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How Wearing My Autism Awareness Hat Changes the Way People Treat Me

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I have been out wearing my autism awareness beanie again. It’s been a lot easier than what I usually get, although it hasn’t been problem-free.

People still assume I am slow, maybe more so with it. No one questions that I am autistic.

I am just the opposite of what most people talk about. There are a lot of autistics who say nobody sees that they’re autistic. I’m quite the opposite. I have visible mannerisms people tend to associate with autism. I’m very clumsy on top of that. Everybody assumes I’m slow. Some people are shocked when I talk.

Although I am not getting as many rude comments as I did without it, I still get some snotty looks. But people don’t seem to be as freaked out or scared. They know what they’re seeing now. They know why I’m walking on my toes. They know why I’m wiggling my fingers and toes, or playing with my hair. They know when I take a perfect hyperbolic route in the store to what I’m getting. They know why my expressions are exaggerated. They know why I giggle and grumble. They know why I mumble and skip words.

I went to my primary doctor’s clinic. I got some compliments from other patients about my beanie, and some jokes about Santa. I had no problems at all.

I went to my shrink’s office. Nobody questioned it there. They also do DD services for our county at another location, so no one was surprised to see an autistic person there. The waiting room was kind of surprised when I said hello to my counselor when she was passing by. Oh yes, he can speak.

I went to my pulmonologist. I got a lot more greetings from people in the waiting room. None of the nurses who know me really said anything about it. They all asked when my next beer will be done. Then the chatter in the waiting room was about an autistic person who makes beer. They would all love to try it.

The receptionists believed me the first time when I told them I can’t write well enough to fill out forms. I used to be sure I took the forms they denied because they couldn’t read my handwriting. They would say, “you can fill out the forms.” Then I would pull out the forms they denied. They haven’t questioned me in a while, including new places.

The big discount store was a lot better. I wasn’t “weird.” People weren’t scared of me. This is where I got the most snotty looks, but nobody got impatient with me. I didn’t have security following me around the whole time. I talked to a lady in line whose grandson was autistic.

I went to a steak house. The waitress spoke simply to me, although she was very polite and fun. My friend and I were cutting up in very coarse language, talking trash about people we had problems with the last couple weeks. I overheard a lot of “oh yeah, he’s autistic,” instead of the usual comments about “trailer trash” and “rednecks.”

The pharmacy’s workers that know me didn’t seem surprised at all. The other customers were more polite. The cashier who didn’t know me talked to me in simpler words like I was slow, but helped me do everything. I got a lot of simple talk from people — more than usual, but it was all polite. I didn’t get scolded or told how to do anything.

My head is smart but my hands and feet can’t keep up. I didn’t get told off about picking things up or putting things on the counter. People were more careful about handing me things and generally more helpful. Things were not perfect, but a lot better than without the beanie.

The beanie solves problems, but I am treated like I am slow. But if I am overstimulated, or can’t reasonably speak to someone, nobody is expecting me to say too much. I don’t have to say a word if I don’t want to. I could just shut up and never say a word in public again, but I feel that’s deceptive. I only do it when I’m overstimulated or can’t reasonably talk to somebody I don’t like.

I’m often too overstimulated to talk with grocery store clerks. After all the lights and all the sounds, rows of ketchup bottles and the buzz of business, I just can’t think. I politely bow my head when I greet them. I just kind of grumble “ahh.” They finish checking me out, and then I’ll politely bow my head again and put my hand out like the sign language “thank you.” They understand I’m not talking because I’m autistic. Before I had the beanie, I could tell they wondered why I was acting that way. Some of them are still scared, and most probably think I’m slow. So that really hasn’t changed much, but at least they don’t have to wonder. I don’t have to explain it to them. It’s just easier for everybody.

People now aren’t saying anything rude to me because they know it’s autism and that would be discrimination. Before, I believe they didn’t think I was smart enough to know what they meant. Now somebody else might hear them or see them treat an autistic person that way.

On the other hand, I want to be who I am as compared to slow. Although a lot of people assume I’m slow anyway, so I guess it’s better than being weird or strange.

I can put my beanie in my pocket anytime I want. Since I have been doing awareness. I wear it almost everywhere I go.

Beanie from Paisley Moon Gifts on Etsy.

Originally published: March 5, 2020
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