It’s bad enough that sometimes when you tell someone you’re on the autism spectrum that they say things like, “You don’t look like you’re autistic.”
But what about when someone just flat-out denies it? What if someone says, “You’re not autistic” and then tries to explain to you why you’re not?
Clearly, of course, this is about an issue with them, not with you. You know who you are. You know your history and your experiences. The beliefs of some random other person in the world doesn’t change who you are. Talk to all the minorities out there who have been mistreated since the beginning of time. They’ll tell you the same.
You can approach this situation in a couple of ways.
The Non-Engaging Way
The person is wrong. You know they’re wrong. That’s all that really matters. Step away from them and go on with your life. Change the topic. There are lots of wrong people out there in the world, and you can’t fix them all. Your time and energy could be much better spent.
The Educational Way
You are part of a broad autism spectrum community, and together you all help each other. It’s due to those community efforts that funding is made, research is done, progress happens, and lives change. Some people on the spectrum aren’t able to speak for themselves.
Your effort here could make a difference. You never know who this person could encounter in the future. How this ripple could spread.
Take a deep breath. Ask them what they think autism is about. Listen to them. Hear their misconceptions. What they say, thousands of others say, too. It’s good to understand what the confusion is about.
Then gently provide more information. Help open their eyes to the greater diversity.
Everyone is ignorant about things, and we all have places we can learn more about. Rather than shaming them for not being an expert, gently help them learn. Help them understand just how much more there is out there in the world.
Lives can change in this manner. Maybe not your life – but maybe their life. Maybe the life of the next person this person encounters.
It’s worth the time.