“I Don’t Understand Why You Can’t Just…” – Please Don’t Say This to Autistic People (Or Anyone)

Young woman in a red sweatshirt and a ponytail sitting on the floor next to a bed, her head turned away from the camera. Text reads, "I don't understand why you can't just..."

The fact that someone is autistic never changes.

Even if we get really good at masking and/or making consensual compromises to fit into a non-autistic world, we will never actually BE non-autistic, and that is 1,000 percent OK.

What bothers me is how quickly non-autistic people can forget this in everyday interactions.

And I don’t mean passing acquaintances, either. I mean parents, partners, close friends, educators. People who are around the autistic person or persons on a regular basis and are very familiar with the traits!

For example, an autistic high school student who has difficulty focusing, which is in his IEP, no less, and an educator who has been working with him for years will say something like, “I don’t understand why you can’t just pay attention!”

As if, somehow, by some miracle, the inability to focus attention will just disappear because…what…you’ve been teaching him for years?

Yes, there are ways AROUND those types of issues, but that doesn’t mean that someone on the spectrum can “just” anything. That implies simplicity and willfulness.

As though whatever we struggle with is easily fixable.

As though all someone had to do was come along and say, “Just do this”, and all of our problems would be gone.

That’s not how it works. I feel like some non-autistic people are only patient with autistic people for so long before they finally throw their hands up and say, “I can’t deal with this anymore!”

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The best way to improve communication with your autistic loved one is to understand how your autistic loved one’s mind works! Intentions, motivations, and personal expressions (facial expressions or lack thereof, body language, etc.), are often quite different in autistic people than they are in neurotypical people.

Experience a better understanding of your autistic loved one by reading books about life from an autistic perspective as well as stories that feature autistic characters. You’ll have so many “Ah ha!” moments and start seeing your autistic loved one in a different light (and you’ll have a better understanding of their behaviors, which you may have been misinterpreting up until now).

Books I recommend for a better understanding of your autistic loved one:

Do non-autistic people really expect our natural traits to go away because they’ve known us for long enough, been patient with us for long enough, or have loved us long enough?

Because, if so, that both baffles and scares me.

You can be friends with a blind person their entire life, and no amount of friendship, care, compassion, and consideration will ever negate that fact.

The person is blind.

“I don’t understand why you can’t just see!”

Most people would never dream of saying THAT, though.

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1 Response

  1. May 28, 2020

    […] the risk of repeating myself, I’d like to do a post that’s quite similar to the “Can’t you just…” […]

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