Shade Never Made Anybody Less Autistic

Woman with long, curly, dark hair holding her phone and looking directly at the camera with a serious and perhaps irritated expression with text that reads, "Shade Never Made Anybody Less Autistic".

The title of this post is a bit of a reach, and it wasn’t planned this way at first, it just sort of hit me as I was designing the graphic.

There’s a Taylor Swift song called, “You Need To Calm Down” aimed at people being mean and cruel to everyone from celebrities to marginalized communities, including the LGBTQ community.

One of her lyrics goes, “Cause shade never made anybody less gay”. Shade meaning snide comments, rude remarks, sneers, jeers, insults, etc., and how they never magically turned somebody who is gay into a straight person simply because there are people out there who aren’t comfortable with it.

(Shade can also mean to insult someone on the sly, making a comment about them that their friends understand but the target does not.)

Anyway, after all that, my point is, being rude, mean, judgmental, angry, irritated, snide, or snarky towards an autistic person, for whatever reason, will not all of a sudden make them less autistic!

Neurotypical people are really good at making fun of one another in a harmless yet socially corrective way. For example, they don’t necessarily mean to hurt anybody’s feelings, but making a joke about someone’s quirks or habits is a way to:

1) Point out that they exist

2) Make the person feel slightly embarrassed about them

3) Correct their social behavior so they no longer do the cringey thing.

4) Try to show that their character traits are endearing to them but may not be to someone who doesn’t know them

No, not all NT people do this, but it’s a common societal practice that’s not meant to wound but to gently correct unusual social behavior or point out a mistake without saying it outright and embarrassing the person.

Well, here’s the issue with doing that to an autistic person: We’re more than likely not going to pick up on what you’re trying to do. We’re either going to not notice it at all, or we’re going to take you completely literally and be very hurt by what we misinterpret as deliberate cruelty towards us.

Either way, it won’t have the intended effect.

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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:

And here’s the thing, “shade”, or outright cruel commentary is never going to make anybody less autistic. It may make us mask who we are for long periods of time, which will do serious harm to us emotionally, but it’s not going to make us suddenly neurotypical.

You can’t joke, sneer, comment, make fun of, yell at, smack, or abuse the autism out of a person. No matter what you do, whether you do it out of a misguided attempt to be kind or to ‘toughen us up’, it will never, EVER work the way you think it will.

– Jaime A. Heidel

We will never be anything other than autistic or neurodivergent, ever.

So, not only are you wasting your time and energy, you’re hurting the autistic person and crushing any relationship that you could possibly build with them.

This is why I get so upset when I read comments like, “Oh, so and so gets so mad when I do that”. For example, the post I did about getting lost. So many people made a comment similar to that.

“Oh, this person gets so mad when I get lost.”

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the EMOTION of anger and frustration, but what I don’t understand is what NT people think they’re going to accomplish by continuing to show this irritation and frustration at someone who literally cannot change the way their brain works any more than a person who lost a limb can grow it back!

“Throwing shade” or making comments or getting irritated and throwing your hands up in their air and sighing and rolling your eyes is just such an incredible waste of energy, and you’re only succeeding in making the ND person more nervous around you, which pretty much guarantees that we’ll make even MORE mistakes throughout the day.

Please think about this the next time you think about making an open show of how frustrated and angry and irritated you are about something we cannot do. It’s just as frustrating for us, you know, and there’s nothing we can do about it, especially when it comes to how our brains are wired.

All you’re doing is taking an anxiety level that starts out at a 5 every single day (if we’re lucky) and bringing it up to a 10 while virtually guaranteeing whatever it is you want to get done won’t get done, and it will take us several days to recover from a meltdown-inducing encounter with you.

You can’t “un-autistic” a person. Even if a neurodivergent person learns how to act “almost indistinguishable” from our peers (which is plain horrible, by the way), we will never NOT be autistic, so put your energy elsewhere. It will save a lot of grief and heartache on both sides.

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