insincere advice on tolerating autistic loved ones

Lifehack posted an awful article called 18 things to remember if you love a person with autism. “Person with autism” is a shibboleth for being on Team Normal People. The whole subtext of the article is that “we all know” how annoying autistic people are, and the author is apologizing for our shameful behavior.

I still remember the first time a friend of mine from college found out his son had autism. “My wife and I face enough obstacles as it is, I wonder what more challenges an autistic child might add to the marriage”, he said. Will they ever find love and acceptance?

If you love and care for someone with autism, I am sure you need no introduction to the difficulties. However, this article about the autistic will inspire you and invoke compassion. Here are eighteen things to remember if you love someone with autism.

So does this guy actually know and love any autistic people firsthand?

1. They are not broken – Autism is nobody’s fault

It is human nature to want to fix things that we think to be broken. When dealing with an autistic loved one, it is all too easy to go into “fix it” mode. However, this mindset can be very damaging. When trying to create a nurturing relationship, remember that your loved one didn’t choose autism. It is no more their fault than it is yours. It is important that you continue to show love, empathy and a genuine desire to understand the struggles they face.

Isn’t it sad people needed to be reminded of stuff like this about their own family members? The assumption is that “we” think autistic people are broken. Saying I didn’t choose autism still makes autism something shameful and in need of apology. Deji Akingbade, the author, didn’t choose to be black. Isn’t that a weird thing to say?

2. They can be socially awkward

Everyone has had moments where they experienced social awkwardness. When you love someone who has autism, you will experience these frequent moments of social incompetence by association. The embarrassment and frustration that you feel is understandable. Yet remember that aggression, compulsive behavior and hyperactivity are symptoms of the condition and are outside of their control. Life is hard and short as it is, find happiness in learning to find some humor in these moments.

I hear ya. Being around us is totally mortifying. We’re contagious, in that you definitely lose coolness points by association.

Why is everyone so judgmental in public anyway?

It’s bad to say that aggression, compulsive behavior, and hyperactivity are just “part of autism.” They’re things that happen in response to stress. Just one point ago, he said it’s important to have a “genuine desire to understand the struggles [we] face.” “Problem behaviors” are communicative, not that it counts.

3. They can be hard to communicate with

From initial speech delays in their early developmental years to speech impairments as they progress, it can be hard to communicate with someone who is autistic. Loved ones will constantly have to find new and creative ways to connect. Remember that speaking isn’t the only way to talk.

The more deeply I got into my special interests, the lonelier it was. There was nobody patient enough to sit through me giving university lecture-quality explanations of topics.

4. They have limited focus

If a loved one has autism, remember that they probably have limited focus. This means that they either will zone in on a few limited things or can’t focus on anything at all. However, you can turn this challenge into a positive opportunity. If you find one thing that they love, be supportive and help them flourish.

Very frequently, normal people definitely don’t have the attention span to appreciate academic ways of looking at the world. People’s eyes glaze over before you can finish explaining the background to the really interesting part.

6. They like structure

Many of our autistic loved ones are obsessive about repetition and routine. It is not always going to be easy in our normal lives of chaos and disorder to accommodate this need for balance. But understand that the more you can create an atmosphere of routine and stability, the more you allow them to thrive.

What this really says is that normal people are allowed to have poor executive function and still be cute. Discipline and structure get shit done, for everybody. Learning to skateboard is a good way of learning that lesson. You have to practice. You have to push yourself.

The whole point of routines and habits is that you don’t have to think about them. It clears mental space for productive daydreaming as you go about things. There’s a need to “process things offline,” basically ruminating. Memory consolidation and deeper processing.

7. They love information – trivia

It’s not uncommon to find that our autistic loved ones are a wealth of information when it comes to random trivia statistics and knowledge. Like a sponge, they have them ability to regurgitate stored information eloquently. While this behavior is often compulsive, remember that they are sharing what they love or care about with you. Be patient and take the time to listen to what could be their passion.

Yes, please. It’s pretty painful to express enthusiasm and talk about things that make you feel alive and know that you have a very brief time window before you’re Doing It Again and being annoying and weird and lame and rude.

11. They are resistant to touch

Sometimes all we want to do with the ones we love who have autism is touch them, hold them and comfort them. Unfortunately individuals with autism are often uncomfortable and resist being touched. Remember though that while you may want to comfort them with your touch, it is really you who is seeking the comfort.

I’m slowly dying of nobody touching me with any warmth for any length of time. That doesn’t mean I want to be forced into too-intimate touching that doesn’t match the inner agitation I’m probably feeling. I like weighted blankets and someone laying on top of me, but that doesn’t mean I want to be squeezed in most situations, no matter how well-meaning. Is disliking touch when you’re agitated really unique to autistic people, or is it that we’re agitated in more situations and around more people?

15. They need affirmation and reassurance

Everyone understands the power of positive affirmation and reassurance. As humans, it is something we have come to crave and thrive on. When dealing with an autistic loved one, remember that need is greatly heightened.

True. The feeling of neediness is a sign that you annoy others and deserve banishment. Asking for reassurance is crazy, suicidal even. It’s good for someone to take the initiative in that area.

I don’t know WTF this “noun/verb” business means and I’m supposed to be the one who has trouble communicating:

18. They are not a label

Our labels often carry perceptions that limit our passions and hinder us from becoming who we want to be. When others think of someone with autism, they probably assume the definitions and limit people’s lives to its stereotypes and perceptions: slow, difficult, weird, disruptive, etc.

If you have a loved one with autism, remember that they are not the label, they are not a Noun. Do not limit their lives to the false perceptions of the condition. People with autism are unique in their Verbs, passions and talents.

Living with someone that is autistic is not all bad and if they are allowed to thrive, they can contribute immensely to society. Hopefully you are inspired by these eighteen things to remember if you love a person with autism.

Here, he’s able to confess his deeply-believed stereotypes while creating some distance from them.

He says living with autistic people is “not all bad.”

True story: in my 20s, before getting diagnosed, I had a terrible living situation where my bedroom was only separated from the living room of the apartment by French doors, and my roommate was ALWAYS in the living room, despite having the private bedroom. I had all of the noise sensitivity and no way to explain how bad it was. Kitchen mess was usually my roommate’s fault, since he cooked more. I was the one who cared enough to occasionally mop. I mostly stayed in my room and played World of Warcraft on headphones.

My roommate said he didn’t like how I didn’t do anything annoying because I was actually maintaining the moral high ground while complaining about inconsiderate things he did.

Nevertheless, people take time out of their day to spread the fear that I’m some kind of wild beast.

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