I am majorly part of 3 communities, both on and offline. The LGBT+ community, the Dyspraxia and Dyslexia community, and the autism community. I fit somewhere in the middle of all three. Admittedly not in the centre and not exclusively equal in my work in each, but still somewhere in the middle.
Today I am going to be discussing the Autism community. In particular, the concept of the “other” that exists within it. Let me explain, in this case, the other alludes to Autistic adults and Autistic LGBT+ people. (the “other” may also allude to females on the spectrum but that goes on a tangent from my point at this time)
While the Autism community is an amazing place, full of colourful and supporting people, be it parents, teachers, bloggers, vloggers or companies; there tends to be a lack of discussion surrounding autistic adults. You tend to see a lot of support and services surrounding helping children with autism (and this is in no way a dig towards those services). However, adults seemingly not having the same support, visibility or acknowledgement when it comes to their needs and difficulties. Take, for example, a statistic from NAS; “In all, less than a third of autistic adults have any kind of paid work.”
There is an argument to be had about the reason for the observation and statistic above (remember this is solely my opinion). I am now 24 years old, (technically an adult) and my brother who is 20 is also, technically an adult. We both respectively grew up in 2 generations where “invisible disabilities” just starting to gain recognition and awareness.
My reason for the above statements is this. The people who are currently employed, or who looking for employment, are of the generations where the acknowledgement of Autism did not exist. Therefore there was no support (or at least, not as much as there is today). This lack of support has led to generations of Autistic people who have been left feeling ostracised and cast out by society at large. And therefore do not have the life skills set that is seen as required for full time employed (vast generalisation). Speculatively with the support Autistic children get today and in the future, this statistic will go down.
The feeling of the Autistic adult being the “other” in this situation was reinforced by The Autism Show in London; Now don’t get me wrong, I loved it and I had fun. However, this is when the sense of the other occurred to me. The majority of the stalls seemed to be focused on Autistic children. As an adult and talking to young adult and teens at the event, there seemed to be little that engaged them or was marketed to them. Even the stalls run by universities seemed bland and not engaging.
This might have come down to the event being about Autistic people rather than for Autistic people. (the difference in this sense being you’re talking about the subject, rather than to the subject.) While all the stalls were somewhat interesting. It was aimed at schools and companies, with very few products or events aimed at the young people there to take home, or actively take part in.
Time to move onto the second “other”, the LGBT+ Autistic Person. As a movement which has come in leaps bounds. The LGBT+ community has (again in my opinion) left the Autism community out of the conversation. These individuals do exist, both adults and children. I know both on the spectrum who, (to various extents) challenge and explore their sexuality and gender identity, or who identify as LGBT.
There seems to be support for Autistic people and support for LGBT+ people, but no specific support for LGBT+ Autistic people. As anyone who knows an Autistic individual will tell you. The type of support for Neurotypical and Autistic people needs to be different. Exploring one’s sexuality and gender identity can often be confusing and isolating before becoming validating and freeing.
These feelings of confusion and isolation would arguably be twofold for an Autistic individual as they are also trying to figure out what the diagnosis means to them and where they fit within it. Surely there needs to be more conversation and support surrounding Autistic Individuals, LGBT identities and even sexual health that is aimed and developed solely for members of the Autism Community.
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