The Identity Theory of Autism: How Autistic Identity Is Experienced Differently

From my earliest memories, I recognized that I was different from most of the people around me, and that difference was sometimes hard to characterize. While all autistics are different, from each other and from the majority of people, most would relate to feeling so different that they wondered if they were even the same species.

There really aren’t many autistic people who would argue, “But I feel just like everyone else. I’m normal!”

In the years since my diagnosis, I have been investing all of my hyperfocus on autism. Having the answer to so many questions of “difference” or “other” about myself was so validating, but other questions lingered or are imperfectly answered.

Chiefly, what exactly does it mean to be autistic?

Sure, there are differences in sensory processing, there’s the DSM criteria with regards to repetitive movements and social deficits, and there are a host of traits that have been identified and documented by various scholars and content creators… but that’s still not enough to explain exactly why we are so similar to other autistic people and so different from non-autistics.

When I had the epiphany about Very Grand Emotions and how autistic people experience emotions differently, that helped to put some of that relational difference to words. For people who experienced Justice, Truth, Mercy, and Work as primary emotions. But, there was something that underscored Very Grand Emotions that I hadn’t fully grasped.

There was, too, something about the way autistic people experience empathy that was different.

And somehow, those differences were part of another truth I just couldn’t grasp.

Why do all the greatest epiphanies happen in the middle of an argument?

My first published article on PsychCentral was written just a couple months after I realized that I was autistic. I wrote about how everything I ever read about how “people” are didn’t describe me, leaving me to feel like I wasn’t “people.”

Then, in August of 2017, shortly after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, I found myself in a heated disagreement with someone of similar political views but who was definitely not autistic. I felt like they were parroting party politics without seeing how they were contributing to racism. They thought that I was “causing division” by not following party lines.

They kept telling me who I was, and they were wrong. In my frustration, I yelled, “Whatever you are, I am not that!

Then, it hit me.

Autism was a difference at the level of identity.

Identity as a Construct

One can get lost in anthropological and sociological theories about what exactly an identity is, or a person’s core self. Distilling all the existing theories, though, an identity can be summarized as how much one is similar to, or different from, others who occupy the same collective, or social identities.

Social identities

  • Gender
  • Socioeconomic class
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Neighborhood/region
  • Nationality
  • Religion
  • [Dis]ability
  • Career
  • Political orientation or party
  • Language[s] spoken
  • Parental status
  • Family size
  • Ethnicity
  • Education

In my research about identity, I realized exactly what it was that made me, personally, so different from most people. The more I explored this thought, the more it made sense. It explained just about everything at the source of all my conflicts and misunderstandings with others. It explained autistic empathy and Very Grand Emotions.

Autistic people’s identities were derived differently, not an amalgam of social intersections, but of the intersections of their values, interests, and experiences.

Before I go on, it is important to establish that:

  1. Everyone has values, interests, and experiences
  2. Everyone has social needs and degrees of relatedness to how similar and different they are from others occupying the same intersections
  3. Autism is still a neurological (“wiring”) difference that impacts multiple facets of existence that can be incredibly disabling, even physically. Identity is not the only difference between the autistic neurotype and other neurotypes.
  4. This is a theory that is not empirically proven. Further research and community feedback can improve upon, discredit, expand, or clarify this theory further.
  5. Some autistic people may not relate to this at all.
  6. This is being published as a theory and not as a fact. Autistic people are invited to share their thoughts and engage with this theory, even if to disprove it.

A Social Experiment

I’m known for my impulsive social experiments. I first started performing and re-visiting one specific experiment in 2017 to test this identity theory.

Since the initial “trial run,” I’ve made adjustments to the experiment and ran it in multiple places. I tried to think of groups where the population would not have many autistic people, and I joined as many as I could.

I used an alternate social media profile with a pen name and joined several groups or boards on different social media platforms. There were groups for getting rich, groups to show support for law enforcement officers, groups for fad diets, dance moms, and more.

I joined groups where there was likely a mix of autistic and non-autistic people, especially some for mental health and some for various professions that are likely to have a lot of autistic people. Then, I did the same experiment in autistic-only spaces.

Finally, I did the same experiment as myself using Survey Monkey to collect responses.

No matter what I did to change the experiment, the results were consistent.

I asked people one question: Who are you?

Almost unilaterally, non-autistic people began describing themselves in terms of their relationships to others– if they were a parent, a spouse, what their career was, where they lived, what their religion is, and what their roles were related to others (sister to a Senator, military brat, pastor’s wife, soccer mom, etc.).

And, almost unilaterally, autistic people described themselves as what they loved to do, what their values were, and what they had experienced. Many even said this, having intuited the basis of the theory. Among the answers were, “I am a verb,” or “I am what I love,” or “Who I am is what I do.” Autistics would answer, “Lover of Justice,” or “Dreamer,” or “One who values autonomy.” Some would describe themselves as a “lover of” or “obsessed with” an intense passion, like trains, lichen and fungi, or theoretical physics and black holes.

