As my brother queued up to go on the big slide at the pool, I had had to sit and watch behind the glass, where I been dragged earlier by my nan. The slide was yet another thing I had to miss out on because my autism diagnosis made my grandparents think I wasn’t capable of doing the same things as other children. 

This not allowing me to make my own choices started when I was very young. My teacher forced me to go to the shops with her on a school trip, rather than go round Whitby with the other students. I was never told the reasoning, but to the school staff being autistic meant not being independent or being able to make my own decisions. 

I believed this kind of treatment would end when I reached adulthood. Instead, it continued in different ways. Every time I offered to take on big projects at work, to see a client on my own or ask for more responsibility, the response would be “but could you handle that?” In one conversation I was even referred to as “adult-lite,” as if I wasn’t mature or adult enough to be given regular responsibilities. 

This mentality also slips into friendships. I’ve not been invited to events or parties because “You’d just say no” or “But you don’t like noise or crowds.” When I’ve offered to help with a friend’s problems, the response is usually that I might not have capacity for it or it would negatively impact me in some way. I’m not given the opportunity to make that decision myself. 

No matter how hard I try to educate people, my autism is still seen as defective or a hindrance. At work, it is decided beforehand what I will be involved in, and I’m never consulted. People make their mind up before I’ve proven what I can do, and they usually assume I can’t handle big, stressful situations. One such example was when I  stayed up all night to prepare for a big inspection, but in the morning I had been moved to a different office and wasn’t even in the same building. My boss explained that the inspection would have been too stressful for me without even giving me a chance, and,even though I had wanted to prove that I could handle it. 

Having other people take choices from us can have such a negative impact on autistic people, especially those with RSD (rejection sensitive dysphoria)  and mental health issues. It can make us believe we are useless and destroy our confidence. It can even lead to us putting ourselves in dangerous situations just to prove ourselves. 

Autistic people are more likely to work until they are past burnout, agree to activities and projects they don’t have the capacity for and even do things that are, in hindsight, quite dangerous. I myself have hung out with toxic people to prove I can be sociable, have hiked across the moors at a late hour to prove I do have a sense of direction and have worked seven-day weeks to prove I’m a good worker, often making myself ill in the process. 

We autistics are given few ways to prove when we can perform as well as neurotypicals, even if we do need support. It is neurotypicals, not autistic people,  who need to change how they do things. We autistics need to be treated with respect, need to be asked how we feel about things, instead of non-autistic people making assumptions or decisions without consulting us. We need to be acknowledged as the adults that we are.

At the end of the day, we usually know what we can handle. I have handled so much in my life that I’ve developed foolproof systems for handling stress, and often mask anyway just to show I’m not fazed. It is my dream to be asked “do you want to be involved in this?” Instead of being asked “can you handle it?” I want to be seen for the talents I have, the skills I have and the person I am. I also want my autism to be seen as a part of who I am, and not a hindrance to becoming an independent adult.

Square graphic with a bright red border and a white background. Black text in the center reads, "The autistic need to prove you can handle stressful situations because you've had so may chances taken away from you without consent, so you end up throwing yourself into anything even if it's damaging."