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A neurodivergent look

Autistic? It doesn't sound like anything! This and similar phrases are heard relatively often. Whether in autism specifically, or mental health generally. It seems that people feel that there must be some more obvious sign that distinguishes people. As if it were a distinguishing mark. But why is that? Could it be that people are afraid of being wrong about their assigned diagnosis? That is, do people fear thinking that someone is autistic when in fact they are not? Or the opposite! That is what worries them and that is why they would like there to be a more evident sign to distinguish them! Or would they then walk away more quickly and easily without the inconvenience of first contact? Perhaps it is important that people who feel the need for a more obvious sign/brand can reflect on why they need it.

But gaze does not stop at this issue of the distinctive sign/brand as previously mentioned. The look can also be applied to the vision a person has of himself, of the Other and of the World, in other words, his worldview. And here, without any doubt, the autistic person has a unique look! Not that any of us does not have it. Everyone will have it in the measure of his singularity. But there is a higher probability that this singularity may be more present in the autistic person.

But, after all, what will be this autistic person's look? What will be their cosmovision? I don't know! This will be my first answer. And I don't know because I am not an autistic person. And so, it is important that this same question can be put precisely to her. Ask her and listen to her. Not in the sense of finding out what her characteristics or idiosyncrasies are. Just listen to her!

But as a person who works with autistic people, I think I can make a contribution in this sense. And that is exactly it, a contribution!

Before thinking about autistic people, I want to make this reflection in relation to any of us. Have you ever felt like being alone? Without anyone bothering you? If the answer to these three questions is yes, or at least close to it, then why be surprised when that same feeling comes from an autistic person? Why is it autistic? The answer seems to me to be intellectually underdeveloped for any of us. As far as the desire to be alone is concerned, I am sure that each of us will know a fairly wide range of different ways of manifesting it. Whether it's wanting to be alone because you have a migraine or you have a hangover. Or simply being tired or listening to people talk for too long, as is the case in certain professions. But there are also those who like to think about their life without being distracted. Or those who, for professional reasons, seek isolation to increase the quantity and quality of their work. And this desire does not change over time. In children we even verify the difficulty in staying isolated. But when we reach adolescence we witness precisely the opposite movement. And it's not by chance that it's called the age of the wardrobe. And we continue to be and to want to be different throughout our lives. But don't get the idea that this desire to be alone doesn't necessarily mean that it is always and constantly. Often the autistic person says it is only for a certain period of time. And even though it may be in a different way, it doesn't necessarily have to be anything other than that, different. And it's likely that that different way can make a lot of people confused. Maybe because they think they wouldn't do it that way. Or because they think they don't like it when they do it that way to you. And because they think that way people risk losing friends or friendships.

And this question makes me think of another question that has to do precisely with friends and friendships. And everybody already knows that there are many people who still think that autistic people do not have or wish to have friends. But there are also more and more people who know that this kind of thinking is wrong. But probably the best thing to do is to think about the quality of the relationships people establish, what they seek or expect from them. Does anyone know? Probably very few of us know or understand the nature of a friendship relationship in an autistic person. And when they tell us that they don't need to be with that other person all the time, but that they still feel friended and reciprocated in the relationship they have. Many of us, not being autistic, become suspicious of the truth of these statements. And we start producing ideas that the autistic person does not know what a friendship or a friend is. Why is that? A good part of the time because they are not the same as you and in your way of thinking and feeling! And all this also seems to me to be important to think about, also because many of us psychologists continue to build social skills programmes based on our paradigm. The point is that our idea of social skills and more precisely of these values of friendship among others is different. And this is not to say that autistic people cannot benefit from gains in social skills when they attend these groups, because they do. However, it is important to meet their way of feeling and thinking. Not only in the sense of validating our empathy, but also to get closer to their being.

Our view of things, ourselves, the Other and the World, is always being built. And on the basis of what are the first inputs of information through the sensory organs. And, although not all autistic people present hyper or hyposensitivities, the truth is that the way they process things has a unique form. And this same way is also the one that builds their way of looking at themselves and the rest around them. And this sensorial experience and the importance it has for the construction of his identity, of his notion of body scheme, among others, is fundamental. It is this same body that navigates throughout its life in the surrounding environment. And not only in the aspects more related to motor skills and locomotion, but it is also important to think about the way our posture influences interaction, communication and other aspects in autistic people.

I confess that sometimes I feel we are not talking about people when we talk about autism! It's a difficult sentence to read, right? It is not less easy to say it. And why is that?! Precisely because when I hear about autism and autistic people, they seem subdivided into characteristics, traits or behaviours that are or are not present. And the people, where are they, I wonder? I read a lot about autism, whether scientific articles or technical manuals, but also other more fictionalized or literary perspectives. And still I often find too many clichés about autism. Whether these are said and written by non-autistic people, more often, but also by autistic people. And in the case of the latter, maybe this has to do with their need to approach a certain narrative felt as dominant. Just as it happens in relation to social camouflage behaviour.

When you want to know what an autistic person looks like, try not to look at him/her from the front, but from the same direction!

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