Of course, there were a few outliers from both neurotypes.

It’s also worth noting that many, many autistic people just answered, “I’m who I am,” “I’m me,” or “I don’t know who I am.”

I have theories about why many autistic people struggle to put words to who they are. Some of that could be that they do not experience identity the same way that the world describes identity, and so they struggle to understand themselves within the neurotypical context. Others may have been shamed and over-therapized and gaslighted to the extent that they have never had permission to explore their passions and truly meet their authentic selves.

How does having a socially-constructed identity impact relationships?

Having a social identity means to have an identity that is based on how much belonging– or, conversely, how much exclusion– one experiences among others of the same collective social identities. People with a socially-constructed identity seek belonging in their identity intersections, maybe focusing more on advancing and cultivating certain aspects of their identity that are most meaningful or prosperous for them.

For example, Rita non-autistic Latinx woman who is an EMT, heterosexual, middle class, a spouse, a mother, a musician, and a Christian may focus mostly on cultivating her identity as an EMT and a Christian. This may mean that she finds the most relatedness among other EMTs and first responders and among other people of the same faith.

For those social identities that are the most important to her individually, Rita may protect the health of those collective social identities passionately. Because her identity is invested in those social intersections, challenges or threats to the collective identities of first responder and Christian are challenges to her individual identity.

Further, Rita may place higher levels of respect, empathy, and loyalty to people in those collective social identities who are in leadership positions and positions of authority within collective social hierarchies, as supporting the hierarchy maintains the stability and honor of her collective identities.

How does having an experientially-constructed identity impact relationships?

We know that autistic people can be “hyper focused” with their interests and passions and can have extreme dedication to their values. But what we don’t know is why those traits are present in autistic people or the implications about how that relates to autistic identity.

An autistic person can have the same social intersections or collective identities as a non-autistic person. For example, Lis is an autistic Latinx woman who is an EMT, heterosexual, middle class, a spouse, a mother, a musician, and a Christian.

Lis, like Rita, also most identifies with being an EMT and Christian.

But, even though Lis, on paper, looks to be very similar to Rita, she is likely to live a very different life. As an autistic person, her dedication to her values and experiences influences her individual identity more than her station of belongingness within her collective social identity.

Imagine that both Rita and Lis work as EMTs in the same precinct. The local news reported the results of a citywide financial audit and proposed budget change that would dramatically reduce the budget for emergency services. The audit suggested that too much money had been spent on emergency services and not enough on community supports. The article highlighted the amount of time emergency personnel were on the clock but inactive, often working 48-hour shifts but only being on call for 2-4 of those hours.

The audit report suggested that similar cities had divested funding from emergency services to community support initiatives aimed at supporting teens and young adults to learn vocational trades, putting mobile health clinics in low-income neighborhoods, and increasing access to free mental health and crisis services. Having access to these supports reduced crime and preventable health emergencies.

Rita and Lis both became EMTs because they wanted to save lives. Both read the article and comments, but how they responded is quite different.

Rita (non-autistic) feels attacked and undervalued. She has watched her co-workers rush into dangerous and unstable situations and risked their lives to save others, and she has done the same. Allegations of laziness, wastefulness, and poor service flood the comments. People claim to have experienced racism, gaslighting, and medical mistreatment from emergency services, several noting that their calls for help during a mental health crisis resulted in arrests, involuntary hospitalization, and thousands of dollars in bills.

Rita feels personally attacked. Attacking her collective identity is to attack her core self. She organizes a fundraiser and appreciation dinner for first responders through her church. She wants to improve the morale of her most meaningful collective identity.

Lis (autistic) is more dedicated to her values than her collective identity. She researches the impact of improving community services and realizes that community lives are saved by having more access to support services. She reads the comment section and recognizes ways that her department can improve services to avoid causing undue and lasting hardship to those who are vulnerable.

Lis organizes a fundraiser and arranges for a food pantry for those struggling with finances during the pandemic. She wants to improve the morale of her broader community.

During the next department meeting, both Lis and Rita have ideas about responding to the audit. Rita suggests a public relations campaign that demonstrates the work that first responders do and highlights stories of lives saved by the heroism of first responders as the city council plans to meet about the budget.

Lis suggests that during downtime, employees can engage in online training courses in crisis intervention and that they work with other first responders to find ways to support healthy community engagement.

Rita is praised by her colleagues and superiors and is seen as a team player. Lis is seen as a divisive traitor who agrees with the antagonists. Co-workers accuse Lis of not caring about her job, of supporting defunding of first responders, and of not believing in the value of first responders.

The Consequences and Implications

While research into autism and identity construction does not currently exist, to my knowledge, research does exist that substantiates this theory.

