Sunday, July 26, 2009

Neurotypical Privilege: A working document

Based on the important and excellent essay, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh, as well as other, similar lists that have followed, this is the beginning of a version to address the privilege that comes with having no known neurological disorder or disability.

I would like to ask readers who are autistic or otherwise non-neurotypical to add to this list, and to offer criticism of anything I've listed that is not appropriate. If you are NT, you are also welcome to contribute observations about your own privilege. Civil debate on whether or not "neurotypical" is a useful or appropriate term is welcome, but will be stopped and moved to another post if this begins to be the primary focus. Also, if anyone knows of a list like this that has already been published, please let me know.

The Checklist of Neurotypical Privilege

  • I have never been asked to prove that I am neurotypical.
  • I am allowed to use the word “we” without being accused of trying to speak for all neurotypical people.
  • I can share my opinions publicly without fear of being accused of not really being neurotypical.
  • I can assume that police officers will not become alarmed at my natural body language, and find it necessary to subdue me in advance of any wrongdoing.
  • I can reveal to my boss and coworkers that I am NT, without fear of losing my job.
  • I can assume that most restaurants, theaters, stores and other places I would like to go will not be so loud or brightly lit or crowded that I will become unable to function at a basic level.
  • I can easily find other NT people in movies or on television shows that are not explicitly about being neurotypical.
  • When people realize I am neurotypical, they do not ask me if I am like a particular character they have seen in a movie.
  • I do not have to fear that important decisions about my life will be made by autistic or other non-neurotypical people, just because I am neurotypical.
  • I am not expected to alter or suppress my natural ways of moving, interacting or expressing emotion in most circumstances.
  • If I fail to alter or suppress my natural ways of moving, interacting or expressing emotion, I do not fear public ridicule or exclusion because of this.
  • When seeking medical care, I am not expected to reveal that I am NT.
    When attempting to purchase health insurance, I do not fear I will be rejected because I am NT.
  • The majority of people who make the laws of my nation share my neurology.
  • I am never or rarely asked to explain what it means or what it is like to be neurotypical.
  • I can talk about my life without being asked what I think may have caused me to be neurotypical.
  • If I have a medical problem, I do not worry that my doctor will dismiss it as part of my neurotypicality.
  • If I am happy with the way my mind works, no one questions this or argues that most people with similar brains would prefer to be different.
  • People don’t usually confuse me with another neurotypical person, or expect me to take responsibility for what the other person has said.
  • I am not assumed to be incapable of empathy or compassion.


  1. I am never told that the fact I have a certain cogitive skill means that I am lying when I say I lack aother cognitive skill. Nor am I dismissed as incapable of things I truly can do, because I lack certain cogitive skills.

    If someone of my neurology can do soething well, I will not be punished for being unable to do the same thing well or at all.

    People do not use my neurology to claim I can never become an adult.

    People do not suddenly fire me, break up with me or refuse to be my friend when I disclose my neurology.

    I will not be patronised because of my neurology.

    People do not assume that my neurology is a valid reason to force me to live in an institution.

    People do not describe the births of people with my neurology as innately tragic, or seek to prevent us being born.

    I am never told that I should not hav children, lest I pass on the genes that cause my neurology.

    I am never told I cannot be a good parent simply because of my neurology.

    If I am unhappy, people do not autoaticaly assume my unhappiness is directly caused by my neurology.

    If I have reationship problems or get divorced, people do not automatically assume that my neurology was the sole o main cause for these problems.

    If I am bullied, people will not assume that my neuology means I am at least partially to blame, or that the bullying would stop if I tried harder to behave like someone non-NT.

    If my parents or spouse abuse me, I will not be told that my neurology drove them to do it.

    People of my neurology are not generally considered burdensome to our families.

    People of my neurology are not generally considered burdensome to tax-payers.

    Nobody says that my neurology makes me analogous to a robot, a vegetable or a non-human animal.

    Nobody wil murder me because of my neurology.

    If I am murdered, my murderer will not be let off becaue killing someone of my neuroogy is an act of mercy.

    If someone of my neuology commits a crime, people do not automatically assume I am more likely to commit a similar crime.

  2. I am not treated like it is terrible news to find out I am neurologically typical.

    If I am able to learn something that is difficult for neurotypicals to learn, and learn it only with great effort, and then lose the ability the moment I have something else to concentrate on (or lose it gradually over time), I am not accused of "presenting as more neurotypical" or "seeking attention" or "trying to look neurotypical".

    If I am suppressing my ordinary body language, and then revert to my ordinary body language under stress, I am not accused of either not trying hard enough, or pretending to be neurotypical.

    It is considered good for people who are not like me, to try to act more like me.

    I am never accused of being low-functioning or high-functioning by people who have power over my life, nor am I asked to divide people like me into the low-functioning ones and the high-functioning ones.

    The services that I need to survive not only already exist, but even if I use those services on a 24-hour basis, I will always be considered independent.

    Services for people like me are not considered a "special" add-on to ordinary life that can be taken away at any time.

    Even if I completely lack a conscience, I am automatically considered less dangerous than autistic people.

    I am never told that my neurology means that I will never amount to anything in life.

    Success is modeled after the viewpoints and lives of people of my neurology.

    My neurology will never be used to claim that I am more like an object than a human being.

    If I make even a half-assed attempt to look like I advocate for autistic people, I will be considered a hero, and I will not be considered to be acting out of self-interest. Autistic people will be afraid to call me out on my obvious abuses of nonautistic privilege because "beggars can't be choosers" when it comes to allies.

