Dear South Asian Autistics,
Hello! My name’s Iqra, and I’m a Muslim, Pakistani autistic woman with ADHD. You don’t know me personally, but I wanted to write this letter to you in the hopes that it can prove to be of help in terms of finding clarity and a basic understanding of your autistic identity as a South Asian person.
I was diagnosed at 17 years old and only afterwards realized how many perpetrations our culture still withholds against neurodivergent people. The lack of understanding amongst the South Asian community is telling from the reactions often recieved over things they are unsure of. The unfamiliarity results in ignorance, which is not your fault. It goes to show the depth of knowledge that needs to be brought to the surface and taught in our community in order to create a more accepting space of neurodivergent people.
As vibrant and colourful our culture is, it is still tied to untrue assumptions of us, which needs to be severed. While I cannot literally cut these ties from the culture and its traditions, I hope this letter helps you understand your value as a South Asian Autistic person. I hope you are able to start accepting, loving, and affirming yourself as an Autistic individual through this letter.
You are valid and you are no less of your cultural identity because of your neurodivergence. Nothing about your neurodivergent identity needs to be “prayed away.” That notion is completely wrong.
You are awesome how you are. Your needs are important, your triggers and sensory requirements are important. They do not make you “fussy” or “picky.”
You are an autistic human being, who may need more support than your neurotypical peers, but that is okay. There is no shame in this, contrary to what society likes us to believe about ourselves. Independence in excessive amounts is unhealthy. Your needs matter and you deserve the utmost respect.
You’re not misbehaving.
One of the biggest issues in our community is how often things are taken personally by others. I want you to know that you are not a bad person. Your neurodivergent traits do not equal to misbehaviour, nor do they make you ill-mannered or rude.
Too often are South Asian children told that any ounce of behaviour that does not equal to what is seen as “normal” is deliquency. This is not true.
You are not insolent because you would rather not sit in a room full of unfamiliar relatives and with sensory inputs that are out of your control, for instance. You are not misbehaving.
You deserve patience.
It is not an uncommon experience for South Asian people to be forced to adhere to the culture’s traditional standards of an ideal person. This can very much lead to years of masking, preventing yourself from stimming, and learning how to suppress your traits.
As autistic individuals, you deserve to be nurtured and validated, not shamed for traits that are a part of you. You deserve to be protected and accepted. You deserve every ounce of patience from elders. Respect works both ways, not in a hierarchy, and you are deserving of it just as much as anybody else. You are not selfish or disrespectful for asking for patience, you are deserving of.
I want you to know that you are just as much your cultural identity, just as much as you are your neurodivergent identity. You are a wonderful South Asian autistic person. You are valid, you are important, you matter, and the world is in need of you.
I appreciate you, and I hope you could find some solace within my letter. You are not alone. I hope you have a blessed day.