One research study from 2020 looked at autistic people and non-autistic people making decisions about how to spend money donating to a cause. In private, non-autistic people chose the option that benefited them more financially; however, when the decision was public, non-autistic people chose the option that most benefitted their reputation. Autistic people chose the option that contributed to the Greater Good both in public and in private.

Ironically, the research study unintentionally validates the Identity Theory of Autism. The researchers, who were non-autistic, concluded that Autistic people over-value their individual impact on the world, painting this behavior as a deficit and not as an asset to humanity. The researchers maintained and solidified their authority (oppression) over autistic people by continuing to paint autistic existence as broken and a pathology, reinforcing their power differential and ensuring that funding that maintains autism as an “epidemic” continues to be diverted to researchers.

Autistic people will find the above example of the autistic EMT highly relatable. As adults, most of them have been accused of “hating” collective identities to which they belong. Their presence and their dedication to their values threatens the group stability of their social collective identities.

Challenges from someone perceived as being on a lower “rank” in a collective social identity will be seen as rude and disrespectful by non-autistics. Their individual identity is contingent on the power of their “team” identity. Conversely, an autistic person is likely not aware that most people perceive themselves as important parts of “teams.”

Many autistics who loved their identity communities– professional, religious, racial, LGBTQ+, etc.–were shunned from them for not being a “team player” or for “causing division.” Autistic people don’t see relatedness or find their identity as a player in a team sport.

Being primarily a person whose identity is more value-centered and experientially-driven frees an autistic person up to make decisions based on research, prior experience, and the net value of contribution to the Greater Good.

The Identity Theory of Autism explains why autistic people empathize by relating their closest lived experience or by challenging someone to reframe their perception because the autistic person assumes others also want to conceive of themselves and their relationships as being established on common values rather than on common social identities.

Autistic people may air their grievances with problems within an identity to which they belong, setting the stage for the other person to confirm if they share the same values. For example, a Christian autistic may express their discontent at the church’s focus on prosperity and financial “blessings” as being a reflection of greed or of contributing to morality being associated with financial privilege.

Non-autistic people are likely to communicate by indicating invisible identities to which they belong, setting the stage for the other person to confirm whether or not they belong to that collective identity. For example, a non-autistic Christian may insert clues into their communication that indicates their social identity. They may use the word “blessed” or mention prayer to indicate they are Christian, too.

Autistics are perpetual whistle-blowers.

Autistic people– even those who don’t realize they are autistic– are often discouraged by people within their shared social identities because the autistic people feel others are hypocrites. Autistics see people upholding the reputation of their collective identity over the values the identity purports to espouse and feel that the others are being inauthentic. Autistic Leftists are often discouraged by people who identify as progressive but refuse to acknowledge how their allegiance to partisan lines and left-leaning politicians harms the people they claim to represent.

Non-autistic family members of autistic people often feel the autistic person is embarrassing them or is in some way being a traitor or disloyal to the family when an autistic lives differently or challenges the values and attitudes of family members. Because autistic people do not see identity as a station on a collective identity’s hierarchy, they do not automatically assign value to mainstream authority and social rank– which is immediately regarded as disrespectful by those who benefit from those hierarchies being in place.

Autistic people often feel that whole society-wide groups are complicit in believing social lies. That is because whole collective identities do, in fact, assent to lies and neglect to address behaviors and attitudes that contribute to harm. Half of the United States can deny that police brutality disproportionately impacts Black people or that systemic racism exists because their social identity’s security is threatened by observable facts.

NeuroClastic once asked the Autistic community to finish the sentence, “Being Autistic is…” Many of the responses— and certainly responses people most agreed with— reinforced the premise behind the Identity Theory.

Image reads that being autistic is telling the emperor his ass is showing. Many autistic people feel they live inside a dystopian version of The Emporer’s New Clothes.
Image reads, “Being autistic is being hired for your values, integrity, and persistence… then being considered a troublemaker for persistently upholding said values with integrity.
Image reads, “Being autistic is being told to just be yourself… but as long as it doesn’t cause anyone discomfort.

Autistic people do not feel a team loyalty to their identity intersections because their values define them more than their social identities (“teams”). They may be passionate about their individual identities, like being Black, or Trans, or Deaf, but they would be much less likely to uphold their collective identity over their values. Those individual identity intersections are so important to autistics because they represent Authenticity. Autistic people believe in individual autonomy to make and define oneself, but not at the expense of the interconnectivity of all things.

They lean on and embrace their individual identities because they love justice, and they advocate for equity. They monitor and adjust their own behavior– publicly– and often ask others to hold them accountable. The Autistic community that interacts online are mostly people for whom being Autistic is a major part of their identity. Other Autistic people never interact with or care to learn about autism because it’s not a substantial part of their identity.