    If I commit any crime from harassment or abuse to murder of an autistic person, there is a good chance I will be considered a hero or martyr by a sizeable number of powerful people.

    If I harm an autistic person in any of the above manners or more, my word will almost certainly be given more weight than theirs, if they are alive to give their word.

    If I have an autistic child, many people will consider me to be above all criticism.


    And Bev, seriously, thank you. You are one of the few people really working visibly at doing the exact things I've been talking about on my recent blog post that have to be done if autistic self-advocacy is to ever climb out of a bunch of circular debates that go nowhere (essentially traps set by other people who are happy to watch us chase our tails). I am beyond overjoyed to see that this is happening in more than one place and that people are seriously thinking about these issues, which are pretty central to understanding the position that autistic people are in when it comes to power and privilege.

  3. Some of these read a little awkward to me... For example:

    "I can easily find other NT people in movies or on television shows that are not explicitly about being neurotypical."

    I think would be more clear as:

    "I can easily find people like me in movies or on television shows that are not explicitly about being neurotypical.

  4. In films or TV shows, NT characters are portrayed by actual NT actors.

    It is not seen as my job to explain to anyone that asks, what it is like being neurotypical, simply by virtue of my neurotypicalness.

  5. If I have troubles in my life, or problems doing certain things, people will not automatically blame my neurology, nor will they claim that the answer to these problems is to change my neurology instead of changing my circumstances or my society.

    (sorry for not bundling all of it into one comment, I just can't seem to come up with these while I am still making the comment, and keep coming up with more after I have already posted)

  6. If it happens that I am better at something, more empathic, more sensitive, more honest or authentic, it is not considered a defect.

    If my job doesn't work out, it is not automatically my fault.


    I liked that article but there were two things that struck me (other than the obvious privilege I've experienced in the past finding housing). One is the assumption that white people have straight hair, or that you can cut white curly hair the same way you cut straight hair. The other is actual objective criteria for cultural function/dysfunction vs cultural differences. I've done research on cultural evolution, and I used the Vikings as examples of primitive tribal types, mental age <7, but I can see untrusting non-whites calling their behaviour (invasions, slavery, etc.) "white privilege" rather than typical primitive tribal barminess. I suppose that relates to confusion over difference vs disability.

  7. If I am having a mad day or even a bad and stressful period where I am under a lot of strain, people will not say I am 'regressing' and panic, fret or automatically tell me I need medication or intensive treatment.

  8. (And that was supposed to be 'bad day' not 'mad day')

    If I exhibit a skill or behaviour that a good part (say, half) of the people of my neurology do not exhibit, I am not accused of being a liar and being non-neurotypical.

    If a certain amount of other people of my neurology exhibit a certain trait, no one feels compelled to claim that we must all exhibit this trait, or not really be neurotypical.

  9. I do not have to carry a special card or bracelet with me that explains how my neurology presents itself, because it is otherwise unsafe for me to be out of my house alone because of how law enforcement or other institutions might treat me for showing my natural body movements or the sounds I naturally make.

    (Again, I really am sorry for not making one larger comment out of all of this)

  10. "If I am having a mad day or even a bad and stressful period where I am under a lot of strain, people will not say I am 'regressing' and panic, fret or automatically tell me I need medication or intensive treatment."

    Actually, this one made me think of PMS. :p

  11. "Actually, this one made me think of PMS. :p"

    Yeah, you're right too, women face some similar prejudices, or to an extent.


    My natural movements and traits are not used by non-neurotypicals to ridicule others of their neurological type, either jokingly or maliciously.

    When I am with a friend or my partner that is not neurotypical, people will not address them instead of me when they want to know something about me, or speak to them after I ask them a question, etc.

    When asked to participate in the board or an advisory panel of a company or foundation or something like that, I am not the only person there that is neurotypical, nor do they ignore me and only want me there to look good to the public.

    People do not suggest that groups that are made for the benefit of people of my neurological type be lead and ruled by people of a different neurological type, because mine is inherently incapable.

  12. This one had me a bit confused until I puzzled out the meaning: "I have never been asked to prove that I am neurotypical."
    At first I took it to mean that autistic people are regularly asked to prove they are neurotypical, but now I realise this is meant as an opposite example of the fact that we are usually asked to prove that we are autistic (not neurotypical).

    I think I would phrase it as:

    I am never asked to provide proof of my neurological type

  13. If I am gifted at something, nobody, not even professionals, ever calls me an 'idiot-savant'.

    My deficits are not considered deficits at all. Instead, they are considered universal faults in human cognition (even if they are not universal). And a good deal of effort is undertaken by my entire society to compensate for those deficits.

    Nobody ever calls me grandiose if I suggest that my neurology gives me specific skills that are important to me.

    Nobody ever accuses me of not really writing the things I write, just because of my neurology.

    Nobody ever claims that I am too low-functioning to understand my own point of view, and that I am merely the puppet of people of another neurology who wish to use me for their own benefit.

    I can be fairly sure that the mannerisms, vocal tone, and other such attributes typical of my neurology are not used as iconic symbols of stupidity in my culture. [Real story: I sat there while another girl flapped her hands and said "See, that kind of people really do this, I'm not kidding."]

    I have never been told, because of my neurology, that I am incapable of feeling pain.

    I have never had a bunch of people jump up and down on top of me attempting to elicit pain responses typical of their neurology.

