“Unlike you, my autism is inside…”

I have had this said to me twice in the past year (and also a variation of it, though in the third instances the individual had ADHD and was talking about how his ADHD affected him inside). I always wonder what the alternative insinuation is… That my autism is spilling out? That my autism is outside autism?

When I stop and rationalise it, I tend to think what they’re saying is that I don’t (can’t) “mask” my autism. Which is true – I can’t so I don’t expend any energy trying.

That on its own is a kind of fair point, what makes me annoyed is the follow-up.

The first autistic person went on to talk about how lucky I was that my autism wasn’t all inside and how they had suffered bullying because no-one saw their autism. That it must have been so freeing to “be allowed to be so outwardly autistic”.

Does anyone really think that secondary school kids don’t bully children who are “outwardly” autistic? And to tell me I’m lucky? The whole interaction left me feeling uncomfortable.

The second autistic person is a colleague who, after informing me that her autism was “inside autism”, told me that my autistic behaviour was distracting and proceeded to talk about how different things I did were difficult for her “inside autism”. She had known me for less than an hour. As well as being utterly baffled by this use of “inside and outside autism” (some of the strangest terminology I’ve heard anyone use), I was frustrated that yet again someone felt it was okay to point out all the issues they had with my autistic behaviour. She later complained to my line manager about my lack of socialness, my blunt way of communicating, and how distracting my repetitive behaviours were.

I still haven’t been able to understand either of these encounters fully, though I have to admit they play a part in why I have been avoiding events with other autistic people. I don’t want to struggle through similar encounters.

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