t a good worker. The thing is, you can try as hard as you can and at the end of the day, it. is. not. enough.

You have to suck it up, because you don’t look autistic. Which means that people don’t take your autism to account. Instead you are looked at like a giant f**kup.

And when your high functioning autism isn’t taken seriously, it affects you in future situations. Work becomes a place where you are waiting for someone to point out a mistake you made and then, you overreact, fearing that it’s all downhill from here. You end up not trusting people, because you fear them- you fear they will judge you and that your job will be in jeporady.

So, work becomes a minefield, one that can become of your own making.

What I would like to see from people at work not just for me, but for anyone with high functioning autism is to stop assuming things. As Ashlea McKay notes:

If someone tells you they are autistic, ask a damn question as to how you can help them be the best employee. Don’t assume. Don’t just automatically go to belittling them. Sometimes people are just not good employees, but sometimes we just need help and encouragement.

One thing that I am learning over time is that I need to be willing to advocate for myself. Simply telling folk isn’t enough. At times I might need to politely push back. Because I think sometimes people don’t understand things unless they are hit metaphorically by a 2×4.

So, when an employee tells you that they are autistic, talk to them. Learn all you can about autism and how to be a good manager to them. Just because they appear “normal”doesn’t mean you can treat them as normal.

Originally published at questorpastor.wordpress.com on April 19, 2018.

A middle-aged pastor living in Minneapolis. I write about politics, religion, sexuality, and autism. https://www.dennislsanders.net/

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