To Siri with Love: A Mother, her Autistic Son, and the Kindness of Machines, Judith Newman (review)

 

#Boycotttosiri #actuallyautistic

 

To Siri with Love has caused indignation in the autistic community, recently (and rightfully so). I first learned about the book through the twitter grapevine. I joined the boycott under the hashtag #BoycotttoSiri, initially accepting the objections that other autistics were bringing to the book in good faith. Following the author’s complaint that a lot of the people trying to boycott the book had not read it, I decided to read a library copy in order to practice a more informed opposition, without necessarily supporting the author. It was a difficult decision. With details emerging about how Judith Newman discussed her plans to sterilize her son, Gus, and apparently mocked him throughout the book, it seemed likely that a mere reading would end up being distressing. In the end, I was curious enough to brave it, so here is my review!

The first chapter and the introduction are, in my opinion, the poorest, as they reveal Newman’s questionable position as a voice on autism. This happens to be one of my biggest objections to the book. Putting the consent issue aside for a moment – i.e. the fact that Judith Newman did not get consent from Gus to write about him using his real name – these chapters are littered with “I have a friend” and “I heard that an autistic person once” stories that illustrate her inadequacy as a speaker on autism. This should be surprising, because as an “autism mom”, Judith Newman would have had the experiences and connections necessary to intimate something more authentic and first-hand about autism.

This is one of the second-hand stories that I found most striking:

 

“Objectively, they [autistic people] are all a little out there. If Gus had been born in the early to mid-twentieth century, the pressure to institutionalize him would have been enormous […] And it’s not as if the idea of a “final solution” to autism is a historical curiosity. A few years ago, in the Netherlands, where euthanasia is legal not only for incurable physical conditions but also for mental conditions thought incurable and unbearable, an autistic man who had all his life been unable to form friendships asked to be put to death. His wish was granted.” (p. xx-xxi)  

 

It is an example of the bizarre sleights of hand that Newman felt were necessary to grant her permission to speak in the way she did. I cannot be entirely sure, but in this story, the autistic man seems to be vouching for her statement that “we [autistics] are all out there” by asking for his own euthanasia.

Other deferrals to the persons who experience things first-hand, seemingly always caught in the act of granting her permission to speak, are less upsetting. Discussing her choice of terminology, she adds: “As a tiny friend said to me recently: ‘Oh, for God’s sake, just call me a dwarf. It’s the first thing you see, and I know it’s not the only thing about me that’s interesting.’” (p. ix). If it wasn’t for the suggestion that the burden is on the disabled person, and their ability to maintain their self-esteem, this would have been amusing, because I am guessing she does not have a tiny friend. This happened to be on the first page, and I was afraid it would set the tone for the book. Luckily Newman does find her own voice eventually, and succeeds in relating some of the details of her life with her autistic son.

Poor writing also plays a part in the introduction:

 

I will also defer to the masculine pronoun when I am talking about people in generalities (sic.), because I learned it was correct to do this sometime back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I mention this because a friend just wrote an excellent book on parenting using the pronoun “they” instead of “he or she”, and she uses the term “cisgender” to refer to anyone who is well, cisgender, which is one of the at least fifty-eight gender options offered by Facebook, ranging from Agender to TwoSpirit. She did this at the insistence of her teenage daughter. Language needs to evolve, but not into something ugly and imprecise. I read her book simultaneously loving her parenting philosophy and wanting to punch her in the face.” (p. x).

 

These assertions are troubling. As an author, Newman should have done her research prior to writing her book, regardless of her birth date. Given that there has been increasing awareness about the role of language structures in enforcing cisnormativity for quite some time, and the current level of activism, this passage even comes off as oddly retrograde and out of touch. Since this is not a self-published book, I wonder why this passage was not removed by the editor, considering that she does not actually use the male pronoun throughout.

Despite this, it would be unfair to say that the book is completely terrible. Keeping in mind that I do not read many books on autism, I thought the book deviated from the standard narrative on autism – which tends to be a detailed discussion of traits and symptoms, that read more like a narrativized diagnosis. I liked the cruise to Alaska, the typical night off, with the burned-out mom trying to make Brussel sprout chips, and the background stories on Newman’s family. The part I appreciated the most was the chapter on death – learning about death is both a part of growing up, and a part of being in a family that are seldom discussed in autism stories. I also appreciated the profiles of various autistic people and organizations, including the chapter on Darius McCollum, and the interview with Lindsey Nebeker, from Autism in Love. I even liked the portraits that Newman painted of Alexandra and Timmy (“You ran like a cartoon character, body bent at the waist, legs spinning, kind of like the Road Runner with acne and a perpetual boner”, p. 16).

