Many times people can perceive that we have something “wrong” with us. This is just not for autistics alone, but for many with invisible disabilities and challenges, As disabled individuals, it can tear at us inside when others treat us as less mature than we know we are. We must be the stronger ones in the situation and not react to their signs of immaturity or fear because of their assumptions and fear.
There are many times even in my mid-30’s I have been called “hon” and “buddy” as if because of my disability that I don’t understand something as the autism or other challenge is made as an excuse why or why not I did something. As we often know autism doesn’t have a defined “look”, although some that are uneducated about autism have a single perception that all autistic people act and do the same. However, as for myself, I may have some challenges as a result of my diagnosis in navigating socially in a world that is not made for neurodivergent individuals. Just because our brain is not wired the same nor do we many times put the pieces of what we need to know as our neurotypical peers doesn’t mean we don’t know that you are talking down to us like we are less than or as a little child. We are grown adults and because of the demeanor of how our diagnosis makes us don’t mean that we are actual human beings with actual feelings. When this is done to us, we feel like total idiots and like we are not worth anything.
We as autistic individuals, our allies and our advocates must be at the forefront of being the cool ones in any given situation and not letting the immaturity of others make us react, rather we need to respond by educating and informing others that we can comprehend the expectations or what they want us to know and that because we have challenges, it doesn’t make us any less of a person than we are.
Yes, I do understand that there are those of higher support needs that may not always be able to advocate for themselves. However, that is where allies and advocates need to step in and be their best advocate and educate them on how to best support individuals with high support needs so they do not feel like they are immature. Despite what many think about individuals with high support needs, they can hear others communicate about them within earshot and it crushes their feelings when they are discounted for what someone presumes or treats them as less than who they are. They, just as any other individual on this planet are just trying to navigate this world that is ever challenging and complex for all us in these challenging times.
For many years, I would get so frustrated when someone didn’t think that I had the maturity to accept the challenges that I needed to face. Even now, it is like two worlds. The people that see me as a mature intelligent man in his mid-30’s that may have some support needs, but they are hidden unless he (I) disclose them. Or, those that have known me since childhood see me as that little kid that was always a challenge growing up and that I will never grow up to be a man. This is why I guess it took me so long to mature. It took me to realize that I can be a mature adult when I want to be. It took me 5 years to accept the fact that I could live on my own, after several close attempts at places that I personally felt that wouldn’t be a good fit for me. I am where I am through the power invested in me to spike the maturity out of any given situation and plan to rebuild from the challenges I faced. I know that my experience is only mine and that i am very fortunate to have it. But, if you asked anyone who would have met me over 2 decades ago if I would be independent, have a part time job, a driver’s license, a trade school and community college education, they would have never dreamed of it. Yes, in the day program situation I haven’t left there in 15 years, but it is the segway for me to get the supports that I need and I can be of great help there and hopefully as I continue to mature over the course of the upcoming years, I too will say goodbye to it as well. Life is what you make it and for me what I am doing now keeps me well.
So the next time you think something is “wrong” or “different” with someone, don’t treat them as a little kid like they don’t understand what you are saying to them. Talk to them just as you are talking to any other adult, because that is how they deserve to be treated. If they don’t understand what you are communicating, ask them how you can help them understand what you want them to know. It doesn’t have to result in stooping down to a low level to make the individual feel inferior. Get to know them and be their acquaintance and acknowledge their concerns and feelings, it will make them feel amazing in the end and the world a better place.