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The questions that #ASDNext asked for this blog were really hard for me to answer. The first one left me thinking long and hard about how I would answer this one. There’s so many different ways I could answer, all of which are true. “Do you feel like ableism has impacted you as an autistic person?” Yes, ableism has impacted my life a lot. As far as discrimination, it’s the one that impacts me the most on a daily basis. I feel like it shapes people’s expectations of what I’m capable of achieving. Oftentimes I feel it means people have lower expectations and are often more dismissive of my opinions about things. Because of those feelings, the second question was pretty easy for me.
“Have you ever felt the need to conform or mask your diagnosis in order to fit in?” I feel like I’m trying to conform all the time. I’m not always that successful at masking or hiding my differences. It’s pretty tiring and it makes me very conscientious about everything I do. However, I feel like I’m not the only one who has to hide their differences. The last question was the hardest of all for me because I really needed to think about how I wanted to answer the question.
“If you have felt pressure to mask your diagnosis, have you ever ignored that pressure and embraced your uniqueness?” Sometimes, but it usually wasn’t my choice. Then the follow up question: “How did that go for you?” Sometimes it went well and sometimes I wish I hadn’t tried to mask my diagnosis. Usually when I tell somebody I have autism, it’s due to the fact that I need their help or there’s something that I’m having difficulty with that relates to my autism. Most of the time I don’t feel like anybody really needs to know. The same way I don’t talk about my religious beliefs, how much money I make or what political party I favor. The reason I’m so private about it is because I’m able to hide my differences pretty successfully most of the time. I’m grateful for this ability and for the people who taught me how to do it.
I’ve observed quite a few individuals who are unable or unwilling to hide their differences from others. I’ve seen the negative treatment that they’ve received either blatantly or behind their backs. I don’t think people are as tolerant of differences as they like to pretend. Though I do get it, differences are scary because it makes it hard to predict what the other person will do or say. It can be very difficult to not be mean when somebody else is really scaring you or making you uncomfortable. Whether it’s politics, religion, skin color, age, and/or gender, people tend to exclude others who are not the same as them.
The ironic thing I’ve figured out while answering these questions is I’ve realized that ableism affects me more because of the limitations I put on myself. I’m often the one who puts more limitations on myself because of fear and anxiety about how others may react to me. I don’t know if these thoughts, feelings, and ways of coping are really helpful anymore. I do know that it’s going to take time, effort, a lot of faith and trust to be able to change those.
So going back to those original questions that prompted this blog. How would you answer the questions? Would you get the same answers now as you would several years ago? Would you answer the questions differently if you were thinking about yourself versus somebody else? I find that answering questions for somebody else often helps me clarify my own thinking. I hope that reading my blog allows you to think about what you believe and presented a different way of thinking too. As always, best wishes to all of the readers