A difficult conversation #autism #mutism #neurodivergence
November 23, 2016 § 7 Comments
I’m trying to untangle a conversation. It was a brain ache.
Complex new ideas were being put forward and it all took place on Twitter, which probably didn’t help. I mainly watched and processed as two individuals talked about difference vs disability.
Others joined in expressing first confusion and later distress.
It is indeed distressing not to understand in the context of autism, where misunderstanding can feel like the default position.
How to trust your voice? How to be sure that the more fluid and practiced voices are spouting a version of reality which is true to you? Aspects of what they say might sound familiar – and possibly correct (it will likely be correct for them but what about for you?)
How to hook it up and see if it fits in the moment? Trying to follow such a conversation can feel like the knitting needles clack without you moving them and the garment being made is too tight and full of holes. The wool is scratchy and your nerves are frayed.
The person being challenged in this conversation was autistic, the one challenging identified as neurodivergent unspecified (ND). But clearly not autistic.
I had the sinking sensation that the autistic person was being probed uncomfortably.
No, this person had no ill intention I’m sure. In their eyes they were looking for the “truth” – which is often shorthand for; agree with me and see it my way.
Treating an autistic person like this is an example of not listening. And yet again the autistic person is denied validation and told that they are wrong. They are made to justify their position and told that it is wrong.
The non-autistic person doesn’t understand the position being taken – therefore the autistic person must be wrong because it is too difficult to take a step sideways and ask – how is it really in your world.
This person’s starting point was that they were ND too with the assumption it seemed that we should therefore all be singing from the same hymn sheet. (Personally this is my ongoing frustration with the new terminology we are all currently adopting).
And for a period my timeline was dominated by the ND unspecified person pressing the autistic person on their position. With the suggestion of ableism rising to the surface though quickly retracted.
My only contribution was to ask for respect and attentive listening but this remained unacknowledged.
I am deeply discomforted by this experience and ask is it any wonder that autistic people often fear to speak and that autism is associated with mutism in it’s various forms.
Such experiences confirm that the term ND doesn’t guarantee safe spaces and isn’t always a useful term.
I have also found trusted and willing ears on my many travels – but I wish it wasn’t this difficult in general terms. That autistic people could be encouraged (especially within the growing neurodivergent communities) to forge an identity and to self lead.
It’s not asking much and is actually a basic right.
No one wants the scratchy jumper that doesn’t fit.