The world is full of a diverse collection of cultures. It’s one of the beautiful things about being human. Everywhere you go is steeped in the culture of a society that exists within that space. Cultures exist alongside each other and even trade traditions and knowledge with each other.
Much like world cultures, autistic culture also exists. Autistic culture is a rich tapestry, weaving together the diverse and varied lives of autistic people and their collective experiences.
Many people are confused by the notion of autistic culture. How can a disability give rise to a culture? This is where we need to reframe disability and autism away from the medical models of defining what it means to be us, as if we are only autistic because we fail to be non-autistic. It is an identity, a neurotype. While many claim, “If you have met one autistic person, you have met one autistic person,” there is so much shared experience between autistic people. This is what gives rise to autistic culture.
Isn’t that what makes life beautiful? Shared lives that teach us how to grow and live alongside one another?
Sadly, autistic culture is fundamentally misunderstood. Medical textbooks have told the masses what they think it means to be autistic— a person, sort of, but with deficits and in need of intensive intervention.
The voice of autistic experience is so often hushed into silence. We are not a silent culture, but we are ignored.
The world would benefit from understanding, learning about, and experiencing autistic culture. We as a culture and identity have been showing the world what makes being us a vibrant and beautiful existence.
It’s time for the people of the world to step into our world and experience this culture alongside us— not to appropriate autistic identity, but to break bread with us and learn about our experience and how we relate to each other, how we adapt to our environment, and how we use our identity to create camaraderie, art, language, sensory attunement, collaboration, social justice, parenting approaches, and relationships.
If we want people to understand the autistic experience, what better way than to share our culture the way that a tourist might experience French culture while in Paris?
It won’t be perfect. No brief visit can illustrate the beautiful complexity of the autistic world, but it’s a start. Perhaps, one day, scholars will study our culture— instead of our perceived deficits— the way they have studied the other cultures of the world.
And on that day, we will begin to be heard.
I invite every person to step into my mind, in its complexity, and to witness the world through my eyes.
This culture is ours to share and those who experience it adjacent to us will be better for having walked alongside us.
- Neuroqueering the future: an Interview with Dr. Nick Walker- author of Neuroqueer Heresies - January 26, 2022
- Autistic people and the fear of death - November 25, 2021
- Integrating autistic culture into the world: The cultural model of autism - June 1, 2021