Without the innate pressure to establish one’s position in social pecking orders, Autistic people may go through a series of metamorphoses forever, folding in new experiences and passions into their core self. In essence, they continue to author themselves in perpetuity.

Those Autistics who are less invested in their identity as an Autistic person are likely to engage in communities built around their passions. They may invest their lives in these passions and find a way to use them for contributing to their values. For example, an autistic sports physicist may try to use sports to find an avenue to help the general population better understand and find science practical and relatable so that their information literacy improves– empowering them to make important decisions about things like climate change and vaccine efficacy.

Disclaimers and notes

I have talked about this theory with many Autistic advocates and Autistic researchers who have helped to clarify and hone the theory and provide additional context for how it explains so much about what it means to be autistic, the conflicts Autistic people have with broader society, and what it really means to be so different.

It’s important to note that autistic masking is likely to subconsciously influence the degree to which autistics are in touch with their identity and how well they know themselves. This theory may resonate more with people who have been working on unpacking and removing their social masks.

It is also important to note that while autistic people may be more individually defined by values, this does not mean they are inherently morally superior; in fact, an autistic person can have values that align with harmful ideologies like fascism, religious extremism, trans-exclusionary radical feminism, or white supremacy. Autistic people are often highly justice-oriented, but convoluted values, like for any person, can mean that their interpretation of what is just is actually harmful and toxic.

The Identity Theory is just a theory, not a model or scientifically-proven fact. Further exploration and validation– or invalidation– would help to better define what autistic identity means and how it is experienced by Autistics. Community commentary is welcomed.

Non-autistic people are likely to reject this theory as it disempowers their privilege as the superior “default” neurotype. Autistic people challenging the social hierarchies non-autistic people subconsciously maintain are likely to cause immediate rejection of anything that paints autistic existence as anything other than burdensome.

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80 Responses

  1. “Half of the United States can deny that police brutality disproportionately impacts Black people or that systemic racism exists because their social identity’s security is threatened by observable facts.”

    Your bias is showing Terra. Let’s simplify police brutality to people shot by cops. Using population statistics as the only metric is statistical manipulation for ideologically driven goals. Black Americans disproportionately commit crime at higher rates than Asians. Therefore more black Americans are shot at higher rates than Asian Americans.

    According to the Washington Post, last year 95% of people shot by police were men. Only 5% were women. By your logic this mean we have systemic sexism in the police force. If you deny this factual statistic as being systemic sexism, you are doing this because to protect your identity as a female.

    GG. Get good. If you’re going to sprinkle these statements that fall apart under the lightest amount of critical thinking, you’ll have to do better next time.

    1. Police brutality cannot be simplified to getting shot by cops. And yes, we do have systemic sexism in the police force because it is systemic and thus in every aspect of social systems like law enforcement, education, health care, entertainment, etc., etc.

    2. She used that as an example and is not the main topic of discussion – why would she go into detail about that specific topic when it would take focus away from the topic being spoken about. You’re also a hypocrite. You framed what Terra said as using population statistics in a manipulative way to support/validate her ideals (when she didn’t, it was an example and not even close to the point being made) then you used that very tactic like it was some sort of clever “checkmate”. There IS systematic sexism in not just the police force but legal systems worldwide…. sexism doesn’t quite encapsulate it as the disparity is largely due to paternalistic bias from male judges/policeman. Based on a study from the University of Michigan men receive 63% longer sentences on average than women do for the same crime and women are twice as likely to avoid incarceration if convicted… these stats are lower in districts that have more female judges. If we’re talking about shootings specifically, it can again be directed toward a paternal bias & that the majority of both men and women (subconsciously or consciously) are less physically threatened by women.

      It really doesn’t seem like you read the full article, if you did you might be aware that you’re comment only serves to prove this theory.

      To quote a random moron from the internet:
      “GG. Get good. If you’re going to sprinkle these statements that fall apart under the lightest amount of critical thinking, you’ll have to do better next time.
      ~ Ginita, Delusionist