Does this mean the campaign that was mounted against the book was unfair? When I came across the issues that were flagged by other autistics, I was surprised to find that the context in which they appeared made them seem more benign than I had expected, based on the discussions they stirred on Twitter.

The first accusation was that Newman was a bad mother who threw her son’s toys away, because she did not think he should still be playing with them. Newman did mention that she throws her son’s stuffed animals in the garbage and that he “rescues” them (p. 30). It is unfortunate that this behavior is one of the many socially acceptable microaggressions that parents can commit against their children, autistic or neurotypical, without recourse. Hopefully, this will change.

Newman’s description of Amythest Schaber as “everyone’s favorite manic pixie dream girl” (p. 42) appears in a surprisingly benign context – literally, a glowing review of her work. Coming to it from their cringing twitter exchange (where Newman calls Amythest a brat), to the actual passage in the book, I was a bit underwhelmed. It was one of the sections – and in fact, there were quite a few – where Newman properly deferred to the autistic authority, in this case on stimming, minus the awkward but perhaps well-intended description of Amythest’s appearance.

One charge that I could not verify was that Newman made fun of the porn her son watches. In the section where Newman and her other son, Henry, come across Gus’ porn in his browser history, she writes “we will draw the curtain over what we found, but suffice it to say that it put to rest my question about whether he is gay. Also, it appears that someday he might move to Japan.” (p. 185); I thought this was mostly endearing.

The issues that raised the most criticism, however, was Newman’s discussion of her plans to sterilize Gus:

 

How do you say ‘I’m sterilizing my son’ without sounding like a eugenicist? I start thinking about all the people, outliers in some way, who had this fundamental choice in life stolen from them – sometimes cruelly, sometimes by well-meaning people like me.” (p. 115)

 

As the story advances, innocuous aspects of Gus’ life such as his love of public transit and music, his sleeping habits, and his conversations with Siri give way to an extended focus on Gus’ sexuality. Newman is worried because social awkwardness is no longer “its own form of birth control” (p. 180), special education school and other opportunities to get together lead to sexual relationships, and potential pregnancies. The last chapter has Gus on a date with Parker, a girl from his school.

I thought that the focus on sexuality was a bonus for the book, as it is often left out of the autism story; Autism in Love is one of the few documentaries that broach the topic. Again, the context in which this assertion appeared, was surprisingly benign, as Newman also discusses attending special lectures on sexuality and disability, and interviewing other autistics, seemingly due to a genuine desire to learn how to be supportive of her son.

One thing that comes to mind is that sterilization is an idea that Newman is struggling with, but that she might not have thought through completely, even though it is one of the few recurring ideas. If she does not think Gus can submit to a sleep evaluation, I am not sure how she envisions the vasectomy taking place. I hope it is just a manifestation of the ambivalence she exhibits throughout the book. One passage that I initially found suspect, may be just that: “when I think of Gus in a sexual situation, it generally has a Benny Hill soundtrack. And anything with that music does not end well.” (p. 115). It would have perhaps been disingenuous not to be ambivalent about Gus’ sexuality, as a parent – many neurotypical parents are ambivalent about their neurotypical children’s sexuality. The only concern is that it can be misinterpreted, and it does fit into the reasoning that was historically used to deny reproduction to people who were perceived as unfit, as she admits it herself, and that once released in a book, it can seed the idea into the minds of other autism parents. The book is, in many ways, a stream of consciousness that unleashes many conflicting and contradictory thoughts, but it would have been OK if she kept this one to herself. I am surprised that the publishers left it in, and hope they did not do so purposefully, to create controversy over what would have otherwise been a mediocre book.

The blunder was attributed to a neurotypical mom who fails to understand her son’s condition, however, the impression that I had while I was reading To Siri with Love was that Judith Newman is not a neurotypical person. She details her husband’s traits and their unconventional relationship, she makes him take Baron-Cohen’s autism quotient test, she talks about his son’s from a previous marriage quirks and routines, while she seems to exhibit many traits that suggest she is on the spectrum herself. It is unclear whether she willfully overlooked this in the book, or whether she has yet to reckon with it in her personal life. Even though everything else is discussed so openly and honestly, she only hints at her status: “Because there is something weird about me”, she writes, “to a lesser but still marked degree, I have the same problems” (p. 23).

