School has started back up for me, so blog posts may be lacking in the coming months.
We as an autism community NEED to talk about this as I am probably not the only person who feels this way. Sometimes I feel like the only autistic person who feels that way.
For a bit of a background for new readers: I received my autism diagnosis in June 2021 at the age of 28. In October 2020, I started attending support groups for autistic people that also allowed people who are self-diagnosed or are suspected to be autistic.
In many cases, I feel like I don’t fit in with other autistic people. I’m probably considered the most neurotypical autistic there. I have a Bachelor’s degree and will graduate with a Master’s degree in December 2021. I have a full-time job. Some of the autism-related struggles do not apply to me (like chronic pain or chronic fatigue, which both have a link to autism). I reached childhood developmental milestones early. The only people who can detect that I’m neurodivergent are neurodivergent people, so most people didn’t realize something was wrong with me.
Maybe I don’t feel autistic enough because of internalized ableism. Sometimes the reaction of disclosing your autism is “You don’t look or seem autistic” and I don’t disclose my autism because I expect to hear that. I know I don’t seem autistic. I think some other autistic people don’t think I’m autistic either. Pre-evaluation, the facilitator who is also on the spectrum asked why I wanted a diagnosis since I seemed to be doing well.
Yes, I don’t seem autistic because I worked hard to not appear weird (older autistic people were taught how to be normal). No, I don’t know how to unmask. No, I don’t feel safe unmasking.
I think what would help with what feels like Imposter Syndrome would be to see representation of autistic people in social media and YouTube who aren’t like the typical autistic people. Most people I encountered in AANE support groups either didn’t go to college or dropped out due to challenges related to then-undiagnosed autism. I have yet to find an autistic person who is either currently in grad school or has a Master’s degree. Most of the autistic people we see online are content creators because companies don’t want to hire us and it feels like I’m the only autistic with a job (and autistic people advise not to disclose my autism at work or else I won’t have a job anymore). I want to find other autistic people who want to disclose their diagnosis to help society redefine what autism looks like.
I want to feel like a valid autistic person.