      1. Thank you for adding some reality to this thread, Braydon. This is what happens when entire groups of people deny factual history and the existence of widespread systemic oppression, which has been proven over and over and over and over and over again throughout history. But these people are taught to believe otherwise because the powers that be in this country either deny the factual existence of systemic oppression throughout history OR they ignore it into oblivion and only acknowledge it in manipulative, half-story, decontextualized ways – which serves the exact purpose of keeping people like Ginita ignorant to the reality of this world. For Ginita’s reference in learning these concepts, some of the major intersections of oppression include: RACE (anti-Blackness, white supremacy etc.), GENDER (binary sexism; transphobia; gender policing – gender is entirely socially constructed. fact.; etc), sexual orientation (heteronormativity, homophobia, etc.), religion (Christian supremacy, persecution of Muslims, anti-Semitism, etc.), ability (ableism, exclusion of disabled people, etc.), class (classism, gatekeeping of wealth, etc.). These are facts of our societies. The ONLY real argument on these topics is whether you believe these to be PROBLEMS that we will ADDRESS, or whether you believe they are not worth addressing. ANY kind of denial of the factual, confirmed existence of these systems is indisputably incorrect, denialism, and purely informed by propaganda. You must look for REAL, and tangible conflicts of interest in the people, systems, and organizations which spout the rhetoric that you are consuming. You will find REAL and TANGIBLE connections between those people/systems and the enactors of oppression from the branches which I listed above. What is not a tangible connection however, is claiming these points we have provided you with are made up of bias. That is an assertion completely NOT based in reality. We are leftists (or otherwise dissenting to these systems) because we have bore witness to them honestly and without denial in response to discomfort. So many people will assert that this is unreliable information because leftists just want to affirm their beliefs. People again, only believe this, because the truths of our histories are kept hushed, they are manipulated and they are straight up lied about. But this assertion of bias is complete paradox. We are leftist because of our beliefs. We hold our beliefs because of the oppression we have bore witness to and learned about, and because we ourselves have worked through the DEEP propaganda which exists across the entire world. To call us biased for this process of getting to where we are now, is completely non-sensical. We have no agenda besides the embracing of the indisputable truth we continue to witness and a solution for the way forward which is relevant to the size of the issues. But, of course these things will not just happen because “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” (Frederick Douglass). ANDDDD that is why we never shut up about oppression. Because when MOST people deny it, and only a small (but growing) number of people understand it as just the uncomfortable truth (instead of falsely being led to believe that these issues are not understandable or even non-existent by propaganda), you can’t do anything but yell.

    3. Let me point out all of the logical fallacies to your comment. ONE: Police brutality is far more complicated than people being shot by cops. People are choked by cops, they are sat on by cops until they die, they are smothered, they are run over at 60 + miles an hour in 25 mile an hour zones, with no lights on, after dusk. Police brutality is systemic racism within police across the United States and elsewhere. This exists in part because police in this country evolved from Slave Patrols. When institutions like that arise, they do not evolve and forget about their origins. Those origins are infused into the core of police everywhere in this country. You merely need to open your eyes and accept the truth. (And understand what propaganda actually looks like, so you can properly identify it as the very rhetoric you subscribe to)
      TWO: Your very next point is also shallow and lacking logical depth. You say Black Americans commit crimes disproportionately…. hmm, Well, in fact, we have learned that crime rates are often driven by factors like high poverty, systemic oppression, continuous and objective disinvestment from said “high crime” communities, etc. If you go further with this rhetoric, your innate racism will be out in the open for all to see. I assume you will deny the white supremacist, oppressive roots of high crime rates in Black communities. So your explanation is that Black people just DO commit more crimes innately. And that would be racism. Which is the real bias here.
      THREE: As Braydon has said, it is a fact that paternalism in the criminal justice system drives harsher treatment of men than women. The criminal justice system is majority men and it has also been indicated in more than one instance of research that this is a predominantly male bias by officials of the system, however I have no doubt that women are as capable of upholding said bias. You say that your conclusion of “there must be systemic reverse sexism in the criminal justice system then.” is by OUR logic. In all actuality, with all things considered, this would be hallmark of what you have thus far shown YOUR logic to be. Ignorant of indisputable fact and actual history because of ACTUAL propaganda, denial of existing power structures which we have unlimited proof of, convolution of facts and statistics (leaving out the proven FACT that male bias and male paternalism towards women drives higher rates of punishment and higher prediction of immediate danger for men). So, you used the fact that men are killed more often, WITHOUT the validated context as to why, .. in order to make your dissenting viewpoint look substantial on the surface. And this is quite literally the textbook definition of statistical manipulation, which you hilariously accused the author of. Meanwhile, the author was providing confirmed and REAL stats on REAL occurrences in the world as a SMALL and SHORT example which reflects THEIR viewpoints in THEIR presentation of theory. If you don’t like it, you can move along but your assertions and baseless accusations are not holding up, period. Statistical manipulation is NOT mentioning a well-validated fact as an example and using said fact to drawn connections in YOUR OWN manifesto-esque writing about a theory. Mentions of these facts as valid examples has a lot of pushback (what you are doing) BECAUSE of identity politic-driven hierarchies which exist, while you refuse to name them (but that doesn’t change that they’re there and we have proof.. soo that’s awkward ig.) This argument is identity-driven, proven by the fact that you referenced another socio-political identity in your attempt to prove the author wrong. lol) Your rhetoric and intrusion into a community that you clearly don’t agree with is the entire problem in this interaction, NOTTT the author. Because you got triggered… And inadvertently proved the entire theories point.. In the future?? when you disagree and feel that hot and bothered feeling, just ignore the content. It’s what people do. Instead, you tried to make up a valid dissenting opinion using ACTUAL statistical manipulation (which you pulled out of your ass to try to accuse the author lolll) and it majorly backfired because when picked apart, your stances are baseless while the author’s and your repliers’ have real life evidence on their side, despite your chronic denial.