While this does make Newman more intelligible to me, it does not excuse the shortcomings of the book. A short passage at the end of Introduction pointed to the missed opportunity in To Siri with Love:

 

“There’s a typical look of the mother [of an autistic person]: skin a little ashier than the average woman her age, hollows under the eyes a little more pronounced, a smile playing about her lips as the eyes dart nervously, wondering what might happen next.” (p. xxiii).

 

It led me to wonder why Judith Newman did not write a book on autism that centers more on her position. She does have an autistic son, and through him she does come into contact with the autistic universe, the organizations, the activists, the special schools and programs, and so on. So why not centre on her own experiences with them? Why not write a book that sets a standard for consent, language, and collaboration with the autistic person in her life? But if it is correct that Judith Newman’s relationship with the spectrum is more complex than that, then maybe she can give it another try in a follow up To Siri with Love.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Autistic Queer; Queer Autistic: Autism vs Queer Theory

I have frequently heard other autistics say that they are ‘nothing’, or that they have no sex and gender identities, and I would claim this for myself as well. I am aware I appear female, but I do not have the ability to “feel it” per se. This does not mean that I identify as masculine. However, the male gender does appear more intelligible to me, and I feel both more comfortable, less confused, or anxious and more in tune with the vibe when I am surrounded by men as opposed to women (excluding autistic women, to whom I relate very well). Male spaces are more straightforward and social interactions are easier to understand, so I inevitably tend to adopt more male gestures, mannerisms and communication patterns. I often felt confused as a teenager because of this (and I continue to be troubled by potential political implications, which will be the subject of a future post), and I occasionally suffered bullying and exclusion, both from cis and trans spaces. I grew up in a very homophobic environment, and many parents did not want to allow their daughters to be friends with a “lesbian”, which is how I was (and still am, sometimes) read.

I am aware that I am unable to experience a long lasting sexual orientation. As a teenager and young adult I experienced revolving interests and attractions that never stayed. They went beyond definitions of gay, straight, bisexual, queer, queer-romantic, and so on, often, it seemed, in relation to the people I met and spent time with, movies or books. I found this confusing and was hurt when I was accused of posing, or trying to be something I was not. But although I would not call myself a sex-positive person, I have preferred sexual relationships over friendships, for the same reason that they make more sense. This means I had more opportunities to explore my sexuality than an average person would, and this would have likely been sufficient to complicate things. Overall, my experiences have been positive. Through my teens and early 20s, sexual relationships allowed me to develop my social skills. My previous partners played the role of social translators, and mediated experiences with diverse social groups that I would not have met otherwise.

There are other areas of life in which I feel detachment – or perhaps an inability to relate to others. I often feel detached from my profession, I hesitate to see myself as a professional in my field and even have difficulties referring to myself as such when necessary, even though I have been practicing for many years. I know this is not because I am not good at my work, but because I am unable to relate my experiences to who I am and even less so to relate to my colleagues, or perceive myself as part of a group. I also had difficulties relating to my family for many years, and often felt like a stranger for no apparent reason. My theory is that the small deficiencies and glitches that make up our “poor” social skills have the unstated effect that they do not lead to further epiphenomenal constructs like identity, or that these may be poorly defined, or context-specific. This leads to both bad outcomes, such as a limited ability to adhere to social groups – and perhaps even to figure out what those groups should be (in my case) – loneliness, and isolation; and good outcomes, such as not getting caught up in labels and experiencing life across a broad social spectrum. The problem is that identity is one of the cornerstones of interaction in (a NT-led) society, so having difficulties with identity can severely impact social interactions. A veritable cult of identity was developing in the years of my teens, the media was full of slogans – you can’t be happy until you know who you are; you can’t have a relationship until you know who you are etc. – and not knowing ‘who you are’ seemed like a major personal failure. All this made me feel anxious and depressed, and exerted a lot of pressure on me.

I want to make it clear that my thoughts about how autism impacts identity have been most heavily contested in my autism workshops, where I found that many participants were attached to their identities. But I have also found common grounds with many autistics, and this has given me the confidence to continue exploring identity through the lens of autism. I did not always see things like this, and in hindsight, it is perhaps why I was misled and struggled to define my identity for so many years. Today, however, I am perfectly comfortable saying that I have no gender or sexual identity. I describe myself as agender and as interested in sex, without having a sexual orientation. Recently, I was discussing my identity with a colleague, and I felt comfortable saying that gender and sexual orientation did not apply to me because I was autistic. Sometimes it is difficult to relate to people I do not know so well how hard it is to conduct my social life through NT-defined concepts. In my case, these concepts are simply misleading and, therefore, will not work out well. Maybe it is true in a sense that I was posing when I came out as gay, then trans as a teen, but what I was pretending about was being ‘something’ when, in fact, I was nothing.

