WHY WE'RE ALL A BIT AUTISTIC IS ALL WRONG?

Gluten-free muffins are for hippies, my former housemate quipped as he saw me taking one out of a packet. I just laughed it off, as I know that despite some people saying that they prefer gluten-free to other products as gluten is a poison, it is only a poison if you are intolerant to gluten.

Just the same as saying, oh we're all a bit autistic is toxic to say to someone you tell you're autistic, autism has been as misrepresented as a gluten-free diet has been by some who have adopted it as an alternative lifestyle choice. (I had the arrogance of someone who claimed to be a Christian deny me gluten-free food, when in reality, they were just some right-winger with a superiority complex).

While some people like sameness, be it having the same spread on their toast at every breakfast or having the same person cut their hair or the seeing the same doctor or dentist, that does not necessarily make one autistic. Anxiety or distress at having something different, however, can be a sign that one is on the autism spectrum. An easy-going neuro-typical, if they are unable to have strawberry jam on their toast, for example, might say, Oh, well, I can have raspberry or apricot or marmalade or whatever else is offered, while this can be a conundrum for an autistic person.

Likewise, a person who only buys the same make of car every time they buy a new car, be it every time a new model is released or when the one they have goes to the proverbial automotive heaven is not necessarily autistic, but someone who is distressed if their preferred make of car is not available or the car doesn't have a preferred brand of something may be. (I, myself, prefer Japanese cars, but if someone said, you can have a Ford with KYB shock absorbers on it, I might relent, but if someone said, you can have a Holden or a Ford but it's got Monroe shock absorbers on it, I would be distressed).

The stereotypical bachelor who has five white t-shirts, five navy blue t-shirts and five pairs of black shorts and five pairs of blue track pants, who only wears something of a different colour or style if his mother, sister or girlfriend buys it for him is not autistic, just unfashion conscious, but a person who will only wear a certain colour, texture or style of clothing, who may cut the tags out of them as they are distressing is a definite candidate for the diagnosis. Just the same as someone who buys five shirts the same colour as it's easier to do the laundry, rather than having to wash their colours separately cannot necessarily be autistic, but someone who is resistant to washing their colours separately can. To give an example, in the house where I was living, I was the only person who would use a clean towel with each shower, and the only person who would wash their whites and colours separately, while housemates would throw everything in together. I used clothes pegs, while another housemate didn't, not because he didn't like them, but because he was just too lazy to bother.

And let us not forget, that even amongst the autistic community, what may distress one autistic person may not trouble another. I mean, I don't mind soft tags in my clothes, but I only ever feel comfortable in myself if I'm wearing at least two garments made in China (and that does not mean a pair of socks, it means a pair of socks and a pair of underpants, or a pair of underpants and an undershirt). The same as how my mother was mystified as to why, 20 years ago, when she suggested I buy a watch that was assembled in Brisbane, Australia, with a Swiss movement and had components from five different countries, I said that if I did, I would have a hard time as I would need Japanese spectacle frames and then I only wore reading glasses, now I wear them all the time, and would need to go to Japan on a shopping expedition for clothes. The reason? I don't like not having a Japanese item on me at all times, be it my watch, my glasses, an item of clothing or anything, and I would only be able to wear the Brisbane assembled watch when I wore the Japanese items of clothing. If this is a mystery, it is because my interest in and passion for Japan has flowed over into every aspect of my being.

If I could give a different example, if someone uses a particular product because it's cheap or because it's readily available, that does not make one autistic, but if somebody is uncomfortable without something that is unavailable and the reason is not altogether clear, that could be.

We all may have our individual quirks and desires, these do not necessarily make us autistic. So to suggest that we are all a bit autistic is woefully inaccurate and highlights the importance of comparing apples to apples not apples to oranges.

Diagnosed with autism at 35. Explained a lifetime of difference.