The Autistic Misinformation Machine

At the risk of venting every last frustration I have with how autism is being discussed, I’m irked enough at this sales pitch on Autism Spectrum News for an autistic path-to-employment program that I can’t convince myself to resist.

Within this perspective, it is important to create space for conversations that center on autistic strengths. There’s no doubt that existing as an autistic person in a world built for neurotypical people can be challenging. As Dr. Stephen Shore said, “If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person,” meaning every autistic person experiences their unique blend of autism traits differently. Although this is true, current research from employed autistic adults reveals self-identified patterns of strengths in certain cognitive, emotional, and personal qualities that are commonly experienced by autistic people (Cope & Remington, 2021). With that, there should be many opportunities for autistic people to work in a supportive, neurodiversity-affirming environment that allows you to use your authentic, autistic strengths.

Three fundamentally inconsistent things happen over the course of this single paragraph.

First, the authors cite the oft-quoted truism about no autistic person’s experience of autism necessarily being comparable to any other’s. Second, they make reference to research about adult autistics who are gainfully employed. Third, they make the leap to autistic people more generally, something they then continue to do throughout the piece.

It’s really the central thrust of my own autistic experience that said experience isn’t often reflected in the way people write about being autistic, regardless of whether or not actually-autistic people are doing the writing, and once again this is the case here.

You can’t simply look at research about the apparent categories of autistic strengths exhibited by autistic people who are gainfully employed and made broad arguments about autistic people as a whole. It’s certainly on its face incompatible with quoting, “If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person”.

So-called “spiky skills profiles” (or, in my formulation, spiky resource profiles) put the lie to the idea that just because employed autistics exhibit similar types skillsets any given autistic can be slotted into employment, be it in STEM or elsewise.

In just the first two days of this week, I’ve now run into two pieces of writing (see earlier) which promulgate ideas of autistic success that simply do not reflect my life, and set expectations for my life and other people’s views of it which flatly are unrealistic and, in a way, threaten me harm.

It’s exhausting, and I’m only growing ever more increasingly weary of having to note more instances of it I will have to fight through just to be considered worthy of being alive.

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Bix F.

The unsupported use case of a disordered*, mediocre midlife in St. Johns, Oregon—now with added global pandemic and climate crisis. Read more.