I doubt my experience is the norm in the autism community. Many non-conforming autistics prefer to align themselves with LGBTQQIP2SAA. There is a heightened awareness of mental health in these spaces, and I, myself, have learned helpful concepts through them. But I have also been confronted with the reality that queer spaces are not genuine safe spaces for autistics, when I was called out for not being ‘trans enough’ or ‘queer enough’ due to behaviors or ways of expressing myself that stemmed from me being autistic. This made relationships established in queer spaces even more precarious than the ones I had established in mainstream society. Although seeming mental health awareness may seem attractive, it is also true that mental health advocacy is done piecemeal, and that awareness of anxiety, trauma or recognition of PTSD do not necessarily imply a similar ability or willingness to understand and accept autism. In the past, I gravitated between demanding total, unconditional acceptance, and awareness of how difficult it is to get past the misunderstandings that I sometimes generate – now I think the answer is somewhere in the middle. I think part of the issue also rests with autistics, that we need to speak out, and the way we increasingly do so online will have a long-term impact. There is also advocacy from within a broader segment of queer voices, for the removal of barriers and more inclusion, and these might work in tandem. The new autistic queer (or autistiqueer) denomination and the social groups that have been generated around it, point to a specifically autistic version of queerness. I cannot comment on the groups, as I have yet to take part in a meeting, but the existence of an autistic queer group that meets in a queer community centre in downtown Toronto sounds promising.

I also feel that I need to question the concept of intersectionality (with the caveat that this is the experience of a white autistic, from a nonhegemonic European country). I find I cannot give equal bearing to my intersecting identities. Given that I find myself in favor of both the scholarship and the politics associated with it, it is surprising that I cannot apply it to in my own life; perhaps it was never meant to apply to how identity is formed, but rather more narrowly to how discrimination is experienced e.g. it is undeniable that being trans/queer or a person of color will have an impact on how an autistic person is perceived and how many resources will be available to them, but being trans/cis or queer does not precede the experience of autism, because experience itself is produced through the autistic body. Given all the patterns I have noticed throughout my life, I simply must foreground being autistic. This has allowed me to challenge the concept of identity itself. In order to move forward, towards conceptualizing a world for autistics, there must be a way for us to defer even a provisional identity, if we wanted to. The challenge, for a politics of the spectrum, is to imagine spaces where socializing is possible without identity.

I have developed my thoughts during many workshops on autistic gender and sexuality, and I have been challenged to show how my experiences differ from genderfluidity, with a participant even qualifying them as a “true” genderfluidity. I think the main issue with this interpretation is that genderfluidity is defined as a challenge to fixed identities, and so it does not challenge the concept of identity itself. Perhaps autistic gender and sexuality can be defined as the queerness of queerness, and this leads back to autism as the uncanny valley of human experience.

How to interact with adult autistics

Autism is a complex condition at the intersection of many social and psychological factors (just like being ‘normal’!). What you need to know for the purpose of communicating effectively with an autistic is this: 1) our bodies tend to register stimuli below, above or based on a completely different pattern of thresholds than the allistic or neurotypical (basically, non-autistic) commonly agreed upon standard; this results in many hypo- and hypersensitivities (visual, auditory, olfactory etc.) 2) our bodies work differently than allistic bodies; while many functions and states are on ‘auto-pilot’ in an allistic body, they are not in ours; basically, while allistics drive automatic, we are driving stick shift; this means we are monitoring many internal states while trying to be attentive to and engage with external stimuli (hence why autism, from the Greek ‘autos’ for self) – the truth may be that our bodies are simply not built to be receptive to things that allistics find self-evident and we have to be in a state of permanent manual-override, constantly observing what others take for granted and trying to default to it. These two aspects result in us feeling, thinking, perceiving, and overall being different from allistics. They also result in large differences between ourselves and other autistics, because no two autistics will have the exact same embodied experiences (just like allistic people!). This has its ups (e.g. we are more likely to have unique perspectives on life, perhaps be academically gifted and possess unique talents that we can drive to perfection) and downs (we have difficulties registering and interpreting social cues, facial expressions etc. being different means we are not regularly offered the proper means to learn sociality and this is commonly conceptualized as a failure on our part).

