Accepting autism or Excepting autism?
The phrase that keeps looping in my mind today is “accepting autism, or excepting autism” and the impact of that tiny change in sound between the two words.
Accepting autism seems like understanding strengths and not-strengths, engaging in life in a meaningful and genuine way, having friends that accept you 100%. I also hear the word “autistic” more from this group – as in “I’m autistic.”
Excepting autism seems … well, uncomfortable. The phrases sound like:
- My son has autism, but he is super smart and funny
- My daughter says she has autism, but she had friends in elementary school, so I just don’t know
- In essence: I love my family member, except I don’t want them to be autistic, maybe because I’m scared, or because autism sometimes has a bad reputation. I want to use the phrase “has autism” because it adds some distance.
Maybe there is a path from struggling to integrate the notion of autism with the reality of a family member. Or a sense of loss/puzzlement/wishing they knew sooner…. Or the exhaustion that comes with reviewing a life, now with the lens of autism making a different sense of things.
My clients who accept autism have a sense of “Sweet! Now I know what this is, and I can fully allow my talents to shine.” My clients who except autism have a sense of defeat to them, and say things like, “Great. Autism. So, I’m stuck with this.”
I’ve been lucky in that the last many of my clients have been fully in the accepting category, expressing a sense of fatigue from masking, and also wanting to know if they can just be themselves with me. For me, these clients are invigorating, as they sort out where they are headed in life, sorting out romance, children, careers (ya know, adulting!).
I have a couple of excepting clients right now. They are lovely people, and also have a sense of fatigue to them, as they thrash about, trying to get the autism off, while ushering depression in. I wish these clients peace. Depression rarely makes things better; Accepting autism seems to be the path to health. I’ll continue to meet these clients right where they are, and try to help them reach the goals they have set for themselves. I don’t get to choose if they want to accept or except. I hope they don’t get injured as they thrash.