    4. So let me understand, you read this beautiful essay and decided to be offended and focus your attention on a small part you didn’t like while offending? Also GG doesn’t mean get good, it means good game, I guess bending facts without searching is who you are.

  2. “Who am I?”
    That’s question has to complicated an answer to encapsulate using words. The best I can do is give you a word to make reference to me:

  3. Thank you for the great insight here. I knew about the emperor’s new clothes long before I knew I was autistic. I just couldn’t figure out why everyone else chose not to know.

    The more I delve into what it means to be autistic, the more I see it as a better model for early periods in human evolution. I’ve had a deep interest in early human experience for over 50 years. It fits.

    Autistic emotional and identity models as you have theorized them work better at the small group level. Polite society, (NT) becomes the better model once group sizes, and interactions of larger groups to each other, make blunt truth untenable. The old genes remain because they can’t really do it all without us.

    1. Have you thought that maybe it’s the other way round? Maintaining group cohesion through white lies and other social constructs is more important in small group survival settings where the disbanding of the group could cause death.

      In larger societies not valuing the truth but rather valuing social cohesion leads to the mess we have now: a society where groups go spreading misinformation and harmful rhetoric while getting praised instead of ridiculed. It’s a society where oil companies suppress information and action about climate change.

      1. Hey Harry,
        I think we’re talking about a different scale. By small group I mean less than 25-50 people, which is how our ancestors lived for millions of years. Larger groups began collecting less than 100,000 years ago and didn’t really pick up steam until 30,000yo. Even those groups were less than 100, but were more connected with other groups. It’s only been in the last 10-15,000 years that people began living in “large” groups. Modern times are an extreme that many people are just not adapted to whether it’s autism, bipolar, adhd, etc. When you add up the “disorders” it’s more than 50% of the population. Is it the people that are disordered? Or is it the condition that we live in?

      2. That’s an interesting theory, and I’ve been wondering about it for a while myself.
        Since being autistic (in my experience) grants me the unique position to be as an outsider looking in at humanity, I’ve always noticed that all groups tend to sacrifice blunt truthfulness and avoid looking inwards and thinking critically for the sake of group cohesion, much to their detriment.
        My own little theory is that more and more people are being born with autism these days as a reaction to our changing societal structure. Now that we live among such large numbers of people, conforming to the narrow ideas of group(s) isn’t so helpful for survival.

  4. That is a great model of autism identity. I’ve been recently discovering myself as autistic, and I can relate too much with the “being a rule breaker for caring about the values of the group too much”.

    Anyway, here is my criticism:
    You might be leaning into the “autism is what I agree with, non-autism is what I disagree with” too much, especially in your examples. If you go into the camp of racist Americans, you will certainly find many people who you’ll judge as fitting the label. Think the fourchan types. While justice might be a shared value, people interpret it in different ways, and I see no evidence autistic people interpret it correctly more than others. I suppose the word here would be that they’re more consistent, depending on if it’s important to them.

    The issue of morality is certainly difficult to think about. While it’s true the groups, like churches or political groups, for example, follow a set of rules that differ from the values they declare verbally, it’s clear to me that those groups, as they are, generate value to the non-autistics and sometimes to society. So maybe these groups are not even supposed to be only about literally following the values they literally declare, but about a different “implicit” set of values, linked to sociability, to which we can’t relate. This leads to us consistently feeling like we’re gaslighted by those groups saying one beautiful thing in a moment and behaving like a tribe in the next.

    I’m not confident those groups should be more the way I want them to, because they definitely generate value in a way. Sometimes it’s better to have a “hypocritical” organization than no organization (think gov services, ngos). But they definitely should be less excluding, or at least less violent about it. And while I’m definitely learning to be more flexible and playing this insane “hidden” game they want you to play, I’m definitely no ready to give up my pure “theoretical” values.

  5. Please quit Neuroclastic now. You have done nothing to help your fellow autistic people. All you do is bully and harass people who disagree with your far-left militant atheist agenda. If you want to unite all neurodiverse people from a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs, either leave or stop with the political propaganda and anti-religion rhetoric. Your sick intolerant hatred is ruining your website. Even your fellow autistic people can’t stand you. If you hate religion so much due to “trauma”, go seek treatment for your mental illness. Atheism is a mental illness like gender confusion. How dare you equate neurodiversity with SJW perversion. You are an insult and an embarrassment to autistic people everywhere.

    1. Both examples they use in this post are religious people, so they clearly don’t hate them. You are projecting you’re hatred of atheists onto this person by claiming they hate religious people. I can tell you hate atheists when you say atheism is a mental illness.

      Don’t even get me started about your opinions on gender identity and trans people.

