Why Understanding Between Autistic and Neurotypical People Should Be a Two-Way Street


As someone on the spectrum myself, I am a major autism advocate. I love to spread awareness and understanding. That being said, I had a very eye-opening conversation with a good friend one day. She mentioned something that made me realize one of the major issues in the autistic/autism community.

To me, it that there are many “neurotypical” people who are extremely open and willing to try to understand things from the point of view of someone on the autism spectrum. They are willing to ask questions and see things differently. Granted there are a few who are lost and confused and grasping what ASD means for their loved one. But most are trying to understand.

But it seems that when many people (not all, but many) on the autism spectrum are asked to do the same in return, there is a ton of resistance.

Don’t get me wrong. I have been this way myself in the past. I was definitely one of those people on the spectrum who didn’t even want to see things from the point of view of a “neurotypical.” To me, that wasn’t the issue. The issue was that no one understood me. I needed to teach them what it’s like to be on the spectrum.

But I believe this is a two-way street. It’s time to take responsibility and do my part to work with the rest of society. Just because I’m a little different, that doesn’t mean it’s their job to cater to me.

Maybe this means I need to figure out a way to be more patient and listen to what they are trying to say, even if I think I understand… maybe I’m misinterpreting things. Or perhaps it means I need to step a little bit outside of my comfort zone sometimes, like wearing a nicer outfit at a special occasion when I’m so used to my everyday clothes. I might need to be a bit flexible, and find ways to manage my anxiety when there is an unpredictable change in routine.

Yes, society should be understanding and a bit accommodating. And I see that “neurotypical” people are trying. Sometimes they struggle a bit. I’d struggle on my end, too. But if I’m a part of that society, I need to do the same for them. I need to try to be understanding of what they would like from me.

It’s only fair.

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Thinkstock photo by Garrett Aitken.

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