    If I am ever severely ill enough to wind up in the hospital, I will not have to deal with medical professionals telling each other within my earshot that I have the cognitive functioning of an infant.

    I will never have people tell me that I am a mindless waste of space and then deliberately fail to make any attempt to save my life in an emergency.

    If I am in the hospital, and nothing in my health problem affects the functioning of my voice, I will not encounter situations where people make dangerous decisions that I am powerless to refute, and then interpret my physical resistance as failure to understand the decision.

    I will never have people point to me, in my presence, and explain to each other that I am incapable of the skills that make a person human.

    I have never had to use physical violence as my only means possible to communicate basic information.

    When I learn my native language, I automatically learn the meaning of the words before I learn how to say them, and never have to explain to anyone about what it's like to have learned them in the reverse order, or to have learned them much later than usual.

    When I communicate, people do not gather in crowds around me and gawk.

    When I communicate, people do not ask me to prove that I am the person communicating, nor do they subject me to an impromptu Turing Test to make sure that I am not communicating through some sort of computerized trickery.

    I have never had to take a single test that determines, for my entire lifetime, whether I get to communicate.

    I have never had delayed processing interfere with people's perception of me as a person who can comprehend, communicate, and interact with people.

    When I accomplish something important to me, people do not go "awwww" and titter in the same voice that they use on small children who do something considered cute but ultimately meaningless.

    I am never told that my skills are impossible because a textbook says that people of my neurology are not good at that.

    If I pass a first-order false-belief test, then people assume automatically that I have a theory of mind, and do not subject me to further testing of stuff totally unrelated to theory of mind in order to trip me up and accuse me of not having theory of mind.

    My family, friends, and significant others are not told that I am incapable of relating to other human beings.

    If I fail to understand autistic people, this is attributed to a deficit inherent in autistic people, rather than in me.

    I am not portrayed as otherworldly, mysterious, psychic, demonic, monstrous, or angelic simply because of my neurology.

  14. People do assume that my family, friends and partner will need a support group to deal with living with me.

  15. I meant to say: 'do NOT assume'

    People will never think that respect towards me entails knocking on my door 3 times before they barge in anyway, whether or not I told them it was ok to come in.

    The types of housing that is built for people of my neurological type come in all shapes and sizes, not just in forms that are big enough for just one person to live in per unit without a life partner, because they assume I will never have one anyway.

  16. Wow, that's a lot of points to add! I'm going to work on grouping these in a logical order, and clarifying some of them as suggested by Alan and Norah.

    Sanabituranima, Thank you for all the great contributions. I especially liked "If I am unhappy, people do not automatically assume my unhappiness is directly caused by my neurology" and "If someone of my neuology commits a crime, people do not automatically assume I am more likely to commit a similar crime."

    Amanda, All of these are right on target. I like the short and simple ones best. "It is considered good for people who are not like me, to try to act more like me." Squawk!

    Thank you all for participating. Everyone who wrote here has offered valuable points for consideration. I hope to include perspectives from as many self-advocates as possible, edit it (again with input from others) to a manageable length, and then submit it to where people will be able to reference it easily in the future.

  17. I love this post, Bev. I've thought about this issue before as well, and have tried to express it in writing before, and you just do a great job of expressing it. A few others:

    If I do something that might be construed as selfish and self-centered, my actions will not be used as proof that all people of my neurology are selfish and self-centered. The same can be said for any other negative trait which I may on occasion display, or be misinterpreted as having.

    People are not pre-inclined to view anything I say in certain ways because I am neurotypical.

    If I have a particular talent or ability, I can be sure that my talent will not be called a "splinter skill" or some other demeaning word.

    If I tell people that I am neurotypical, they will not automatically start to treat me as though I am a young child.

    When I behave in ways that come naturally to me, I don't have to worry that anyone will think I'm "crazy," or otherwise deficient.

    I can relieve my stress in ways which other people will not automatically characterize as disturbing.

    Aspects of my personality and ways of functioning in the world are not labeled as "symptoms" of any kind of "disorder."

    My neurotypicality is never used as a joke.

  18. This is *so* awesome!

    I love the OP and everyone's contributions. And every time I think I've got a new one, someone else has thought of it already! :)

    "If I do something nice, it will not be used as evidence that all people with my neurology are incapable of lying, bullying, or meanness."

    "When medical professionals or any one else learn of some of my traits and needs related to my neurotype, they are not confused by them, nor amazed that they've never seen or heard someone with that collection of traits before."

  19. No one makes up a poorly-defined pop-psychology "disorder" (such as CADD) designed to explain the negative effect we NTs have on our autistic-spectrum partners.

  20. A few more:

    People who have power over my education will probably not decide that I need to spend my formal education time learning non-academic skills in lieu of receiving the academic education which most of my peers receive.

    People will not constantly tell me that I need to work on the things which I am very bad at, at the expense of things which I am good at and enjoy doing.

    If I achieve some sort of success (academically, professionally, socially, or otherwise), I will not be patronizingly turned into an "inspiration" for other people.

    I can pursue a particular interest or hobby to my heart's content without being told that I am engaging in an unhealthy "fixation."

    If my interests are considered typical and acceptable for someone of my age and gender, I can discuss them as much as I like without being seen as strange or obsessive.

    If I identify as female, I will not be told that I am less female because of my neurotype.

  21. Bev, I love this! You have so much here already, I can't think of anything to add, but I do have a problem with the way one of Amanda's statements is worded: "If I have an autistic child, many people will consider me to be above all criticism."

