Passing As Normal/Neurotypical…Is it worth it?

Hello all my wonderful readers and followers!

I am drinking a nice cup of coffee while I write some of my observations and thoughts about passing. I hope you enjoy the read!

Autism is an invisible disability. There is no universal visible clue. Though some use a mobility aid, assistive technology and other tools, many of us go through our days and our lives passing as non-disabled or neurologically different.

Do we really pass though?

Most autistic people can recognize our own kind very easily. It could be by the way they stim, lack of eye contact, body movements, their speech or whatever it may be. We all have our ways of finding those like us.

I know mine very well. My voice can be very monotone, too loud or non-existent, my atypical eye contact and I think my over all awkwardness especially in social situations. If you happen to miss all of that in my presence, well then it is only a matter of time before I have a social mishap.

However, regardless of these differences no matter how small or big, I manage to go through my life passing, or at least convinced I am hiding my true self.

The concept of passing comes from racial identities. Passing is often practiced in certain societies when being part of a certain racial group can lead to discrimination. In Nazi Germany, some people of Jewish ancestry would pass as Aryan or some people of African ancestry would pass as Arab or Native American in the USA to avoid discrimination or to save their own lives.

Autistics are often said to pass as ‘neurotypicals’ or ‘normal,’ especially those on the higher end of the spectrum. Many, if not most autistics make a conscience effort to pass. A few examples would include not stimming in public, giving the right answers on a job application, or going out with a group of friends instead of staying home and curling up on the couch with your favorite movie.

Is passing good or bad? I think that is a tough question and maybe depends on the individual.

If passing on a job interview is the only way to get hired, well being able to get a job is good and keeping a job is even better. Even though most jobs claim to not discriminate even if and when they do it is a long battle to prove (they can simply just interview another candidate for the job and not call you back. They can cut back your hours without firing you and other invisible ways) when in reality they cannot accommodate your differences or invisible disabilities. As a consequence, autistics often feel pressured to pass in job screenings and at their jobs.

With the stigma that still surrounds autism spectrum disorders (ASD), a lot of adults living with ASD try to pass in most areas of their lives. They may only disclose such information with close loves ones or people who know them best. Sometimes autistics will only disclose their differences on a need to know basis as well. Disclosure of such personal information or feelings can be very hard and have negative consequences. Passing has become sort of like a second nature for a lot of on the autism spectrum. I have grown up learning a lot of tricks to pass as ‘neurotypical’ and I often do it without thinking especially the more experienced I got from living in society.

Are our differences or invisible disabilities really hidden though? I assume it is a lot less hidden than we think.

I think autistics can successfully pass short term and in small increments, in fact a lot of us have mastered it. We can pass at an interview, a family gathering or other public events. Some of us can hold up this persona for weeks or even months on end.

However, we cannot pass in life long-term.

For every hour or so we pass at being ‘neurptypical’ we spend hours trying to recuperate. After a full week or almost full week’s work, we spend the whole weekend trying to recharge. We juggle classes like our other peers, but are ill from being so overwhelmed by midterms.

Instead of being labeled as autistic, I am often referred to as weird, goofy, rude, awkward, selfish or something else. If I was successfully passing would I be referred to as any of these terms?

Is it worse to be called autistic or any of the other labels mentioned? When I think about it that way passing seems less appealing. You honestly believe it is better for people to think I am rude or selfish than autistic? I don’t think so.

The older I get, the more I learn to accept myself, discover myself and my experiences the thought of passing seems more appalling than actually appealing to me. It increasingly becomes less useful as well.

The pressure to pass can be very overwhelming and difficult for those living with ASD. It robs us of our true selves and disguises us as something unflattering. It really leaves us stranded somewhere between a fictional of normal and who we really are as people.

I am off to listen to some music. If you have any thoughts on the topic or things you would like to add to the conversation feel free to share your input in the comment section.

