You can’t do that at your age! The social stigma of being an adult with autism

From watching vlogs and talking to people of all ages I have seen a distinct difference in how autistic people are viewed in public. There’s many behaviours that feel very natural for me to do that society says I can’t because I’m an adult rather than a child, despite the fact that I do have some child-like qualities. For example, talking to a former work colleague a few months ago about what we had been upto the previous weekend, she told me about being out with her parents and sister for a meal in a pub. Her younger sister, who is early teens in age, spotted the pubs resident cats and ended up sitting on the floor petting them for about half an hour. When the server came over with their order my work colleague said she has autism and loves animals and the server responded positively. No one else even noticed. If it had been me in that situation how would the people around have responded? It would have been perceived as strange for an adult to sit on the floor and pet the animals and it’s something that I am very aware of. I constantly have the urge to pet animals when I see them so it’s a constant struggle to over ride a dominating impulse  and it’s a behaviour I have had to condition myself to stop.

I have had meltdowns in public but, to see me at those moments you would never know it, I have to ‘act’ accordingly. I have been in the middle of supermarkets and wanted to throw the basket down and scream to release the frustrations building in me but, instead, I bottle it inside and release it behind close doors. It’s not something I enjoy doing because it makes the me,tdoens harder to cope with and longer to recover from so I’m causing anguish to myself for the sake of not acting in a way that would be acceptable in public. I have seen and heard of countless stories were a child has had a meltdown in public and kind strangers, shop workers etc have stepped in to help out. If I broke down in public would the same kindness be shown or would I be tutted at, stared at and avoided?

When in public I often (just about all of the time) wear headphones to help block out a substantial amount of noise around me as it can be overwhelming. When a store worker says hi and I ignore them I’m perceived as being rude. I will try and give a small smile to acknowledge them but I wear the headphones for a reason. Not only do they cancel out a lot of noise I feel very uncomfortable being spoken to by strangers so it’s easier to be seen to have possibly not heard them than if I didn’t have them on and outwardly ignored them.

Autism is not something that can generally be seen but it is more recognisable in children when they’re wearing ear defenders, carrying a comforter etc than it is in adults. Luckily, in the uk, shopping centres have started a scheme to make invisible illness visible for store employees in the form of a green lanyard adorned with sunflowers. This can be a huge aid when it comes to anyone shopping as it alerts staff to someone possibly needing extra help but it could possibly work the opposite for me. I have yet to try these out but I am planning on doing so to see if I am treated any different and I’ll write something up about my experience. I don’t like strangers talking to me but the lanyard identifies you as possibly needing extra help, does this mean every staff member is going to end up coming over to try and help? Because that sounds like a nightmare shopping experience to me.

As a completely random sounding Christmas present I have asked my mum to get me an Autism identifier lanyard in the hope that it means I can use it as a way to communicate that I don’t require anyone and will ask if I do. Again, I’ll try this out as an experiment and see if I notice any changes.

If anyone is enjoying reading my rants about my life a follow or a share would be a boost to my day.

Thanks for reading.

For now I’ll continue to restrain myself from fussing every dog that walks past me.


Author: AdultsWithAustism

I decided I wanted to do something positive with my life and speak out about what it feels like to be an adult with autism.

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