    I can certainly see where you're coming from, Amanda, but I receive far more criticism from others for my role as parent of an autistic child than parent of an NT child. I think the parents who are above criticism are both: parenting a child who does not use speech to communicate *and* are willing to go to extremes to try to "cure" their child.

    If, as a parent, you aren't willing to cut off your arms or walk on hot coals to try to get your child behave neurotypically, you are constantly told that you "ought to be willing to do more if you really loved your child."

    And a parent of an autistic child who does communicate using speech runs into some of the same criticisms that I think autistic people themselves encounter -- that our child is not "really" autistic, that he's just a "brat" who ought to be able to behave more neurotypically and would if we used harsher discipline, including beatings.

    Hm, maybe you could add that:
    No one has suggested that people of my neurology be subjected to beatings in order to change their behavior?

  22. I am not asked to continually produce documentation or forced to fight an uphill battle in order to constantly prove that I actually need some help with certain things.

    (Bleah. That's not worded well--I hope it is understood.)

    Also, if I ask for a service, it will not be assumed that since I have the ability and the audacity to actually ask for assistance, I must be 'faking' and not really need help.


  23. Sarah said:

    "If I achieve some sort of success (academically, professionally, socially, or otherwise), I will not be patronizingly turned into an 'inspiration' for other people."

    *Thank you.* I tried to come up with something about the whole "inspiration" meme, but couldn't put it into words and gave up.


  24. Transgendered aspie over here. I'm sure there's a way to put this more generally...

    If my sexual orientation, gender identity, lifestyle preferences or beliefs are deemed nonstandard, others will not suggest that I am pretending, incorrect, jumping the gun or unable to really know such things about myself because I am neurotypical. They will not use my neurotypical status as a basis for defending intolerant remarks or beliefs about any of these identities.

  25. No one ever plopped me in a chair, held me down, grabbed my chin, and refused to let me go until I "Show them orange crayon". After all, my childhood,and the freedom and playtime that go with it, were considered important.

    My uniqueness is often treasured by my family and friends.

    When I argue, I can be right sometimes, with anyone.

    If I fail, most will encourage me by telling me that I will ultimately succeed.

    I expect people to presume intellect and competence with me.

    I am no one's badge of honor, just because they live with me. I am not a trial sent by God, a punishment, a blessing in disguise, a saint, or a devil. I'm just here, like anybody else. My family takes this as a given.

  26. "When I argue, I can be right sometimes, with anyone."

    I think maybe that shoud say "be seen to be right."

    If I have sufficeint skills, qualifications and eperience to do a job and I am given said job, giving me said job is not seen as an act of charity.

    If I'm underquaified, but I'm stll "the best of a bad bunch" amongst the candidates applying, people do not assume that I got the job because the employer fet sorr for me because of my neurology.

    Spending time around me is not seen as an act of heroism.

    If I write an autobiography, it will be labelled a book about me as an individual and/or a book about specific things I have done (acting, mountain-climbing, sport, science, music, whatever)rather than a book about neurotypicality.

    People do not say that they would rather die than have my neurology, or that I am heroic for not killing mysef becase of my neurology.

    My parents are not labelled bad parents if they allow me to be myself.

    My parents ARE labelled bad parents if they punish me for being myself.

    My teahcers are not labelled bad teachers if they allow me to be myself.

    My teachers ARE labelled bad teachers if they punish me for being myself.

    Schools, colleges and Universities teach in ways that suit my neurology.

    No school, college or University will refuse to admit me purely because of neurology.

    It is very rare for people to say that people with my neurology are innately inferior to others, or that humans are hindering evolutionary progress by allowing people like me to be born.

    If an non-NT *does* say that non-NTs (or certain types of non-NTs) are beter than NTs, I do not have to explain millions of times that I do not agree with this person. Nor do I have to repeatedly tell everyone that accepting my life as valuable does NOT mean assuming others are inferior.

    People do not assume that NTs all have the same taste in food, books, music, films, television shows and similar.

    People do not assume that al NTs have the same views on politics, religion and philosophy.

    If I have a religion, non-religious people are unikely to assume that I was manipulated into my beliefs because my neurology makes me unable to think to myself. Nor will they assume that my faith is a crutch to help me survive the burden of my own neurology.

    If I am not religious, people do not assume this is because I am angry with God for giving me my type of brain.

  27. Hi Mary (MPJ),

    Thanks for commenting here. I value your perspective. I think that you and Amanda are talking about two different phenomena. It seems to me that yes, as an NT person raising an autistic child, you are very much subject to criticism by others in the same position, especially if you do not follow the preferred "treatment" plans or attempt to "cure" your child. I very much appreciate the fact that you stand up to that criticism.

    But what I believe Amanda was talking about is whether or not she or I (or another autistic person) is seen as having a right to say anything on the subject. In fact, I have often been told to "mind my own business" and "not speak for" someone's child when there was nothing remotely personal or directed at that parent/child in what I was trying to say.

    The only time I would speak about a specific situation would be if I saw a child being harmed. I see that as a social responsibility, having very little to do with autism.

    Of course I expect that Amanda will step in and let me know if I have misinterpreted her meaning here, but I think this point can be revised to be clearer in the final version.

  28. When I make a drawing, a story or a sculpture, or anything remotely like that, people will either like it or dislike it, but no one will say that I am not really creative, nor would they praise my work out of pity or because they think of me as a small child or some sort of animal.