      Honestly your behavior here is disgraceful.

      1. They did go a bit far on the atheist bit, but gender identity and “trans” labels are completely illogical.
        Gender identity theory just sums up to, “a person’s gender identity is basically their personality, so there are literally infinite numbers of genders.”
        And all “transgenderism” does is perpetuate the very biological sex-based stereotypes that neurodivergents are supposed to be against.
        Instead of in the old days, where a boy was laughed at and bullied for showing any feminine characteristics or playing with girl toys… now, any boy who does those things is told “you like girly things?! omg, you MUST have been born in the wrong body!!! you can’t be a boy if you like hanging out with girls!! come over here and lemme chop off your !@#$.”
        Now, how about we literally just get rid of ALL expectations surrounding how a person should act based on their biology?
        To me, that is the obvious solution, and I fail to see how other neurodivergents fall for this trans ideology nonsense that perpetuate stereotypes instead.

        1. ““you like girly things?! omg, you MUST have been born in the wrong body!!! you can’t be a boy if you like hanging out with girls!! come over here and lemme chop off your !@#$.””

          Out of curiostiry, did anybody ACTUALLY tell you that? Or tell that to somebody you know?

          Because I was a tomboy and at no point in my life did anybody ever suggest to me that “I must’ve been born in the wrong body”.

    2. Yeah, I’ve gotta add in my agreement here, even if I’d word my complaints a little differently.
      I found the article somewhat helpful in confirming things I’ve noticed myself, but I definitely cringed every time a leftist talking point was unnecessarily thrown in. I find autistic people who have such absolute political leanings to be strange, but I guess even we neurotypicals sometimes fall victim to the folly of groupthink.

    3. Evidence-based thinking is why people don’t agree with Christianity. But people like you are why they hate it.

  6. Please quit Neuroclastic now. You have done nothing to help your fellow autistic people. All you do is bully and harass people who disagree with your far-left militant atheist agenda. If you want to unite all neurodiverse people from a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs, either leave or stop with the political propaganda and anti-religion rhetoric. Your sick intolerant hatred is ruining your website. Even your fellow autistic people can’t stand you. If you hate religion so much due to “trauma”, go seek treatment for your mental illness. Atheism is a mental illness like gender confusion. How dare you equate neurodiversity with SJW perversion. You are an embarrassment to autistic people everywhere.

    1. You’re the one who’s doing the bullying and harassing from where I’m sitting. You want a world where a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs can coexist? Neat. Try practicing what you preach instead of biting a stranger’s head off for expressing beliefs that conflict with yours.

    2. Just the other day a question was raised offline about whether there is sample material online, and how much of it, which could illustrate why a certain percentage of the non-Left, Pro-religion, populace is seen to be innately hateful, unloving, and just plain mean; funny the coincidences life sometimes produces.
      Since theism has been brought up via atheism, I’ll just lay this here, “35 And one of them, a lawyer, questioned Him, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (is quite fascinating to see what proportion of the population give evidence of how energetically they totally revile themselves)

    3. Oh please. There are many atheist autistics who have been run out of the group think of hierarchical churches. We didn’t even leave willingly some times.

    4. Colleen is right. This is a very high-emotion and judgement-based reply, claiming this author, who provided facts and their OPINION is the one doing something wrong. You claim that you want a range of backgrounds and beliefs to exist… but you cannot handle someone expressing theirs in “your” space? In the world, when you disagree with a viewpoint, you can either seek to understand where they come from or you can ignore them. But you cannot condemn them for their beliefs and claim that they need to leave because YOU do not agree. MANY MANY MANY of us agree with them and your reply is very bad behavior. Being autistic does not excuse this kind of bad behavior. it is unacceptable and YOU may need to leave this space because it is, as you have yourself indicated, a place where a range of beliefs and viewpoints WILL exist. intolerance to that means YOU need to go elsewhere. YOU believe atheism is a mental illness and THAT is bias. Atheism is a morally nuetral viewpoint which belongs in every space that religion does. THAT is equal. the rhetoric you have consumed is poison.

    5. Nick Johnson, who hurt you???

      1- You have no authority to ask someone to leave. I wish there was a moderator here to ask YOU to leave.
      2- Your opinion is not a fact. “You have done nothing to help your fellow autistic people.” This article has helped ME and others who have commented here, so you are factually wrong.
      3- “your far-left militant atheist agenda” Politics and religion have nothing to do with this article. You may want to use your ready-made language elsewhere.
      4- “Your sick intolerant hatred is ruining your website” There is zero hatred in this article. I would urge you to look in the mirror for that. What violence in your language!
      5- “Even your fellow autistic people can’t stand you” Again your opinion is not a fact: you may not stand the writer but you cannot speak for everyone else.
      6- “f you hate religion so much” Where is the source of the hate of religion in this article? I do not see it BECAUSE THERE ISN’T. (I question your reading abilities!)
      7- Atheism is not a mental illness, nor is gender DIVERSITY. Cite your scientific sources… I won’t hold my breath BECAUSE THERE AREN’T ANY.
      8- Nick Johnson, your post basically insults many people in the name of autistic people and that is unacceptable.
      9- And you even made us read your nasty post twice. thanks.

