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I just wish neurotypical people could wrap their heads around the concept that autistic children grow up and become autistic adults, and that autistic adults are still autistic but that autistic adults are not children. That autistic adults, just like neurotypical adults, will grow up to be different from how they were as children.

There's this assumption that autistic adults who are "high functioning" were necessarily "high functioning" autistic children too. Neurotypical people just don't seem to be able to understand that many adult autistic self-advocates actually were just like the "difficult" autistic children that people imagine when they think of autism. That we clearly don't understand the difficulties of such children and maybe don't know anything about autism at all.

They just can't conceive of the possibility that we grew up. We became adults. Adults behave differently from children. Adults have fewer meltdowns than children and you know what? That's true for neurotypical people too and we've all seen neurotypicap people lose control of themselves and their emotions too. Adults have an easier time communicating than children and this is also true for neurotypical adults. Adults tend to be less picky eaters than children, and this is also true for neurotypical people!

Autistic children grow up to be autistic adults and we do not stop being autistic. There may be many things from childhood that are difficult that stick around. But we do stop being children. We learn better skills for coping with the things we struggle with. An autistic child is a "picky eater" who you can't get to eat anything. An autistic adult knows what they like to eat and what's a bad sensory experience and can develop a diet which is nutritious and meets their sensory needs. An autistic child might not speak a single word and have meltdowns when they're hungry because they don't know how to communicate their needs. An autistic adult may have learned sign language or become proficient with an AAC device, and now has the autonomy to get food on their own or the skills to communicate that they are hungry to someone else. It all comes together to create the impression of a "high functioning" autistic adult who might even be able to mask as neurotypical quite well. But they're still autistic, they're just an adult.

Just because I couldn't write with a pen when I was 5 doesn't mean that after over 20+ years later of practicing I haven't figured out how to be passable at it. I grew up. Linear time applies to autistic people too.

  • An autistic teenager might have trouble with personal boundaries. An autistic adult has the time to learn from their teenage mistakes and figure out some good rules of thumb for social situations. Neurotypical teenagers are awkward. As adults, they mature!
  • An autistic teenager is too overwhelmed by the outdoors to navigate the city unaccompanied. An autistic adult wears noise-cancelling headphones and has figured out that preparing printed directions helps them navigate the city without becoming overwhelmed. Neurotypical kids get lost all the time, and might be afraid of getting lost. As adults, they gain confidence and learn the layout of the city.
  • An autistic child disrupts public spaces with loud agitating stimming. An autistic adult has figured out other stims which do not make loud noises, and makes a point of doing those ones instead when they're in public. At home, they can stim freely. Neurotypical children can be plenty annoying too, and as adults, adjust their behavior in public so as not to disturb others (well, I wish more of them did this lmao)

in reply to @shel's post:

it's not a perfect metaphor but i sometimes wonder how much you might achieve by telling (english-speaking) neurotypicals to treat autistic people as ESL adults rather than like, six year olds