My Friend the ‘Autism Parent’
I’ve got a friend who’s an ‘Autism Parent’ – perhaps she could more accurately be described as ‘an acquaintance’ or a ‘friend of a friend’. It used to be a bad habit of mine to describe people as ‘friends’ when they don’t particularly care whether I live or die. It’s a habit that I have recently been trying to correct.
I quite like this woman, she’s always been friendly to me. I see her at parties and barbecues and I’m her friend on Facebook. Her son is autistic and she has chosen to define herself as someone who knows a lot about autism and is sympathetic to those with mental health issues. She posts a constant stream of articles and comments about autism on Facebook (most of which are quite interesting).
I haven’t told her that I am autistic. I would really like her to know, but I haven’t found a way to tell her yet. I suspect that she does already know, but has chosen not to mention it (she has a track record for this). Just before I realized that I was autistic, I had a couple of conversations with her which (by pure and total co-incidence), ended up touching on some of the issues caused by my autism. eg mild face-blindness, having great difficulties with job interviews, feeling different to other people, being ostracized at school, difficulties with certain social interactions, my objection to the concept of ‘over-thinking’ etc.
For someone who knows a huge amount about autism, she would have to be pretty foolish not to have worked it out by now. This leaves me with an awkward dilemma.
I see her post an endless stream of things on Facebook about autism as if she is some kind of ‘Autism Mama Goddess’, but I feel that I am unable to join in with the conversation. Effectively, she is allowed to talk about me, but I am not allowed to talk about myself. As you can probably imagine, I find that rather galling.
An autistic mutual friend asked me “what is it that you want from her exactly?” That stopped me in my tracks. I fully appreciate that this woman owes me nothing, she has absolutely no obligation to be my friend, to interact with me or even to acknowledge my existence.
However, I do object to the fact that she seems to have co-opted the issues surrounding my neurotype in order to further her own agenda.
It’s really important to me for her to know that I’m autistic, but the exact reasons for this elude me. I’m not expecting any form of support or comfort from her, but I just want to be recognised for what I am. I almost feel like I’m being denied my birth right. As a person who has been excluded from numerous social groups over the years, I’m particularly sensitive to this kind of thing.
The obvious solution to this would be to tell her, but I haven’t managed it so far. I was hoping to slip it onto the conversation at some point, but I see a lot less of her these days, so that’s not really been possible. Maybe I should march round to her house, knock on the door and say “Hi Sarah, guess what? I’m autistic” …..
I could have done with some support a year ago when I was newly diagnosed, but she hasn’t visited for over a year and she only lives down the road. There’s nothing wrong with setting yourself up as ‘the one who supports autistic people’ if you actually do that, not just talk about it a lot in order to appear cool to your mates.
My other friend was newly diagnosed a year ago too and she does know about him, but he hasn’t seen her for dust either.