This post was written by a friend of mine, Steve Summers. He has given me permission to repost this here.
Do you know how it feels to be treated like an outsider? I do. I am Autistic. Some people seem to think that as a result of being Autistic, I am in my own little world and that I won’t notice if they leave me out or ignore me. They are wrong. I do notice it and I don’t like being treated as an outcast or outsider.
Do you know how it feels to be excluded? I do. When I was a kid I would hear the other kids talking about parties or events that I wasn’t invited to. As an adult, I still have people around me doing the same thing. They talk about how they had some fun, did some event or get together that I was never invited to do. Not too long ago someone was talking about how they took an acquaintance out on their boat on a fishing trip and even though I have known them much longer, I have never been invited to go with them. Is it because I am Autistic? Do they care that I feel ignored and excluded?
Do you know how it feels when someone offers to do something nice for you and then they don’t ever get around to doing it? I do. I know because that happens to me.
Do you know how it feels to be second guessing yourself even for seemingly small issues? I do. For example, I recently wished someone a happy birthday on their Facebook timeline. When I went back to their timeline a day or two later my greeting was hidden away. Why would they do that? Is it because they don’t want their friends see that they have an Autistic friend? Are they ashamed to be my friend? I don’t know, but, it seems that way to me.
Do you know how it feels to have people simply stop contacting you? I do. I sometimes have friends and acquaintances “fade away” from interacting with me without any explanations. They simply stop talking, calling, commenting or posting. When asked about it they say nothing is wrong, but they don’t change anything.
Do you know how it feels to have people get offended over things that you don’t have any control over? I do. For example, I have some mild issues with face blindness (prosopagnosia) which is somewhat common among people with autism spectrum conditions. I sometimes have difficulties with recognizing people if they are in an unexpected place or in a place where I haven’t run into them before. People expect you to say, “Hello” and they get offended if you walk past them without saying anything. Along with face blindness is a difficulty in remembering names. I prefer to simply say “Good morning” or “Hello” without including a person’s name because I don’t want to chance saying the wrong name. Some people insist on using names and will be offended if you rarely say their name. They don’t understand that I don’t mean any offence by not recognizing them or forgetting their name. I don’t do it on purpose. Please, don’t be offended if I seem like I don’t know you. Please, if you say something like, “Hello” and if I look confused, add, “I am _____ from _____ we met at the _____.”
Some other things Autistic people sometimes do may cause inadvertent offense to the ignorant. Here is a partial list of some Autistic characteristics that that may confuse the ignorant and lead to rejection: 1. Lack of eye contact. 2. Poor social skills. 3. Literal thinking. 4. Fidgeting or stimming.
So why do some people who are part of the neuromajority exclude Autistic people? Most likely because they are ignorant of the facts of Autism and due to their ignorance they behave as neurobigots. They may exhibit either conscious or sub-conscious neurobigotry, but, the results are the same, exclusion of the Autistic. People who are ignorant tend to avoid and shun people who are “different” or that they don’t understand. If people don’t educate themselves on what to expect from the Autistic, they may try to avoid us. Ignorance really does hurt us. Being different is not wrong. We shouldn’t be excluded for our differences.
Try to put yourself in my shoes and see how it feels to be treated like someone who is an outsider. Try to understand that I do notice these things and I don’t like being ignored and excluded. Please be considerate and inclusive. Thank you.
Read more about face blindness here: http://autism.about.com/od/SymptomsofAutism/f/What-Is-Face-Blindness-Prosopagnosia-In-Autism.htm