Daily Archives: March 31, 2006

The vulnerabilities of being non-autistic


I’ve heard a lot of talk about how bad autism is, because of the trouble autistic people get into. We are either harmful to other people, or, through ignorance of danger or lack of social awareness, vulnerable, and this somehow makes autism a bad thing.

If this is true, if we follow that reasoning above, then being non-autistic is a very bad thing indeed.

How many people have been taken advantage of because they were too polite, too invested in social rules, to get out of a situation, or even to see it for what it was? Where many autistic people would have walked away?

How many car accidents have happened because the driver, having a brain that only sees what it expects to see, did not see a problem until it was too late to react to it? Where many autistic drivers would have seen it right away, and used that split-second advantage to react to the situation before it was too late?

How many children have been kidnapped because they were willing to get in a car with a stranger who touched them? Where many autistic people would have been so frightened at the touch that we would have fled?

How many predators have used their knowledge of typical human behavior to smoothly carry out a sexual assault on a non-autistic person? Where the unusual responses of many autistic people would cause them to back off in confusion?

How many non-autistic people have died because they failed to stand up for themselves in a life-threatening situation because of social concerns that autistic people would be unlikely to have?

I am not saying this to minimize anything that has happened to autistic people, or to claim that the above things don’t happen to autistic people. But I look around me, and all the time I see people hurt because of byproducts of being wired standardly, things that might not have happened were they autistic. I see them being hurt emotionally, I see them being hurt physically. Some of them die because of it. Yet I have not once heard someone say, “But doesn’t this mean… wouldn’t it be better if they were cured?” I only hear that when these things happen to autistic people.

Non-autistic people are at serious risk every day because of their ‘deficits’. I’m completely serious when I say that I sometimes wonder how they manage (well… often they don’t, but I really can see a lot of how they do it if I think about it). There’s a lot about the world they don’t perceive, there’s a lot of habits they fall into that are alien to most autistics and utterly dangerous, there’s a lot they don’t understand how to react to. Just as autistics have our own areas we’re not great at, non-autistic people have gaping holes in their ability to relate to the world in a ‘safe’ manner, holes they are ordinarily unaware of and at times have had to discover through science before they noticed them themselves.

It’s my understanding that most non-autistic people are horrified at the very thought of becoming autistic, even if it would solve some of their problem areas and vulnerabilities. Even if in many instances, a dead non-autistic person would still be alive if they were autistic (an idea that a lot of non-autistic people would meet with offense or incredulity, now think of how it sounds to a lot of autistic people when you say the opposite). So, to people who have brought forth these examples of the vulnerability of autistics in order to promote cure, if you don’t want to become more autistic to deal with your vulnerabilities (which, even if you have illusions of their non-existence, are many), why do you think autistics would necessarily want to become less autistic to deal with ours?