This results in many miscommunications and misinterpretations during allistic – autistic communication! How to get around them? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Privacy first! Some autistics are more open about their status, some aren’t. Most of us, however, will be selective when it comes to who we are out to. Please keep in mind that autism is still perceived as a mental illness or a developmental disability and that there is huge stigma associated with it. It can lead to discrimination and exclusion so do not out us to anyone without permission no matter how open we seem to be about it. If you want to talk about us as autistic, please ask for our permission and for confirmation that the person you want to talk to about us has our permission to know our status.
  2. Be explicit! I can’t stress this enough. Do not assume we will read your social cues, respond to standard friendship invitations, read between the lines etc. Word everything even if obvious (e.g. instead of saying, ‘Some of us are going to a bar later’ say ‘Some of us are going to a bar later, do you want to join us?’). Keep in mind this needs to start from the beginning. If you want to be friends with an autistic person you need to explicitly say so (e.g. ‘Do you want to be friends?’). Even if we pick up on the social cues, many of us are aware that we are different from others and will not respond to invitations that seem allistically formulated because we will assume they are not for us. Also, many of us have been bullied, mistreated, rejected, abused etc. for misreading social cues and will not initiate friendship. This does not mean we do not want to be friends, it just means we are looking out for those messages intended for us, just like allistics do. If you are explicit from the beginning, chances are we will enjoy interacting with you and become friends.
  3. Understand the effects of allistic space! Almost every social space is, unfortunately, allistic space. It can be a sensorially overstimulating environment (a brightly lit classroom, a busy coffee shop or bar with a lot of background noise etc.), the meeting place of a social group with a complex hierarchy and many social rules (and when I say complex do not look further than the workplace, school, a group of long term friends etc.) or both. Do not assume our behavior in those spaces reflects who we are at all times. Understand that those spaces require more work from us and do not hold it against us if we avoid them. Get familiar with the term ‘autistic burnout’ and understand this has a profound effect on us.
  4. Allow time for accommodation! Since we use alternate means of determining and interpreting feelings (context, verbal cues, logic, even statistical likelihood!) we may need a lot more time than a regular allistic person to accommodate to the way you communicate. This accommodation time will be longer if we meet you while also accommodating to a new environment because we need to build the contextual structures that we use to understand you while getting to know you from scratch. The same goes for whether we meet you as a part of a large group because we will be simultaneously doing work to understand the others as well. Please be patient and helpful during this time, make it easier for us to learn about you by being explicit, sharing details about your communication style, your preferences etc.
  5. Be prepared to not be recognized if you meet us outside of the spaces we regularly interact! Unfortunately, many of us have a bad memory when it comes to human faces which we supplement with contextual information. Be prepared to not be recognized if you meet us unexpectedly and/or outside of the spaces we normally interact or if you make changes to your appearance. This could still happen many months after we have met, even if we have interacted extensively. Please don’t be upset if we double-check who you are and be ready to provide the information.
  6. Be prepared for a different interaction schedule! You may notice that sometimes we spend a lot of time with you while other times you will hardly ever see us. This is because our social needs differ from yours and so we will follow a different pattern and schedule of interaction. When we like someone, we express it by wanting to learn about them, their interests and opinions and not by exchanging emotional content (e.g. jokes, emotional support, group identity etc.) – although it does not mean we will not accept or enjoy engaging in the latter. This simply takes longer and may result in more in depth engagement especially during the beginning of our friendship. Once we establish a friendship, we will give it attention and cherish it and so we will not like to make many of them at once but we will also return to socializing according to our schedule (and socializing tends to receive limited time slots in an autistic’s schedule). Sometimes we might just make ourselves more available to you at the beginning of our friendship because we are learning about your needs and how to communicate with you, including how to let you know we need to attend to our alone time without offending you. Please consider that we may spend our leisure time pursuing interests on our own and usually recharge by limiting social contact or even isolating ourselves. Keep in mind, our social time is not your social time!