Side Note: I also don’t think passing is helping the stigma attached to autism and does no favors especially for those who can successfully pass. In fact I think it can have many negative consequences and it will be us who ultimately pays for it. So maybe a bit more of such thoughts in another post. 😃

Advertisements

Author:

I am a 30-year-old female living life on the autism spectrum and still trying to find my place in the world. I have other associated disorders or mental illnesses such as OCD, anxiety (generalized and social) and a history of depression to name a few. I love writing and have been writing different styles for as long as I can remember. Like most people who have a strong passion for writing I started writing stories and wrote in a journal in grade school. I remember specifically purchasing my first diary/journal that had a lock with my cousin when I was around 10 year-of-age. I was very excited to start writing in it as it was the first fanciest and most formal writing tool I owned. I think that was when my writing journey really began as I started to write daily. Some of my main goals for this blog is to write about autism, it's associated disorders and my life in hopes to help others. To spread awareness and educate in hopes to end some of the stigmas society has attached to things mental illness and autism. To meet like minded bloggers or be inspired by other writers. Other than that I will post or share anything that is of interest or pops into my head. As I grow older, the more I understand about myself and experience life I find myself wanting to seek a further diagnoses or a reevaluation. That is part of the reason why I am opening a new blog here and the reason for my new found blog name. So I hope you all will join me on my continued journey and new discoveries. My diagnoses are not all who I am so here are some random facts about myself. Some of my hobbies besides writing include music, The Sims 3, Xbox, Netflix, scrapbooking and the outdoors. I have a very strong passion for music. It is like my drug/medicine/obsession and you may catch me from time to time preaching it like a religion. Apologies in advance I am married to a man who is not on the spectrum, but he is as equally as amazing and I am insanely in love with him. Like my rants about my life and music you will also hear a lot about him. I was born and raised in Canada who recently seeked Permanent Residence in the USA, so I am no longer an illegal alien. Although I am still an 'alien' tbh. I say imo and tbh too much. (imo = in my opinion/tbh = to be honest) They are also probably the only two abbreviations you will catch me using as one of my many pet peeves are people who 'typ like dis' The only thing that probably makes me a stereotypical Canadian is my obsession with hockey. I am a very organized person. However, it is normally with things that don't really matter in life such as my files on my computer that are organized in folders, within folders... I often can be perceived as rude at first until you get to know me. I have a huge imagination. Some of my favorite animals are dogs, cats, monkeys, penguins and elephants. I prefer animals to humans tbh. Basically I am another complexed human being like everyone else trying to find her way through life and I welcome you all to my newly found blog. This description is subject to change at anytime as my blog grows, I add more facts about myself or for whatever reason I feel fit. ~ My Authentic Mind

5 thoughts on “Passing As Normal/Neurotypical…Is it worth it?

  1. I suppose in some ways attempts to pass, whether it be with autism spectrum or something else, feed into and reinforce social expectations of “normal” behaviour, and as you say, that does nothing to help with stigma. Yet not attempting to pass can mean short-term pain while trying to keep in mind more nebulous longer-term social gain. It’s an interesting topic, that’s for sure.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, passing can be said in reference to many things and not just autism spectrum disorder. I related my post to me and ASD to make it easier to write about one thing. But…It can be said for many other things too such as mental illnesses and other disabilities etc. I did think about that or notice it while I was writing this. 🙂 Yes it is an interesting topic especially when society wants everyone it seems to fit into this box of ‘normal’ and just about everyone puts on this cookie cut facade everyday. It’s very unfortunate especially how much energy we use to do it daily. It is so exhausting while I am sitting here like why do we do this? 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I know what you mean about going through life passing and being convinced that you are hiding your true self. I was convinced that I was hiding all the odd parts about myself. Now I’m not so sure at all. In fact, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t. The strange reactions people had (strange to me) just made me go into my shell but it’s so hard to stay there! Especially when you have so many words and want to ask so many questions.
    I passed at job interviews which got me jobs that weren’t suited to me at all. Emotional disaster.
    It is all very exhausting too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes exactly! We try to pass, and I think sometimes I succeed at it and sometimes I don’t. I have discovered I would rather just be labeled autistic than other things like weird, goofy or worse rude. Maybe then people will know I am not trying to come off as rude at least. I too have had jobs I passed for successfully, but were not suited for me at all. It is very exhausting and trying to find that balance can be challenging. Like when is it good to pass and when should we be honest with our true selves?

      Thank you for your comment it is comforting to know I am not alone. 🙂

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s