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When you find out that I’m Autistic, I want you to…. Get to know me, you might find out I’m really fun…

22 March 2024

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For context, both of my children and myself are Autistic with characteristics that present very differently from each other. My son is in a support unit at school, and most people would notice that he is Autistic upon meeting him, whereas for both my daughter and myself it’s not as obvious.

“Mum, can I tell you one of the reasons I struggle with school and vacation care?” my daughter asked as I was tucking her in for the night.

“Sure, baby girl.” I replied.

She took a deep breath and blurted, “well, my favourite part of school is hanging out with Spenser whenever there is an opportunity. But I think the teachers think I am doing this out of pity or because you have told me to, so they shoo me away and say that they would look after him. Every single time. I’m not looking after him, I’m playing with him. I know I don’t have to, you have told me I don’t have to spend time with anyone I don’t want to, but he’s even better than a best friend, he’s my brother and he’s the person I like spending time with the most because he’s cool, and they won’t let me. I also find it really sad because if they are saying these things, they must think that it’s some sort of burden to hang out with him. It’s not. Why do they think that way?”

She took a deep breath and awaited my response. What was left lingering in the air between us, was a sadness.

There are still many people who perceive interacting with Autistic people (particularly those who are more obviously Autistic) as a chore, burden, duty or something to be done out of pity, rather than just enjoying the company of people who can be amazing friends.

With my family, what people don’t either notice or understand is the unique dynamic of their bond. Whilst Spenser may not be up for lengthy conversations with his sister, he absolutely worships her. He is willing to go along with almost any game she comes up with, he is kind, affectionate and loves her fiercely. Like seriously, what other 12-year-old brother would go along with their little sister’s grand ideas for carefully curated, matching ‘fits’ in Disneyland. He loves taking her his favourite books so that they can read them together, or having someone to scooter with at the park. She is a fairly avid gamer, and has taught him how to play Mario Kart, as well as the Wiggles game on Roblox, as the Wiggles is his focused interest.

Spending time with him is also a social ‘out’ for her when she needs down time, as her brother is the person she is most comfortable with and doesn’t feel the need to mask around. Apart from that, she just has always thought he is the coolest person on earth, with the very best ideas for having fun.

Whilst it’s true that friendship with an Autistic person (or between Autistic people) is going to seem a little different to typical friendships, we can make awesome friends.

These friendships may seem a little different from the outside looking in, I mean it’s true that we as Autistic folk communicate, socialise, behave and experience this world differently. But if you get to know us, and accept that way of communicating, socialising, behaving and experiencing the world, you might just find out we can be genuinely fun! This remains true even when there are significant differences in communication or other skills.

I gathered a lot of other qualities and positives from the people in my life who are in friendships with Autistic people:

  • Some of the fun is slapstick and it’s a constant reminder of the joy of being playful and the joy in just doing something because you love it
  • You’ll learn something (about areas of passion as well as about people who experience the world differently), but also, you’ll learn to think differently about things or approach things in a different way
  • Genuineness and loyalty, but also that friendships are not high maintenance – time can slip by and then resurrect instantly
  • Experiencing focused interests/glimmers/good sensory input with Autistic people is extremely joyful and fun
  • A lack of pretense as well as an understanding of where you stand
  • Many Autistic people know themselves really well and have often spent a great deal of time thinking about how they fit into the world and their impact on other people
  • Autistic people tend to know that they don’t think the same way of thinking as other people and don’t automatically assume that people will see things in the same way that they do
  • Being non-judgmental and making it ok to be yourself – advocating for it to be ok to do what a person needs to do in different situations and not be judged for it
  • Clear, direct communication with less fluff and guff
  • Really good sense of humour / often hilarious, dry sense of humour

So, when you find out that I’m Autistic, I want you to….

Get to know me, you might find out I’m really fun…

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