Being an Autistic Academic

Sitting in a chair in the student union. It’s too crowded. It’s too loud.

(There are three people in the hallway and there’s only a moderate amount of noise)

Flapping my hand surreptitiously, wishing I had my stim ring.

(why does everything hurt?)

Because someone hurt me. They don’t know they hurt me, but they did. I didn’t know they hurt me either until halfway to meltdown-town. I was frantically wondering why I was experiencing sensory and emotional overload, and then it clicked.

My professor in the last class had been talking about autism, not in detail, but not exactly kindly.

It wasn’t exactly the content of what she said. More, it was the subject being brought up in general. Of course, earlier in the semester she had said that autistics lack empathy. This time was more neutral, and yet it struck me.

It struck me that, once again, I was being talked about like I wasn’t there. Like I couldn’t be there. Like if you said “autism” in a room of one-hundred people, not a single head would turn and relate, unless by way of parenting an autistic child. Certainly not by way of actually being autistic.

It makes me want to scream and cry, to protest and run away, all at once.  I did none of the above. I thought about writing an informative but polite email, but knowing that it could be poorly received and with my own shyness considered, I decided not to.

After all, if the first part of being an autistic academic is going through hell like this, feeling meltdowns creep over you while you’re waiting for your next class, then the second part must be self-preservation.

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