Another study came out referencing the ‘magical world theory’ of autism and some members of the autistic community expressed their frustration at the othering connotations of using terms like ‘magical world’. I find these kinds of things equally annoying – by positioning reactions or responses of autistic people as part of some ‘magical world’, it’s essentially suggesting that autistic people cannot be understood as they are so mysterious and other-worldly. It’s another means of separating autistic people and non-autistic people, which does no-one any good.
I wonder though whether some of the ways autistic people are discussed by the autistic community itself feeds into this othering. After all, researchers and non-autistic people are always being told they should listen to autistic people so using terminology like ‘magical world’ really isn’t that far removed from phrases like:
- Change the definition of autism from “disability” to “superpower.”!
- Bring back the
#autisticSUPERpowers tag from 2016. More focus on strengths! #ActuallyAutistic
- My Autism is my superpower!
- Who needs social skills when you have god-like brainpower
- If you look into the lives of the greats in literally any field you’ll quickly find none of them are NT
- None of the people I’ve known that are smarter than average are neurotypical
- What and give up my god-like powers to be like an NT?
Those all come from social media pages, posted by people who self-identify as diagnosed or self-diagnosed autistic people. All you really have to do is go on any social media site with a reasonable sized autistic community and start plugging variations of “autism/autistic” + “super”, “superior”, “magic”, “god-like”, or “powers” in and you’ll gets heaps more than just the ones I’ve posted above.
Of course there are other members of the autistic community who have already voiced concerns about this frequent use of “super powers”, “better than NTs”, and “magic abilities”. After all, never mind the fact that it is basically just as othering from non-autistic people as the ‘magical world theory’ which has been so heavily criticised for its terminology; it can also be othering within the autistic community. If you don’t have these savant skills (which are only present in a minority of autistic people), and you don’t have these “super powers” or abilities that people are proclaiming as being such a positive aspect of autism, then you could end up feeling like you don’t even belong in your own autism community.
Maybe some of the people who use the phrases above are being hyperbolic or are just having a bit of a joke, some of them are undoubtably serious about their superiority over non-autistic people (such as the “next stage of evolution” Aspie supremacists). I personally just find the use of terminology like that from within the autistic community as annoying as things as the ‘magical world theory’.