Culture is not something that tends to be associated with Autistic people. We have been pathologised and dehumanised since groups of Autistic people were first recognised over a hundred years ago. Our society is still rooted in the pathology paradigm which views Autistic people as being disordered or that we need parents and non-autistic people to speak for us and make decisions about our own lives.
With the growing movement of Autistic advocates, speakers, writers and the gradual formation of an Autistic community in the past several decades, there is evidently an Autistic Culture. In our group, we have different ways of using language, of communicating, as well as our sensory differences. We are also a marginalised group due to being a neurominority who live in a neurotypical designed world. It’s rare to meet Autistic people who are not traumatised. So many Autistic people have to mask and suppress their authentic selves to be safe and avoid discrimination & judgement. Our culture includes our shared trauma with the pain we have endured as well as the resilience we were forced to build up in a world not designed for us.
Despite the challenges that Autistic people can face, there are so many wonderful things we experience. There is Autistic Joy, a euphoric energy and state we can tap into where we are overwhelmed with joy that most people might only be able to access in their childhood. We love our stims and engaging with our favourite objects or activities that let us feel sensory bliss. We can hyperfocus on our interests for hours without becoming bored. We have our own love languages as Autistic people in how we show people in our lives that we care about them. There are many great aspects and we wouldn’t have these if we weren’t Autistic.
It is important going forward that we all embrace Autistic Culture. For Autistic people to understand their own culture and connect to this so we don’t feel alien or alone. Non-autistic people would also benefit from learning about our culture to allow us to build bridges between our groups. Doing this will help us move away from the pathology and dehumanisation of Autistic people. Understanding us through the lens of Autistic Culture goes a long way to validate our differences in how we experience the world. We may have challenges and be disabled with certain aspects of our lives but this does not mean we are less than other people or other cultures.
Autistic culture is as real and as valid as every other culture. We are human beings, not disordered or defective.
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