I thought I would be nice and put together a cheat sheet for people to refer to when they are in contact with an autistic. Now, mind you, this is based upon my experiences as both an autist and a mother of an autistic, and in no way does it reflect the attitude of the autistic community as a whole.
Step 1. Say, "Hello, my name is ----." Wait for a response.
Step 2. Talk to us like you would a person. Because we're people. Who knew?!
Step 3. Never say, "But you can't be autistic! You're so pretty/married/verbal/smart/independent." This is a tip off to the autistic that you may just be someone to kick. Not that we kick, but we might want to kick. By we, I mean "me."
Step 4. No small talk. Get to the crux of what you're discussing or wanting to discuss. If it's the weather, it'd better be pouring.
Now, this is a biggie. If you are in a discussion about autism, person first language, or functioning labels, put on your listening ears. You're actually talking about autism with an autistic. There is this thing called being polite, which involves digesting what the other person is saying. Don't assume to know better.
Don't tell me what to call myself. Don't assume to know my functioning level or that of my child. To do so is to make yourself look like a jerk.
My least favorite thing to hear is, "Don't let autism define you! It's only part of you!" Yes well, that might be so... but my skin color, natural hair color, and being a female are only part of me, too, and I can't get rid of any of those things. All of those things in some way define me.
Last thing on this: if you ask an autistic for what autism feels like, allow them to answer. Don't then negate that. It makes sense to ask an autistic what autism feels like. Would you ask a non parent for parenting advice?
Step 6. If we're in person, don't hug/squeeze/or otherwise touch us unless you know it's okay. Some of us really don't like to be touched.
Step 7. "Well, if you're autistic, what's your autism talent?" Just... no. Ask what we're interested in. Something like 2% of autistics are savants. I'm not one of them unless you count my amazing ability to swear.
Step 8. If you say, "Let's do this again" please mean it. I'm going to take you very literally.
If you've read through this and you're wondering what can you say to an autistic, or me, well... I think it's safe to say a good majority of us appreciate debate. I know I do. However, we hate having our neurology used against us. People do that quite a bit and it feels like a knife in my stomach- I can't speak for others.
You can talk to me about:
- our families
- world news
- special education
- and plenty of other things.