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A Poem for Those Who’ve Been Asked, 'You’re Autistic?'

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This is a poem for those who’ve been asked,
“You’re autistic?
So you’re like Rain Man, right?”
and then you see their disappointment
when you have to count on your fingers.

Here’s to those with abundant gifts
stashed in one corner,
And so people think you’re lazy
if you’re not good at everything.

Here’s to those who yearned to be normal,
then learned nobody is.
Some are just good at pretending.

Here’s to those who “pass” as standard
and suspect that life is a standardized test.

Here’s to the girls who don’t fit glass slippers,
Who wear glass combat boots
to stomp glass ceilings,
Who live in glass houses
but are strong as stone.

Here’s to the women who write algorithms
but never learned the code of girlhood,
And the men who aren’t considered “real” men
because they don’t bench press the weight of machismo,
and feel no need to pretend.

Here’s to the gay autistic folks
who wonder how it’s even cosmically fair
to be judged for both.

Here’s to those with no diagnosis.
Here’s to those whose every grievance and conflict
is blamed on a diagnosis.

Here’s to those whose mothers have said,
“When I first learned your condition,
I went into mourning.
It was like you had died.”

Here’s to those who were told
“you’ll never support yourself”
and have decided to prove them wrong,
However long it takes.

Here’s to those called over-the-top
Because you mimic without subtlety,
like magnified reflections.

Here’s to those so plugged into your mental matrix
that you don’t notice the outside world
full speed behind.

Here’s to those whose photographic memories
are so high-def,
You get lost in frames of reference.

Here’s to those who waltz with linguistics,
And to those whose words escape
like a refugee alphabet.

Here’s to those who name robots,
the cogs of cognition
as dear friends,
Navigating the digital dynasty.

Here’s to those who scaled the academic tower
because it always had a right answer.
And here’s to those who never ascended it
because you were your own school.

Here’s to you who see Autism Awareness stickers
and ask why the symbol is a puzzle.
You’re not a mystery to be solved
Or a Magic Eye picture,
only clear from a distance.
The world can see your whole picture
if they let you paint it.

You pack a punch,
but you’re no punchline.
You are not a burden
You’re not a failed adult
You’re not an “idiot savant”
or an idiot anything.
I love you
and this took decades, but
I love me, too.

They call autism a spectrum
We are a spectrum of light.

Maybe we can’t do everything.
But we can live
unapologetic beauty,
Lives dripping with flavor,
Rising like a kaleidoscopic sun.

Getty image by Keerathi Thiptinnakorn.

Originally published: August 20, 2018
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