  29. When, in order to get access to the things I need or want in life, I am required to read and understand instructions, fill out applications or other paperwork, visit offices, or navigate bureaucracies, websites, or customer service departments, all of these things will have been designed BY and FOR people whose neurological processing is similar to mine.

    No one tells me that an autistic person with a neurotypical child, or an autistic person with a degree in psychology, knows better than I do what I need, want, or feel, or what it's like to be me.

    People don't accuse me of grandiosity or derisively dismiss it if I suggest that some admirable historical figure might have been neurotypical.

    People don't accuse me of grandiosity or derisively dismiss it if I suggest that some fictional character whose creator hasn't explicitly declared him or her to be neurotypical strikes me as being neurotypical.

    No one expects me to gratefully embrace them as an ally when they tell me that they support an organization that's dedicated to preventing more people like me from being born.

    People don't things to me like, "You don't really seem neurotypical," or "If you hadn't told me, I would never have guessed you were neurotypical," and expect me to take it as reassuring or complimentary.

  30. I didn't say all people will consider a person to be above criticism.

    But, there is a serious situation -- very serious -- in both the autism community and larger society.

    Where many people will consider a parent of an autistic child so much above criticism that if that parent brutally murders their autistic child, then people will say things like:

    "Well, you have to understand how much pressure parents are under."

    "She shouldn't be sentenced to prison time, because 14 years with an autistic daughter is imprisonment enough."

    "She's already been punished by her child's existence, she doesn't need any more punishment than that."

    And if you dare to criticize anything a parent does, even if it's outrageously wrong, there are many people who will swoop down on you and tell you you just don't understand how hard it is to be a parent of an autistic kid.

    They will even cite the exact same things you are talking about as evidence that parents of autistic kids have it hard enough and shouldn't ever be told they're doing anything wrong. I am not saying you would use that information in that manner, but many people do use that information in that manner.

    So I don't think there's anything at all wrong with pointing out this dynamic. It's an important one and the fact that some people do feel the need to over-criticize does not detract from it at all (in fact sometimes it feeds into it, as previously mentioned).

    There is a large segment of the population who sincerely believes that children with disabilities are a burden, and that raising us is so hard, so awful, so fraught with terrible martyrdom, that there is absolutely nothing a parent of a disabled child could possibly do that they would judge.

    And that is nowhere more apparent than situations where parents murder their disabled children. Murder is the worst thing you can do to your own child. Parents who murder their disabled children routinely get lesser sentences, or are not convicted of any crime at all (unless and until they murder a non-disabled child, which has happened, then suddenly they're real murderers), etc. And they also get a ton of support in the media. An Autism Society in Canada even hired a woman who had held her son underwater until he drowned. They also made clear in public that they supported her.

    Regardless of how many disapproving strangers judge some parents of autistic children who take their children in public (and I have witnessed this phenomenon as well as my earliest recollection of strangers being people who said to my mother, "What is wrong with your daughter?"), these facts make it clear that many people do consider parents to be above criticism in the most disturbing ways possible.

    So I stand by what I've said. I am aware of the public criticism, but it pales in comparison to the public complacency (which is strongest among parents of disabled children, but exists among enough parents of non-disabled children that random juries clearly take part in it) in most cases when parents abuse their children, and kill their children, let alone disrespect them in public and discuss them as if they are objects rather than people.

    And no, I'm not saying parents are all abusive, or even mostly abusive. And the fact that I have to add this disclaimer is another function of privilege, so here's some more statements on privilege:

  31. If an autistic person criticizes any parent of an autistic child, then I can usually get away with painting that person as hating parents or believing all parents of autistic children are bad parents.

    If I have an autistic child, I can call myself an autistic parent, even though I am not myself autistic. And people will know what I mean.

    If I have an autistic child, or any child at all, I can be sure that most people assume I am neurotypical.

  32. "If I have an autistic child, I can call myself an autistic parent, even though I am not myself autistic. And people will know what I mean."

    Yes! Thanks for mentioning that one, Amanda. As an autistic parent with a non-autistic child, this drives me crazy. I say I'm an autistic parent, and somehow most neurotypicals interpret that as meaning that my daughter is autistic.

    And the neurotypicals who form the mistaken impression that I'm another neurotypical parent of an autistic child often congratulate me on what a good job I'm doing, and say admiringly that I must have the patience of a saint.

    But the ones who hear me correctly, and understand that I'm the autistic one and not my daughter, never express any admiration for my parenting skills or my saintly patience. Because, of course, parenting a child of a different neurotype from one's own is only difficult and admirable if one is neurotypical.

  33. The definitions of rude and irritating conduct were developed by and for people with my neurology.

    If I find someone or something irritating or otherwise making me uncomfortable, I can assume that others around me will support me.

    I have some others but they're not coming out properly. Thanks for doing this, Bev. I doubt we can say it enough.

  34. Best post on this site ever. Hands down. I really like this one, and all the comments.

    Littlewolf said...

    Also, if I ask for a service, it will not be assumed that since I have the ability and the audacity to actually ask for assistance, I must be 'faking' and not really need help.

    This is why I was denied SSI disability. Now I have to find help to appeal because I'm actually incapable of that.

    A couple from me:

    (not sure how to word this one) NTs can lie and will be believed. ASDs can tell the truth and people will assume they're lying due to body language and lack of eye contact.