  7. Instead of attempting to put autistic people into preset societal or medical categories, the Identity Theory of Autism emphasizes the necessity of knowing and accepting autistic people on their own terms ovo game. It encourages the development of a more diverse and accepting society that values and celebrates neurodiversity.

  8. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here. It never really clicked with me why neurotypical people put so much stock into things like social groups and networking, but if in-group belonging is what they use to define themselves, then it makes a lot more sense. There’s a lot more at stake for them when disagreements arise – you’re not just risking your relationships, you’re risking part of your self-concept too. No wonder they’re so susceptible to trends and peer pressure and group-think. Enlightening stuff.

  9. This is definitely part of the dynamic with my work and my former church. At work, I was praised for my skill and attention to detail when working as a long term temp. But I usually couldn’t make the jump to permanent in-house employee. As a temp or contractor, my work was the most important metric, but being added to the company was more about membership in a group, and I didn’t resemble the group enough.

    I would now tell my younger self to make sure I was being paid enough to cover my own insurance and retirement, and gaps in employment, as much as possible, and to live mobile and frugally. That would have meant choosing a different line of work. NTs can count on their memberships for support and financial stability, but for me at work, that was a carrot that usually dangled out of reach.

    I did get crucial support from my chosen social community. But it wasn’t really enough. If I had known job instability was inevitable in the kind of work I had, I would have been more likely to rely on my interests and chosen people, and to find a way to make those into a career.

  10. This is so interesting.

    It also reminds me of the differences between introverts and extraverts, according to one definition from the late Australian psychologist, Dorothy Rowe.

    In her 1988 book, The Successful Self, she said that:

    * if we’re an extravert, we ‘experience our existence as being a member of a group, as the relationship, the connection, between our self and others’.

    * if we’re an introvert, we ‘experience our existence as the progressive, development of our individuality in terms of clarity, achievement and authenticity.’

    She said everyone was born either an introvert or extravert. And she used a questioning process called ‘laddering’ to help identify which people were.

    I’m just flicking through her book now, and actually, some of her descriptions of introvert traits do sound rather like autistic ones (including masking).

    Rowe’s ideas seem to have been largely forgotten. These days, introversion and extraversion tend to be defined a bit differently. And of course, her ideas originate from before autism was widely diagnosed (in fact, the aforementioned book came out in the same year that the film Rain Man did, which gives you a clue to where autism awareness was at in general).

    I’m curious if there’s a way this all fits together or intersects … or something.

  11. Boy, does this ring a bell! I have always had difficulty with the idea of “loyalty” in a business context because what most seem to mean is loyalty to some individual person (the boss) rather than loyalty to the principles and values of the business and its mission. I have always considered myself “loyal,” but in reading this I can see why others, loyal to the boss, did not view me in that light. Very helpful piece.

  12. I have a couple friends who are Autistic. I like them just the way they are. I think people should accept others who are different and georgia be more open to them. We’re all different and human.

  13. Definitely can relate. Love the central quote: “Autistic people’s identities were derived differently, not an amalgam of social intersections, but of the intersections of their values, interests, and experiences.” And it makes me so happy to have words to put to that exact experience.
    Also loved, and laughed out loud, at the part about Autistics being perpetual whistleblowers… so true!
    The work examples given seem very accurate, and reminded me of my own experience: working at a small business in Richmond, VA in summer of 2020 (during the time there were street protests, and there had been recent occurrences of vandalism at various businesses/storefronts), the owner made a social media post saying “we” stand with the protestors, #BLM and all that. I was inspired and so met with her to find out what “we” were going to do, to help fight racial injustice in our community. I suggested starting in-house, as we were all white folks and could probably do some education to learn about our racial biases, etc. She shut me down real fast, told me that changes were happening on an “industry level” that she was very proud of (I learned later about partnering with a black-owned business in the same industry… never heard anything else about their anti-racist efforts). So I went to my co-workers and organized a little after-shift conversation. The look on her face when she saw us sitting at the picnic table outside discussing how we could be white allies! I was fired soon after, with no notice, no reason, and instructions to drop off my keys at a different location.

  14. I researched a lot on the identity theory of autism and found out more about how autistic individuals experience their own identity. The social expectations influence people with autism, and it got me thinking about the importance of accepting neurodiversity. We have to develop manners and ethical attitudes to people, regardless of their individual peculiarities. I read here how it can help during work process. I liked most was how they used personal stories, making the information easier. It made me more aware and empathetic.

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