Autistic people don’t need to be fixed

Joanna Wormald

Scientists have found a potential test and treatment for autism , reports this morning’s Telegraph. 

I’ve already responded to this on Facebook but I’m going to repost my comments here.

 #ActuallyAutistic person here. There are so many things wrong with this I don’t know where to start.

Testing 14 autistic boys? Not only does this play into a damaging stereotype – it’s also bad science. You aren’t going to get statistically significant results with a sample that small.

Secondly, measuring sociability in monkeys is not a good model for autism. It’s almost impossible to creat an animal model for autism because it’s such a complex thing. And while many autistic people struggle with social skills, that doesn’t mean we avoid all social situations. There are also autistic people who hyperempathetic and very social. By focusing on this one trait, the study ignores a significant part of the autistic…

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I know I’ve been AWOL for the past week or so. Sorry about that – I’ve been in bed with the flu and haven’t had the energy to do anything apart from watch bad daytime TV and sleep.

Anyway, my friend is working on a comic about an autistic superhero. It would be great if you could support them on Patreon so they can invest more in this project.

Happy Autism Acceptance Month

I thought I’d kick off AAM by celebrating one of my achievements from this year.

I passed my driving test. It took two years and four attempts but I finally did it. Hopefully it will be the last time I have to drive.

I’m a good driver but I do not feel like a safe driver. It’s all well and good being able to parallel park like a pro but not realising that a huge truck is heading straight towards you is a massive problem.

Other reasons I should not be trusted include:

  • An inability to detect when I’m drifting towards the centre line/into a drain
  • No ability to visualise distances or put them in context
  • Difficulties in understanding or predicting other drivers’ actions
  • A complete disregard for my personal safety
  • A rigid reliance on rules and sticking to procedures even if a situation suddenly changes
  • A general lack of awareness

Needless to say I am not a natural driver. It’s a miracle that my instructor didn’t give up on me. He suspected I was too clever to do something as ‘simple’ as driving. On the day of that final test – a few weeks after I received my official diagnosis – I explained that, however much I tried, my autism was always going to make this an uphill battle.

He felt pretty bad about all the times he’d been annoyed by my seeming incompetence but he tried really hard to explain things to me in a different way. When we got to the test centre, he warned me that my examiner was particularly harsh. I knew he didn’t think I was going to pass. I didn’t think I was going to pass either.

In a weird way that helped me to relax and somehow I did alright. If you’re struggling with driving or you’re scared to learn, take heart. If I can do it so can you.

An update

I know I’ve been away for a little while, life got really hectic. But I have lots of good news and things to share so stick around because I’m going to be posting every day of Autism Acceptance Month!

Acceptance, not awareness

Joanna Wormald

We need to talk about autism. Specifically, we need to talk about the mistakes people without autism make during April – a month dedicated to autistic people.

April is generally deemed to be the worst month for autistic people because it has been dominated by Autism Speaks, which is behind the Autism Awareness Week Month and Light It Up Blue campaigns.

The autistic community rejects Autism Speaks and its harmful rhetoric. The Autistic Women’s Network has labelled it a hate group. You can read more about the Boycott Autism Speaks movement here.

In brief, Autism Speaks claims autism is an “urgent global health crisis”, supports the dangerous and discredited belief vaccines cause autism, and directs most of its attention on preventing and curing autism, rather than providing support for autistic people. Its campaigns also focus the families of autistic people instead of listening to #ActuallyAutistic people (hardly surprising since there…

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Guess who’s autistic?

Today I finally got my formal diagnosis. I am officially autistic. For those of you that are still waiting for official confirmation, here’s what it was like.

After speaking with the university’s disability service, I was given a preliminary autism assessment. It was the kind of survey we’ve all taken a million times only you have to talk to an actual person rather than just being able to deal with a computer. It was completely pointless given how blatantly obvious my autism is but that’s bureaucracy for you.

A few weeks later I was referred to a clinical psychologist for a more in-depth assessment. It was meant to take three hours but I got through it much faster than that. The shrink asked all the usual questions and I gave all the usual answers. Then there were cognitive tests, such as using coloured blocks to replicate a pattern. I got an average score on that one but it was laughably bad compared to the other exercises (apparently I have a “superior” working memory and “very superior” verbal comprehension and processing speed).

Everything I did or said was so stereotypically autistic that I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I wasn’t sure what I’d do if the shrink turned around and said I wasn’t actually autistic.

The report came through today. The shrink made a few mistakes but they got the main thing right – I am very much autistic.

So what next?

The report made a few recommendations. Things like having lecture transcripts and being able to stay in halls of residence are a godsend. They also said I should start being more interested in other people’s lives and develop more involved friendships. I laughed out loud when I read that. One of the major things about my autism is that I literally could not care less about whether people are in relationships and so on. I understand that neurotypical people are invested in their friends’ lives but I can’t do that. Sure, faking it is easy enough but actually caring? I can’t exactly flip a switch and suddenly want to know every minute detail of everybody’s existence.

Getting to an official diagnosis when you’ve known you’re autistic for a long time is frustrating. There doesn’t seem to be any point whatsoever in jumping through all those hoops just to prove the obvious (especially when one of those hoops is paying £95). But an official diagnosis does give you a sense of relief. It’s validation that you’re not crazy or making things up. It means you can go out and tell people you’re autistic without worrying that you might not be. It feels like freedom. So go forth and be unapologetically autistic.