Autism Acceptance Month: Day 22: Dispel a myth

Myth: Autistic people do not have or desire close relationships. 

Reality: I cannot speak for all autistic people most of the autistic people I know, including myself. desire and seek out close relationships of various types. We often feel intense loneliness when deprived of the opportunity to bond with others. My first period of depression was in grade 8 when I was in a class without any of my friends from previous grades and where nobody in my class wanted to become friends with or even interact with me. I regularly went through days where I did not speak to anyone all day during class time while everyone else spent all day talking, joking and laughing with each other. On the flip side, one of the best things for my mental health has been connecting with other autistic and neurodivergent people and developing the meaningful relationships I feel I’ve lacked for too much my life.

I think a lot of media presents autistics as people who have absolutely no interest in meaningful relationships and instead only interact with others when we are forced to or when we want to “use” others to get something we want or need. 

In reality, autistic people’s ways of interacting with others and seeking out relationships is not absent. It is just different from that of neurotypical people. We tend to be more introverted (although autistic extroverts do exist!) and need a lot of alone time to rest between social interactions. We may prefer to interact with others online where we can have more time to think about and phrase what we want to say, there is less sensory stress and less social pressure to do things like make eye contact or read body language. We may also prefer to get to know people at speeds considered too quick or too slow by neurotypicals. Autistic people also often prefer to have smaller groups of people we are close with, perhaps because too many relationships can be exhausting. This does not mean we do not have meaningful relationships. Our limited number of close relations may even allow to to bond more quickly or strongly than we would be able otherwise.

 There are also many instances where we “socially withdrawn” not by choice but because those around of have rejected us due to ableism. This does not mean that we do not want or value social relationships. It mean that others do not want or value them with us and it’s probably why autistic and neurodivergent people often seek out friendships and other relationships amongst each other. 

The great thing about fandom/internet friends vs. friends you meet out IRL, is that when you get to know people for the first time face-to-face, there’s this awkward process of trying to figure out juuuust how much of a dork they are, and how much you can nerd out before you scare them off. Like, you don’t wanna break out the real freaky shit right off. There’s always the impulse to hang back a little, as you try to gauge just how into a thing they are. But with fandom friends? You fucking met them in the garbage heap. You knew their fucked up narrative kinks before you even know their real name. They are screaming their passions into the void. Your friendship comes pre-loaded with already knowing the exact depths of each other’s depravity, and any ordinary-people-shit you have in common is just a bonus. 

I love deep talks. Like, hell yeah, tell me about why youโ€™d prefer to talk to your mom rather than your dad. Tell me about your favourite lyrics in the songs you listen to everyday and why theyโ€™re your favourite. Tell me about the dog you had when you were growing up and how he was your best friend. Tell me about what kind of books you like to read when youโ€™re alone in your room. Tell me about the things you think about right before you fall asleep. Tell me anything and everything.

if you can’t correct your friends when they’re wrong about something because you’re afraid they’ll lash out at your or otherwise hurt you then they’re not your friends.

if you can’t tell your friends when they’re being cruel to other people because you’re afraid they’re going to be cruel to you then they’re not your friends.

if your friendship with someone depends on always agreeing with them, always complying with what they want, and treating them as though they’re incapable of ever doing anything wrong or else they’ll turn on you and attack you (whether verbally or physically) then that is not a friendship and they are not your friends.