This is the internet weblog of Bix Frankonis.

Where Are My Autistic Superpowers?

In addition to this Medium experiment (from which I’d been somewhat absent until the last couple of weeks), awhile back I tried a related one on Tumblr, where there’s an entirely different autistic community. It didn’t last long, and I wiped the few things I had posted or reblogged.

The entire experience was weirdly alienating.

There’s lots of talk on Tumblr about how great everyone’s autistic experiences are, and how one’s autism comes with all sorts of neat and interesting abilities. Mostly it just made me feel like there’s a menu of superpowers autistic people are supposed to get that no one bothered to tell me about, or give me access to. There’s even a post about it here on Medium, that I’d forgotten about until while reading it I discovered various things in it that I’d previously highlighted.

There’s also a subculture of autistic people that like to flaunt their identity as self-professed polymaths, who mostly, to me, just come across as shameless braggarts. (That’s setting aside the minority of people I keep running into who use their being autistic as an excuse for just being assholes.)

Do I have “hyperfocus”? Sure. But at the expense of being able to task-switch or remember to eat or go take a god damned shit. Do I have “fact absorption”? No, I really don’t. Even in areas where I do learn something, the next time I need that knowledge I have to give myself a refresher. It’s why there are things I’ve done that I can’t do for other people, or, worse yet, for a job. “Dialogue/lyric memorization”? Nope. Not at all. “Stubborn rationality”? Probably, in some ways and circumstances, but that’s, if we’re being honest with ourselves here, just as much a weakness as a superpower. “Stimming”? I have my share of sims, mostly mild, a fact which might be innate or might be because the four decades I spent not knowing I was autistic yielded a suppression of the stimming instinct. But I also don’t see how this is a superpower. It’s just a thing we do to mitigate the impact of our surroundings. That’s a helpful skill, but superpower? No.

Finding being out in the sun and heat to be debilitating to the point where I have to concentrate either on getting home or stopping — in the middle of that very sun and heat — to cry from the strain of it, that’s no superpower. That’s a hindrance, and it’s terrible. Getting up and wondering just how many spoons I’m going to end up with for the day and whether or not I’m going to run out of them at an inopportune moment, that’s no superpower. It’s terrifying.

I’m not complaining about these things, per se. These aspects of my being autistic are what they are. Figuring out how much I can push the world around me to adapt to me rather than me always having to adapt to it is just part of the deal. That’s fine.

But superpowers?

I suppose I just find it off-putting, this compulsion to react to the allistic world’s rejection of the neurodiverse as also being “normal” by spinning it around to proclaim all autistic behaviors to be some sort of gift. Being autistic is mostly value neutral. And, in the end, the “superpowers” rhetoric actually makes me feel worse about being autistic, because it makes me feel like an outsider even in autism.

So much of what I now know, or suspect, were artifacts of being unknowingly autistic were things that at the time just made me feel like a failure and a fuck-up.

Now I’ve got other autistic people describing being autistic in these hyperbolic ways that just make me feel like I’m even a failure at being autistic.

And that’s just super.