Metaphors For Autism

Autism is not always the easiest thing to understand. That’s okay. I’m autistic and I don’t always understand it. And that’s why words are wonderful: because they can help us make sense of things we don’t understand. The right words can show you a whole new side of something. That’s why I write this blog.

But for now, I thought I’d have a look at some of the most common analogies for Autism:

Possibly the most common analogy is the comparison of computer operating systems. Being autistic is being a Mac in a world of PCs. Ultimately they do the same thing but there are real differences that put them apart. Not all of the software is compatible, which causes problems when interfacing; you have to learn both to communicate smoothly. Functions require different commands on the keyboard or are found in different menus. To a PC, a Mac is weird and other but it’s just a different operating system. It’s also worth pointing out that the metaphor extends in that both PC and Mac can get viruses as both neurotypical and autistics can have mental illnesses. Mental illness and Autism are not synonymous and it’s important that that is always made clear.

Another analogy I’ve recently come across is being a cat in a room full of dogs. In an attempt to fit in, you try and join in, playing and running after sticks. But none of these things feel natural and in reality, you’d rather do your own thing (or sleep). And you only want attention on your terms. You are obviously not a dog, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get on with dogs; it just takes a bit of patience.

A good analogy for day-to-day life as an autistic person is the coke can analogy. Throughout the day, each task, each thing that requires concentration and energy, shakes the coke can a little. Over the day, that builds and builds until you’re just trying to keep it from exploding, at least until you get home. Sometimes you can release the fizz slowly but sometimes it’s all too much and the can explodes, resulting in a meltdown.

So far these are all I’ve found that make sense to me although I’m sure there are more out there. How do you explain or describe Autism? Do you use variations of these ones or do you have entirely different ones?