Autism and Stigma

How do autistic adults experience stigma?


According to the neurologist who examined me first, autistic people are unaware that they are being bullied, stigmatized and socially isolated.
Almost all presumptions he was taught in the 1970’s and 80’s about social experience for autistic people has proved to be wrong.
Today even science recognizes that we are aware of being stigmatized due to our autism.
We feel isolated, we feel lonely, we feel it when we understand we are being avoided, patronized, mocked, bullied, selected for persecution and unwanted aggression due to our differences.

A few weeks ago I accepted a friendship request on Facebook from a man who belonged to a special interest page that I am also a member of.
I looked at his posts and decided he was safe. OK, friend request accepted. Now we can share info, see each other’s posts, and interact with each other on our personal pages.
I have many online friends and enjoy the interactions immensely. Since I do not do well in “real time” interactions due to my slow visual and audio processing issues, facebook and other internet web pages really do work as my “social life”.

Hours later, he sent me a message asking me to ” unfriend him” . It seems that he had his facebook page only for close friends and family members. (untrue, I had seen his page and some of the other friends were also members of the same special interest group). Well, I can be grateful that he didn’t just “block” and “unfriend” me, I suppose. I think he saw my link on my personal page that shows my blog address “old lady with autism”. and it scared him off.

It is unlikely that my politics or my random comments offended him, I keep my political ideas to myself and don’t randomly rant about sensitive issues, I find all of that too upsetting and I don’t like to fight or to justify myself, I have said before, I am a lover, not a fighter. I do off and on post links to diagnosis of autism in adults but it is not even 10 percent of my normal content. I have drawn others specifically, I think because of my being open about being autistic.

Thinking about this experience, and also reading about how another neurodivergent friend was harassed and bullied and mocked because of her posts on another special interest page, I thought I might do a bit of research on how autistic folk are affected by stigma.

Guess what?
There were pages and pages of rants, commiseration, sympathy, empathy, discussion and suggestions for parents, siblings, caretakers of autistic children and one which also included caretakers of adult children.
There were studies and pages of blogs, support groups, “educational pages” planted to draw business for therapy groups and institutions, etc. all about how families and parents and partners and caretakers experience stigma over the autistic individual’s differences and stuggles…….
and, ( you know what I am going to say next) not ONE page about how autistic people experience stigma, not one study, only a few blogs by autistic folk like me.

Draw your own conclusions. I have no answers, but I can see a problem here…. can you?

3 thoughts on “Autism and Stigma

  1. Yes. I can VERY definitely see a problem. And the later the diagnosis/self-awareness, the deeper & more pervasive the effects. The emotional intelligence and stamina required of those who’ve experienced such ostracism and stigma! Staggering to consider and immeasurably sad…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Debra. As usual, this is a wonderful piece, and I thank you for sharing your experience with all of us. That guy is a jerk, by the way. That said, I think it is very common for autistic people to think their experience is true of all or most. As the saying goes, “if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.” We’re very different from each other in many ways, but in some ways alike. I was socially oppressed and bullied from a pretty young age, however I was not fully aware of it. In fact, it is only now, all these years later, that I can look back and see how ill I was treated by some people I cared about. And I just couldn’t see it. I felt it in the loneliness, anxiety, and occasional fear I experienced. But if you had asked me if I was being shunned or bullied by my peers in general I would’ve denied it, because I didn’t realize that was what was going on. I thought this or that individual girl or boy just didn’t like me. In my case it meant my peers mocking my academic performance, boys only liking me for my appearance or for helping them cheat on tests, being loved by most teachers and messed with by the girls, who didn’t get me at all. I self-isolated after junior high to protect myself and chose an older college boy to date in high school purposefully so that the kids at school would be intimidated and to further distance myself from them. It worked. Yet, I didn’t think I was being stigmatized. I always felt in the drivers seat, though in hindsight I was mostly reacting to how I was being treated. Yes, research is definitely needed!

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