    If an NT asks for clarification from a boss, or to not work on the same schedule as a difficult co-worker, it's not seen as an accomodation that requires documentation, and the NT being too needy and difficult.

  35. combative_autistic_wenchJuly 27, 2009 at 4:33 PM

    Thank you for writing this. Here are some others I might suggest:

    -My neurology is not classified as a mental disorder.

    -If I am an adult, I can be a sexual being without the assumption that any partner attracted to me must be a predator or pedophile.

    -My partner can express attraction to or admiration for aspects of my behavior or personality which happen to be characteristic of my neurology without his being seen as attempting to take advantage of a weaker person.

    -If I have biological children, no one worries, or assumes that I or my partner worry, that they might inherit my neurology.

    -When prospective parents and others speak of wanting a "healthy child," I know that they mean a child like me.

    -No one speculates about whether children raised by someone of my neurology is likely to become feral.

    -No one sees my neurology as being in need of prevention, treatment, or cure.

    -My behaviors, abilities, and skill levels at age 2 or 3 are considered indicative of an immature phase of life that will pass naturally, not as representative of my prognosis for the rest of life.

    -If my abilities, sills, knowledge, and maturity at age 30 exceed those of a neurotypical 2 year old, I am not assumed to be faking my neurology. Children and adults are assumed to be different.

    -If I am past the age of 18, treating me in a manner consistent with common treatment of a young child is considered degrading, not necessary.

    -The skills and talents at which people of my neurology tend to have an advantage, around which the system of the society in which I live is founded, are presumed to be objectively more important than those more commonly found in people of other neurological types.

    -Social orders built around my neurological type are presumed to be natural, fundamental to the human condition, and unable to be changed in any way.

    To name just a few...

  36. Great ideas, Bev and commenters!

    I have one; it might overlap with some of the things others have suggested, though:

    If I am visibly upset, people generally assume something must have upset me, and will generally try to help me.

    (Because, often, an autistic person's distress is just seen as some weird quirk of hir neurology, and not something that needs to be paid attention to or alleviated).

  37. People might actually have the patience to help me with things I need help with instead of assuming that I will be incapable no matter how much I am taught. This help will also most often be provided in a manner that I can understand, and teaching me in a way I can understand is not seen as some type of 'accommodation' or done out of pity.

    Also, sorry to hear about your situation, Jaden.


  38. I might not get picked last for teams in every single gym class due to having coordination issues.

    If I am picked on in school, the teachers are less likely to simply ignore it just because I'm 'the weird kid' and therefore the bullying can't possibly be the fault of the perpetrators.

    I don't have to worry that if I tell my boss I am NT they will find something wrong with my work and fire me (sorry if that's a repeat).

    My parents probably won't hide my clothes when they think they are 'age-inappropriate' for me (in my case, the comfy sweatshirts that were made IN ADULT SIZES and thus FOR ADULTS TO WEAR 'make [me]look too childish and [I] should grow up').


  39. I will not be subjected to endless impromptu annoying 'social skills' lessons 'for my own good' just because I am assumed not to understand certain things because I am NT.

    (sorry about the multiple posts--I keep coming up with new things to add!)

  40. Thanks everyone for the responses on this! I started out with 20 items, expecting to collect around 50...I think that's about the right number for maximum effectiveness and not exceeding the reader's patience limit.

    So far, we have 164 points here. I am working on grouping them in a logical order now. Then I will look at statements that are very similar and pick the one I think is most clear and concise from that group.

    I'll post the next draft here and each statement will have a number. That way, it will be easier for everyone to comment and follow the conversation about the next part of the process. I expect that eliminating duplicates and near-duplicates will still leave us with an unmanageable number of points.

    Everyone will have a chance to argue for their favorite points to be included in the final draft. There will also be opportunity to argue that more than 50 statements should be included.

    Please continue to submit suggestions if you think of something else you would like to include.

  41. Hopefully not too late, but I just thought of one...

    "If I am involved in a romantic relationship, it is not automatically assumed to be an act of pity on the part of the other person involved."

  42. I don't get praised for acting inauthentic. In fact, I may even be shamed for it, especially if I am someone important like a politician.

    Nobody tries to one-up me by implying that their family member is more NT than I am and I must thus be incapable of understanding any of said family member's situation.


  43. Two more relationship ones:

    "If I am in a relationship with another person of my neurological type, the reaction of society is not that no one else would date either of us."

    "In addition, being told I am 'encouraging' said other person of my neurological type is not an insult but a compliment."

    (Both of these are, appropriately, courtesy of my girlfriend.)

  44. I will not have been socialized out of my natural ways of being to the extent that when I see other NTs I will have no clue how to interact with them for fear that I won't be accepted or that I will alienate them by being too autistic.

    I probably won't have to deal with feeling lonely due to being in some weird 'no-man's land' where I am either 'too NT' for the 'normals' or 'too normal' for the NTs.

    I won't have to feel too afraid to even try to go to a social group for NTs as there is not much chance I will be rejected for not being NT enough or alienating the other members.


  45. This is probably going to sound bizarre, and I apologize if it would create confusion, but is there a way that this list can continue being a 'work in progress'? The idea is that as neurotypical privilege continues daily, and unfortunately probably will for some time, this list should continue as well, as a kind of 'extended metaphor' (if that makes sense) for the continuity of NT privilege.

    I totally understand if that would create more confusion; reducing the list and creating a final draft with a set number of points is of course more practical in terms of posting it on other sites. I'm just rambling here.


