When I disclose my autism, I do so out of a sense of pride, and I don’t tend to think of myself as disclosing so much as sharing a crucial aspect of my identity, the way a person may talk about their race or gender, or share their profession or place of origin. I forget to assume that most people will assume incompetence. Still, when most people learn I’m autistic, their behavior changes. Doesn’t seem to matter how long they’ve known me. When I mention my autism, people get nervous: they stammer, and they often avoid eye contact, as if they, too, are autistic.
Some people infantilize me, speak to me in the voice they reserve for babies and small children, or for cats and dogs. Some give me weird praise for “overcoming my autism” or for being what they determine as a “successful” or “high-functioning” autist. People behave this way because the word autism makes most people think of pathologies and stereotypes, mistruths. I’m not privy to stereotypes, which I believe I only believed in during stages of extreme burnout. As stereotypes are illogical and my neurodivergent mind is logical, I must be reminded of them. Or I must think deeply to recall them.
Always, stereotypes sound silly to me, nonsensical, and as they quickly disappear from my mind, I’m reminded of why I prefer my autism: I like that my logical mind blinds me to the mistruths most people see and believe in, that I don’t believe in what they believe. I like that I’m calm in situations that make most people anxious. I’m like that I’m a natural seeker of truth and justice, that I’m hyperlexic and have deep conceptual acuity.
That my cognition is rooted in logical systems means that I easily recognize and memorize patterns, as I think in pictures and in details, and can easily absorb, store, categorize, and synthesize information.
Other neurodivergent individuals, especially neurodivergent adults, report similar cognitive abilities: logical thinking, black and white thinking, the ability to think in patterns, not seeing what everyone else is blinded by, deep spatial awareness, visual memory, the ability to create and holding complex systems or models in their minds.
When I disclose my autism, I do so out of a sense of pride because these heightened abilities are what I think of when I think of autism, the fascinating and convenient ways my neurodivergent mind works. Autism is not a disorder or illness, but, like other forms of neurodivergence, is a set of evolutionary advantages. Not everyone thinks this way.