Passing For Neurotypical

ugly_duckling1Officially, we don’t exist.

The hordes of psychological “experts” who regularly comment on the supposed near-impossibility of productive, independent lives and successful marriages among autistics, and in so doing blithely consign thousands of children to society’s trash heap with every keystroke, haven’t yet noticed that we’re here.

That’s because, after more than a half-century in hiding, we’re pretty good at staying out of the experts’ way.   We raise our children in quiet, secluded environments where their differences can often go unnoticed, just as our parents did when they were raising and protecting us.   We enroll our children in small private schools or educate them at home.   When they need counseling or speech therapy, we pay in cash, to ensure that no record of any neurological differences gets into the health insurance database.   And we never mention the word “autism” in front of our children.

We are likely to choose careers in which we can work with computers or in laboratories, thus minimizing our social interaction and the ever-present risk of employment discrimination.   We are not protected under the equal employment opportunity laws, and finding new jobs can often be difficult, no matter how excellent our references, just because interviewers think that we look or sound “weird.”   Some of us have found it easier to work as independent contractors or to start small businesses.

How many of us are there?   Thousands?   Millions?   No one knows.

We seek out others like ourselves, tentatively, in the safe anonymity of Internet bulletin boards, taking the first small steps toward the creation of a fledgling autistic culture and community.   A new word emerges from the discourse: “neurodiversity.”   We dare to dream that, some day, we will be able to come out of our dusty closets and be accepted as intelligent, healthy people within the normal range of human variation.

But until then… we, and our children, remain in hiding.

Passing for Neurotypical first appeared approximately five years ago, at Underground Aspergian.

on 04/23/10 in featured, Society | 3 Comments | Read More

Comments (3)


  1. Lili Marlene says:

    This is just as applicable now as it was when it was first published, which in some ways is a bad thing.

    Thank you for sharing this with us again. I think it is the best description of the situation of people like me that I’ve ever read, even though with our kids we didn’t seek out private schools or homeschooling for them. But that’s not to say we had an easy time. In a public primary school in a working-class area of Australia, there are so many other kids who have serious behavioural and disciplinary problems that I think the teachers thought nothing of our kid’s eccentricities and special educational needs, which in some ways was a bad thing.

  2. Mark Stairwalt says:

    Glad you liked it; I considered it a find as well. If the link hadn’t shown up in Shift’s referral log, I’d never have known it was there.

  3. qt says:

    I too thank you, we have to find a way to stick together and regain our credibility as people…much has been stolen and the time of restitution is far over due!

Leave a Reply