  46. "This is probably going to sound bizarre, and I apologize if it would create confusion, but is there a way that this list can continue being a 'work in progress'? The idea is that as neurotypical privilege continues daily, and unfortunately probably will for some time, this list should continue as well, as a kind of 'extended metaphor' (if that makes sense) for the continuity of NT privilege."

    Yes, I have been thinking something along these lines too, though for slightly different reasons. I would like to have two versions. The first would be the comprehensive list with all of the examples submitted here. I will place these in a continuous list and add to this post. I'll then promote the post to a Starting Square so it will be easy to find and available to add to.

    I would also still like to do the more formal, approximately 50 point list, and see if I can get it added to or someplace that gets more traffic than this blog does. If possible, that document could include a link to this post, so that people could visit if they chose to do so, and see how the list was made.

    Part of my thinking on this is that I don't want anyone's experience to be excluded. Everything that has been said here matters. The only point of the editing is to ensure it gets read by as many people as possible.

    Other thoughts or suggestions on this are welcome.

  47. If you're interested, I could set up a Wiki version of this on my web space... or do you think that would be too easily prone to derailment by privileged NTs?

  48. If some points are very similar, you could also, instead of picking one, maybe make a sort of meld of all of them into one point, worded differently.

  49. It would be pretty prone to derailment in general, whether by NTs or by autistic people who don't like hearing about this sort of thing. I wouldn't trust it, anyway.

  50. And, yeah, I agree about the many similar points. I also don't think that shorter versions are always better -- sometimes the shortest way to say something is easily misread, which is why not all of mine, for instance, are short (responding in part to someone saying specifically that they preferred the short ones).

  51. I am not praised for acting less neurotypical, or punished for acting more neurotypical.

    My success is not measured by the extent to which I act non-neurotypical.

    I am not seen as selfish, lazy, or stupid for wanting to act in accordance with my neurology.

    People will not tell me that I can't be neurotypical unless an autistic person tells me I'm neurotypical.

    Most people in my culture can understand my communication. (I know there are exceptions to this, Deaf people for example, but I couldn't figure out how to concisely cover all exceptions. Suggestions?)

    (Sorry if any of these were covered already.)

  52. When a child of my neurotype refuses to obey a direct command from a teacher, holding them down with four adults so forcefully that bad bruises are left, or worse, is not considered to be a completely appropriate and understandable response (even when the child fights back in response to the physical abuse). Neither is having the child arrested.

  53. Teaching a child of my neurotype the skills they will need in their life in this society is called education or parenting, not therapy or treatment.

  54. SadderbutwisergirlJuly 28, 2009 at 2:40 PM

    I am not assumed to be less capable of living on my own simply because I am neurotypical.
    I do not have to live with my parents waving that bleeping thing in my face about my younger sibling possibly becoming my legal guardian because my neurotype is considered defective and his isn't.
    I am never told that I'm a weirdo, geek, retard, or "not a functioning human being" simply for my quirky behaviors.

  55. This is excellent. If a document comes out of this, can I add it to the ASAN web page along with wherever else you decide to add it?

  56. I like the idea of having 2 versions of this. That makes sense to me.

    Also, many thanks to Bev for instigating this discussion which so many of us clearly feel is needed and important. Thanks to the other posters too--your words make me feel as though I'm not the only one who deals with these issues. As crummy as it is that we all have to face them, there seems to be something reassuring in knowing that so many of us are facing them, and that we aren't alone. (Wow, an Aspie commenting on the importance of togetherness...that would just make some people's heads spin! LOL)


  57. If I tell someone my neurotype, they will not automatically assume that I must be just like another person of my neurotype that they know.

    I will not be asked to leave a space, or to change where I live, because people are uncomfortable with my neurotypical behaviors.

  58. SadderbutwisergirlJuly 28, 2009 at 6:37 PM

    "Thanks to the other posters too--your words make me feel as though I'm not the only one who deals with these issues. As crummy as it is that we all have to face them, there seems to be something reassuring in knowing that so many of us are facing them, and that we aren't alone."
    As one of the people who posted, you're welcome. And Bev, thanks ever so much on discussing this problem. It really irritates me how not so many people acknowledge this. Pretty much everything I've been adding has come out of my life. I've also got a few more things to add:
    I do not have to tremble in fear every time a group of bigots decides to go on a witch hunt and say to random "weirdos," "Do you have autism?" and then be subjected to teasing, bullying, and ridicule if I make the mistake of saying yes.
    I do not face insults, various objects thrown at me, and orders to leave the general area if I disclose my neurology.
    I do not have to go through a whole month of being forced to see stereotyped, pity-party images of people with my neurotype and various intolerant, bigoted attempts to make sure that future generations of people with my neurotype do not exist and that my neurotype is "something for the history books."

  59. My opinions on social mores and societal issues will never be dismissed based on my neurology or on the assumption that I am simply "not understanding how these things work". Even when others of differing neurology agree with me. (Speaking as someone who's run into this) I will not have to automatically have to find someone of differing neurology who agrees with me in order for my viewpoint to be considered.

    "If my sexual orientation, gender identity, lifestyle preferences or beliefs are deemed nonstandard, others will not suggest that I am pretending, incorrect, jumping the gun or unable to really know such things about myself because I am neurotypical. They will not use my neurotypical status as a basis for defending intolerant remarks or beliefs about any of these identities."

