What Women With Autism Want You To Know
The other day, I was just browsing through YouTube (probably procrastinating something) when I came across this video.
“Autism is not a disease, it is a developmental disability. It’s about living our best possible lives with this condition.”
I am ridiculously excited that this video exists. Even a few years ago, when I was looking into Autism as an explanation for my struggles, I was still being told that women don’t have Autism or being dismissed because I didn’t fit into the stereotype for Autism (which has come from autistic boys and men). So the fact that this video even exists shows that some progress has been made. At this moment in time, it has just short of a million views. A million! That means that potentially a million people now have a better understanding of Autism in women. That’s completely amazing!
There’s so much good stuff in this video – you really should watch the whole thing. But here are some of main points and some quotes that stuck out to me:
1. Autism covers a wide spectrum.
- “Autism is an internal thing, not an external thing. No one looks autistic.”
- “Autism isn’t a linear spectrum of high or low. It’s a whole bunch of different traits that are on their own spectrums. It’s kind of a 3D, weird mess.”
- “Autism is simply a different way of thinking, seeing, and interacting with one’s world.”
2. We have emotions.
- “I would definitely disagree with the idea that we’re not emotional. I think we’re actually highly emotional. I think that we just… many times we don’t express it the way people expect… We’re feeling it. It’s there. But it just might not come out. And then, at other times, it might be overly expressed.”
- “We can’t filter them out because we feel them so strongly so we shut down as a way of processing all those emotions.”
3. Social interactions can be challenging.
- “It takes a lot of effort to appear [like anybody else, like someone not on the spectrum]. Like, it takes a lot of conscious awareness. Social skills are like a muscle for us.”
- “It’s very, very draining. Even with people that I care for and enjoy being around, I have to psych myself up to be around them.”
- “All the little things that everyone does unconsciously, autistic people do manually. So that adds up. What I’m doing with every part of my body, I am to some degree aware of and trying to do.”
4. Diagnoses can happen at any age.
- “A lot of women, women that I know who are autistic, are not diagnosed until their twenties, thirties, or even beyond. A large part of this is because the way that we diagnose Autism is by using criteria that were created by observing boys and Autism looks different in girls and women than it does in boys.”
- “I feel like, ‘okay, I know why I’m this way, I know why other people are the way they are, so I can bridge this gap.'”
5. The nuances of dating can be challenging… but we do have sex lives.
- “We just may need more support in order to learn how to make [relationships and sex] happen. We don’t naturally understand the nuances that are involved and there are a lot of nuances.”
- “People on the Autism spectrum, especially women, are more likely to experience sexual assault or some sort of violent incident than the neurotypical, non autistic population. We are very vulnerable. We definitely can be more trusting because we are very honest and upfront people so we don’t think that other people might not be so honest and might be trying to hurt us.”
- “One of the traits of Autism is not reading between the lines in social interactions and so much of dating and sexually is supposed to be indirect and subtle and that it’s inappropriate to talk about sex in a direct way, even when you’re teaching it as sex ed.”
- “No one is teaching the social aspects [of dating and sex]. And honestly, this is where autistic people are the canaries in the coal mine. Teaching the social aspects of sexuality would help everyone. Autistic people need it but it also benefits everyone.”
6. We have lots of different interests.
- “There is a stereotype that everyone with Autism is into science and math and stuff, like Rain Man. But a lot of people with Autism… women actually, especially… a lot of us are into the arts.”
- “In my experience, autistic girls are also just as obsessive autistic boys. They’re just obsessed with, you know, fantasy novels or their favourite band or whatever. Not planes, trains, and automobiles.”
7. Bullying sucks.
- “You know, it’s like somebody making fun of a blind person only in this case you’re blind socially.”
- “We all start from somewhere but that isn’t necessarily where we’re going to end up and you have to believe that there is going to be a future.”
- “There’s enough misfits in the world, like, people who got picked on. There’s so many of us. So you do find your tribe.”
8. It’s getting better.
- “I think things are going to be a lot better for the next generation.”
- “You know, your kid might be behind their peers but it doesn’t mean they’re gonna be behind forever. Your kid is a full human being who will grow and change just like everyone else.”
As I said, it’s amazing that this video exists and that autistic women are being seen and that people are finally understanding that autism in women looks different than it does in men, and that it can look different from woman to woman. I agree with all of these points but there’s still so much to it, to living with this everyday. So, in addition to these points, this is what I, as an autistic woman, want you to know:
- I have no idea either – Just because these behaviours and reactions are coming out of my brain and my body, that doesn’t mean I necessarily understand them. I’ve done a lot of reading about Autism and mental health but it’s just different in real life. I’m learning everyday and I hope that you’ll keep learning with me.
- It’s exhausting – As these women said, it’s draining, even when it comes to things that you enjoy. It’s like you have to consciously process everything you do, everything around you, and that takes up so much energy. I cannot manage as much as everyone else and I find that so difficult to get my head around.
- I’m doing my best – I promise.