Autism is the reason acquaintances don’t invite me to events. And it’s the reason I don’t care. I have my own world.
Autism is the reason I notice every judgmental look on a person’s face when my son has ‘Happy Flappy’ hands. And it’s the reason I’m too practised at masking to show my rage. For now.
Autism is the reason I use the disabled toilet if the women’s has queues. My disability is invisible. But not if I’m forced to endure strip lights, chatter and dryers.
Autism is the reason I had so many non-starter relationships. But I braved online dating. I married my best friend.
Autism is the reason I find reading people difficult. But it means if I take the time to get to know you, I’ll know you better than you know yourself.
Autism is the reason I stand alone at the school gates at home time. But also how my son’s learned it’s ok to value your own boundaries.
Autism is the reason I live in comfortable clothes. It’s the reason I’ll never be a slave to trends.
Autism is the reason I find writing easier. But it’s how I’ve reached you today and I’m grateful for that.
As Hayley’s Twitter bio will tell you, she is an autistic woman, mother, writer, wife, carer, and so many other things.
You can read her blog at: and find her on Twitter and Instagram
The majority of people, or more specifically neurotypicals (NTs, those who are not neurodiverse) generally have no problem adapting and reacting to social situations and contexts instinctively. Autistic people, however, do not have this natural advantage; I am one of the UK’s 600,000-strong autistic population.
If you think about it, humans and cars share some similar core features. A human has a brain in the head in the same way a car has an engine under the bonnet, almost always at the front (which is where the human brain would be if humans walked on all fours). That engine has with it a gearbox, an oil filter, a battery, pipes, wires, coolant, brake fluid, and water. The human brain needs equivalent things to function and not shut down. If the engine ceases to function, so does the whole car; the same is true for the human body.
NTs can be said to have an automatic gearbox because their brain works in such a way that they can automatically react to social situations and conversations without having to think about it or use any pre-recorded scripts. A car with an automatic gearbox does not have to change gears except when climbing the steepest hills; it automatically shifts as it speeds up. However, being autistic is like having a manual gearbox; even autistic people who manage to develop reasonable and reliable communication and social skills generally have to consciously think about what to do and how to react to situations. It is as if there was a clutch to depress in the autistic brain before pre-recorded scripts could be changed or new situations could be dealt with. And just like cars with manual gearboxes, autistic people like me can sometimes ‘stall’ in awkward encounters or when particular sensitivities are triggered.
However, cars with manual gearboxes tend to have more power and more potential because they have more specialised ratios, which is lacking among the vast majority of automatic cars. My own brain’s ‘gearbox’ has more ‘speeds’ than a neurotypical person’s ‘gearbox’ meaning that when on form, I can achieve a lot of tasks in my specialist areas to an ability beyond that of the vast majority of humans and in an interesting way as well. The same goes for autistic savants past and present.
You can follow Alan on Twitter @GreenAlanB