10 Things Autistic People are Tired of Hearing

Collage with diverse people showing shush gesture on color background, panorama
Collage with diverse people showing shush gesture on color background, panorama

I’m generally pretty open about my autism, partially because I lack a filter, but I’ll admit there are times I hesitate to disclose it. I don’t hesitate because I’m ashamed of it but sometimes I just don’t feel like giving the inevitable lecture about masking and how autism presents differently in women. People often respond with the same, tiresome stereotypes and outdated assumptions.

These situations are like a neurodivergent trap. Do we actually resist correcting them or save our social stamina for more interesting conversations we haven’t had approximately fifty million times?

In hopes of a less tedious future, here is my list of things I would love to stop hearing.

1). “You don’t look autistic.”

Umm it’s in my brain, you can’t see it. And what does autism look like?

2). “But you’re making eye contact.”

Yes, I *can* make eye contact. That doesn’t mean I like it or find it comfortable and I often have to remind myself to do it so people don’t think I’m rude. For me, my comfort with eye contact can vary quite a bit based on my emotional state, who I’m talking to, where we are, or what we’re talking about.

3). “But you’re a girl.”

Yes, I actually get this one and I will very likely launch into a tirade about how autistic women have been failed by the medical establishment, subjecting many of us to trauma and masks so engrained in our personalities that we no longer know who we are without them or how to take them off.

4). “But you’re so social.”

I am social in spurts. You may see me out and super chatty in group settings sometimes. What you don’t see is the immense amount of downtime I need before and after such things. (Or all the anxious thoughts and scripts running through my head.)

5). “Stop being so dramatic.”

Neurotypicals love to say this when your sensory issues are making them uncomfortable. One area I tend to get this a lot in is if I’m in an environment where things are too loud or the music is hurting my ears. You’ll probably see me standing there shamelessly covering my ears. This is apparently a horrible offense to NTs who are more concerned with how they look standing with the weirdo covering their ears than their friend being in physical pain.

6). “Watch your tone.”

Look, I get why tones can be off-putting but if I had $1 for every time I was chastised with this phrase growing up, I would be a millionaire. NTs don’t understand that our tones sound wildly different in our heads or take immense amounts of energy to control. It can be distracting and even overwhelming when you’re already running on low and often I wish people would just meet me halfway and listen to the content of what I’m saying rather than focusing on how it’s said.

7). “I bet you’re good at math.”

Autism is not a synonym for math genius. I still count on my fingers and swear numbers literally swim around in my head when I try to do math without pen and paper. We are not all Rain Man and we do not need to be savants to be considered interesting.

8). “I think everyone is a little autistic though.”

Factually, no they’re not. This is offensive. Don’t say this. It’s implying that autism is nothing more than a collection of quirks that everyone has a few of. It fails to recognize the difficulties we face while NTs can just be quirky at whim without the negative perceptions.

9). “I hate big parties and socializing also, maybe I’m autistic too.”

If this conversation is the very first time you’ve thought that, kindly, no you’re not. Did you grow up having battles with socks? Feeling like everyone else had some guidebook you did not? Do you have sensory issues related to lights, sounds, textures, or smells? I know a lot of people who have gone through diagnosis as an adult. Exactly zero of them came to that realization because they hate parties. Also: some of us actually like parties (to an extent.)

10). “You must be very high-functioning.”

Most autistics don’t feel those are accurate labels. They are limiting and incredibly dismissive of our experiences. People who say this don’t know what we go through and assume that if we’re not visibly struggling in a way they can detect, we must be just fine.

How You Can Do Better

If you’ve said any of these in the past, don’t let the anxiety consume you. Take it as a lesson that you need to learn more to do better by the autistic people in your life so you can respond from a more educated place the next time it comes up. Have any questions or clarifications of anything on the list? Drop me a comment!

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