  7. Learn how to initiate proper conversation! Advance warning that a conversation will be initiated is ideal. This may come as an email or text message such as ‘Hi! I would like to talk to you about X item, Y item, Z item. I will come to your workplace/house/etc. at this specific time’. Advance warning gives us time to make accommodations for you and will result in a good interaction. However, if you cannot warn us appropriately, please make sure not to surprise us! Approach slowly, knock lightly on the door, even if it’s open and wait for us to accommodate for your arrival. Definitely do not: touch us (unexpected hugs, taps on shoulder etc.); approach unannounced; announce your presence verbally and loudly e.g. HIIII!!! I CAME TO SEE YOU!!!!! (if you must do so, please speak quietly). As I said, we perceive stimuli way below your threshold. Any of these behaviors can result in physical pain, disorientation, inability to respond appropriately etc. This will not just ruin the conversation but likely the autistic person’s entire day. Once we are interacting on a regular basis, we may be able to make accommodations faster and not need to place these constraints on you. Please keep in mind that even if we end up developing a very flexible social relationship with you, our sensorial sensitivities will remain the same. Please continue to be mindful of them.
  8. Learn about our communication style! We can be direct, honest, straight-up blunt to the point of appearing rude and our presence may be uncanny at times. There are two sides to this. Firstly, we do not always give standard social cues. We might be having a friendly conversation without appearing friendly, we might be giving you our full attention while looking like we are not even listening to you, tell a joke without laughing, appear rude while trying to be nice to you, say how excited we are about something while appearing bored etc. and when we do give correct social cues, they may still appear uncanny. Please understand that many of us have learned to give social cues later in life and/or by alternate means than allistics and so we will always be just a little different, even at our best moments. If you agree to take what we say over what we look like we are saying, you will take the pressure off for us. This will allow us to focus on the conversation rather than on appearing ‘normal’ and will be beneficial to you as well, you will get to see our true selves, hear our honest insights and even our jokes! (we can actually be quite funny!) But if you tell us we are not trying hard enough, you will just hurt our feelings because our alternate means of producing cues are usually more elaborate and require more effort than allistic ones. If we fail to produce social cues completely, it likely means we are burned out or in sensorial distress and so we are simply unable to despite our best intentions. Secondly, we are object-oriented. We communicate to exchange information not emotional content and so our patterns of communication will be very different from allistic ones. We will engage with the information provided and not with its social significance or the relationship that other interlocutors have with it, which is why we sometimes offend interlocutors without even realizing it. We will follow different conversation patterns or approach topics others do not, which may appear surprising to our interlocutors if they are not used  to them. Please understand that many of us may continue to engage in this way occasionally, even after developing an awareness of the emotional aspects of conversations. This is because for us, these emotional aspects may continue to appear strange or even marginal to the information being exchanged and putting them at the forefront will require a constant, conscious effort. Also, keep in mind that we tend to value other forms of communication like text, email, social media just as much or even more than face-to-face so they usually play a big role in our social lives.
  9. Learn how to follow up conversation with us! Please let us know if you liked/ disliked the conversation or if it was effective. This can happen at the end of the conversation or in a follow up message. We like to hear about these things! Many of us use the data to script future conversations with you and others. It will be weird at first but soon you will learn to be honest about it without being overly critical, personal or hurtful (e.g. ‘I liked that you mentioned this’, ‘I didn’t quite understand what you meant there’, ‘I would like to talk to you again’, ‘were you joking when you said this?’ and not ‘in the future, don’t do this’ or ‘this is wrong’ etc.). Conversation is not a one-way street so please do not default to placing the blame on us if a conversation did not go well and be prepared to receive input from us as well.
  10. Learn how to joke with us before attempting to do so! Allistics like jokes and keeping things light-hearted. Dynamics like friendly banter usually create or strengthen bonds. This is not the same with autistics. Since we may not pick up on cues and subtext, there is a chance we will take what you say literally and this will be confusing, upsetting or triggering. Also, since many of us have been abused, mistreated, rejected etc. for being autistic, we tend to not enjoy any kind of teasing. Getting at the level where teasing is acceptable can happen but it may take a long time (see above).
  11. Be respectful of us and treat us as equals! It is easy to internalize the idea that autistic people are lesser than allistic people and treat them accordingly but you are really not doing us or yourself a favor by doing this. There is much to be gained from interacting with autistic people. We are likely to give insights that you will never get from anyone else and form unique connections with you. Don’t deprive yourself of these experiences for an ableist reason!

Do you think I am asking too much of you? Autistic people have already worked hard in order to interact with you, why not acknowledge and honor that by doing the same for them?

This post was written by an autistic person in the Asperger’s range. You are  encouraged to seek advise on this topic from other autistics, including nonverbal individuals.