I write a lot about autism. I’ve shared 50+ essays that draw from my experiences as a late-identified autistic woman and as an art therapist who specializes in late-identified autism.
One of the most common comments I receive on my autistic essays is, “Neurotypicals experience that, too.”
First, I am aware of that. Much of humanity shares similar feelings, thoughts, and experiences. My choice to write about autistic experiences does not mean I negate that similar things can also happen for neurotypicals.
Second, while neurotypicals might experience similar things, it does not mean it is CAUSED by the same thing. For example, most people experience periods of isolation or loneliness at times. However, we all experience these things for different reasons. An autistic person often experiences loneliness due to feeling, thinking, and sensing differently than the majority of humanity.
Third, while neurotypicals might experience similar things, they may not experience it with the same frequency and consistency. For example, most people feel blinded by the light when they step out into the sun from a dark room. However, an autistic person may feel this way simply from a bright light bulb. Furthermore, they may experience more severe reactions, such as headaches or nausea.
Fourth, autistic individuals lack the ability to habituate and adapt to the things that are grating to their daily functioning. For example, a neurotypical person can gradually become used to the things that annoy their senses. Their brain is designed to put more focus on what is important; it allows them to eventually ignore the distracting thing. The brains of autistic individuals do not operate the same way. We cannot habituate to the things that tax our senses.
Fifth, autism is not about stand alone facts, “symptoms,” or experiences. Autism is a different neurotype that leads to a myriad of characteristics. It is this interwoven web that rules the daily life of an autistic individual. So while a neurotypical may share one similar experience, they are not also contending with the myriad of other autistic characteristics that impact our senses, body, thoughts, feelings, interests, and socializing - it leads to levels of exhaustion, depletion, and frustration.
As a therapist, I understand the psychology behind the comments that people make on my essays. I understand why they want to inform me that neurotypicals have similar experiences - it’s all about connection, which I share in my essay “Your Autistic Experience Sounds Just Like My Neurotypical One.”
However, I’m not here to contend with their psychology.
I’m here to elucidate the autistic experience. My time is limited. My energy is limited. I cannot speak to the full experience of humanity, but I can speak to my own lived experiences and the hundreds of hours spent conversing with my autistic clients.
I want my time, my energy, and my focus to be there.
Thank you for reading. If you’d like to read more, sign up for my FUNletter. If you would like to explore your autistic identity with an autistic therapist, you can learn more about my therapy services here.