Autistic adults we never knew we met...
How many of us would do our best to treat an autistic child with kindness and respect? I think most of us would. But even I, who has worked so long and patiently with autistic children as a teacher, can sometimes forget that there are lots of "undercover" autistic adults out there in the workaday world.
Maybe they have learned to "mask" most of their typical autistic behaviors to get along in society, or maybe they don't even know that they have "mild" autism. But they probably still end up showing some traits that many of us find annoying and irritating (social awkwardness, difficulty communicating, lack of humor, intensely specific interests, repetitive behaviors, rigid routines, emotional outbursts, hypersensitivity, physical clumsiness). And since it's really hard to know that they are in fact autistic, we pretty naturally assume that they are just irritating "normal" people getting in the way of our daily life...
I'm not going to say you're a big jerk because you unintentionally find some behaviors irritating in the adults around you and that maybe you don't always handle them well. As I said, even I don't always handle these things perfectly, and I've developed an incredible amount of patience from my long years of working closely and lovingly with autistic children.
What I will say is that when facing non-harmful but irritating behaviors in others, it's good to remind ourselves that we should really just be easygoing with everyone.
This will save us from looking like a jerk for lashing out and traumatizing someone who actually has underlying "disabilities". It will also make everyone's day go just a little bit smoother when you can gracefully let these things go. And finally, it will lower your own stress levels and blood pressure if you can manage to smile your way past it, which is a big win for your long-term physical and mental health.
I'm not saying you should completely ignore all problematic behavior around you, especially in longer-term relationships, but next time you find yourself getting annoyed at some trait or behavior that isn't likely to cause any actual harm, consider that there may be underlying factors (autism, anxiety, depression, insomnia, an illness in the family, grief over a loss, the list is long...) and see if you can let it slide. Even if there isn't anything deeper going on, your own health will still benefit anyway--
What some awesome women with autism want you to know about their experience:
Some powerful words from my favorite person known to be on the autism spectrum: the successful, sexy, and very witty science communicator, Kyle Hill
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