We seem to recognize our own.

Once we receive the formal diagnosis and have done some research on the nature of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), once we meet and interact with other diagnosed and self-diagnosed Aspies and “classical” Autistics, we learn how we are similar and how we are different.  We learn what to look for, what is typical, what’s to be expected in dealing with other people on the autism spectrum. We also learn that some people have other issues and problems quite apart from their autism.

The same way that the perception among gay people develops to detect their own, colloquially known as “gaydar”, I feel like we begin to develop a similar perceptive insight…an “autisticator”, if you well.  Like “Gaydar”, it’s not perfect, not 100%, but it does seem like something we develop, the more aware we are of our own condition and the more we interact with other known autistics.  The more we do this, the more we are able to detect or sense heretofore unknown ASD individuals or probable ones.  It’s not sophisticated enough to provide someone with an actual diagnosis, or even self-diagnosis, but it might be enough to encourage such a person to seek a formal screening for ASDs from a licensed professional.  I discuss my perceptions of potential ASD individuals with my fellow known Aspies; when they encounter the same individuals, their perceptions are often in agreement with my own, though of course this does not control for confirmation bias or group-think peer pressure.

But if animals seem able to differentiate between autistic and NT humans, it doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility for ASD individuals to recognize their own.  I am grateful to the NT researchers that first studied the most severe cases of autism, they did a lot of important work.  But as time goes on, we should continue to question old assumptions made from only the NT perspective, sitting in judgement of ASD behavior, according to NT-only norms and expectations.  There needs to be more of a back-and-forth dialogue between ASD individuals able to express and share their innermost thoughts and feelings and autism researchers.  This dialogue is starting but it is difficult and at times bordering on hostile, though I believe progress is ultimately possible and that a more genuine, more humane, more balanced understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders is possible, which gives equal weight to our perspectives.  Remember, “cure” is still a four letter word. 😉

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