  60. I can tell the truth without fearing that the other party will assume I'm lying due to my natural body language and degree of eye contact. (this is similar to what someone else said - some of the other ones probably are, too)

    When I (erroneously) assume that the person I am speaking to shares some aspect of my mental experience, or way of perceiving the environment, this is not called "lack of theory of mind."

    The private body language I naturally exhibit when I am angry, afraid, or frustrated is not likely to be viewed by other people as disturbing, or as evidence of a mental illness.

    If I have difficulty understanding the behavior and perception of a person with a different neurology, I can feel safe in assuring myself that this is a fault inherent to either them, or their neurology, rather than my own lack of understanding. If a person with a different neurology has difficulty understanding my behavior or perception, I can take this as evidence of their (intrinsic) lack of understanding or insight.

  61. Ooh, ooh! I got another one:

    "If I am asexual, I will not be used as evidence that all people with my neurotype are asexual.

  62. codeman38 said...
    If you're interested, I could set up a Wiki version of this on my web space... or do you think that would be too easily prone to derailment by privileged NTs?

    Thanks for the offer! I do think a Wiki would be vulnerable to all sorts of sabotage, so I'd rather keep the comments here.

    Ari Ne'eman said...
    If a document comes out of this, can I add it to the ASAN web page along with wherever else you decide to add it?

    Yes, that would be great. I'll let you know when it is finished.

  63. If I show people a document indicating hatred and fear towards people like me, I will not be greeted with disbelief that such things could happen.

    But since I am neurotypical, no such document would need to exist.

  64. forgot one:

    It's not illegal, anywhere, for me to have sexual relations based on my neurology.

  65. Can an NT join in here with an actual experience?

    If I make a mistake and blame it on my "autism" colleagues show acceptance and understanding and nobody tries to cure me.

  66. Having sexual relations based on your neurology probably isn't a good idea anyh -

    Wait, did you mean that based on your neurology, it's illegal for you to have sex? Where??

  67. Kassiane,
    Thanks! These are excellent contributions.

    Mike Stanton,
    Of course your observations are welcome. However I am confused...did you blame the mistake on being autistic or on being NT?

  68. Xeno, in several states it's illegal for autistic people (and people with several other conditions) to have sex. The civil disobedience that could be staged is...uh...yeah.

    And in many other states, if one with one of these conditions ZOMGHASASEXUALRELATIONSHIP and for some reason the authorities find out, the autistic/whatever individual has to go through evaluation to make sure they're capable of consenting.

  69. Hi Bev

    As an NT I sometimes mess up and blame it on my alleged autism. Co-workers sometimes make similar comments.

    The sub-text is that autism is not this alien condition but a part of being human. We are all potentially autistic and sometimes it shows.

    My colleagues are sensitive to, and respond with respect and understanding to examples of autistic behaviour amongst ourselves. Mostly they are the same with our autistic pupils.

    The difference is that so-called autistic behaviour amongst professionals evokes a wry smile and a sympathetic nod of recognition. When our pupils display similar behaviours we draw up plans for intervention.

    Double standards. NTs can get away with behaviour that is pathologized in people with an autism DX.

  70. If I were neurotypical, I would not get a lecture about the dangers of "recessive genes" from a nutty relative, as the result of revealing that my spouse has the same neurotype as my own neurotype.

    If I were neurotypical, I would not have to wait till half of my life is over before finding out that there really are other people like us in the world, and that there is a name for our type, and that there are lots and lots of us all around the world, and then feel so shocked that it takes a year or two to get my head around the whole idea, and then feel completely p@##$% off that the name for our type is a clinical diagnosis.

  71. I'm pretty sure there aren't any on this topic, so...

    If I identify as glbt in some way, I will not be the only person of my neurotype in support groups or forums.

    I will never be told my sexuality is impossible, because people of my neurotype do not have sexualities.

  72. My apologies for posting this in the other list -- I'm posting it here for the sake of veracity.

    - Alert alarms are designed so that they do not make me collapse in pain.

    - When I explain that a fire alarm loud enough to make me collapse in pain and render me unable to move is unsafe, I am not patronizingly told that this is only because I am "one of those people."

    And for a new one:

    - The communication systems in use by the society I live in are designed to be easily learnable and understandable by a person of my neurotype.

  73. I will never be told that I "can't" do something I am already doing, because I am neurotypical.

    Autistic or otherwise non-NT friends, family, and strangers will not take it upon themselves to tell me how to "fix my problems", uninvited.

    Nobody will try to block my pursuit of higher education because of my neurology.

    My neurology will not get me picked out in airport screening lines.

    If my neurology is not immediately apparent and I choose to reveal it, this will never be met with a shocked, "But you're [black/a woman/gay]!"

    I will never be introduced by a non-NT person as, "Soandso, my NT friend."

    I will never be known to large groups of people, such as my school, as "The NT girl."

    I will never hear someone in an argument disregard their opponent's point of view by calling that person NT. Moreover, I will hear a followup with people going on about what a terrible insult this is.

  74. I know you've moved on from this. I just had this sitting as a GMail draft and can't talk myself out of posting. I finally managed to keep myself from yammering too much. ;p


    I am seen as more than just a puzzle for other people to figure out.

    People don't ask me what my NT power is.

    I'm not seen as a failure if I'd rather have a few close friends than a massive social circle.

    As an adult, it's not seen as unusual for me to ask for help without my parents present.

    As an adult, my parents aren't expected to vouch for my NTness.
    My mom was controlling and manipulative, but I didn't really notice until I got older. It's amazing just how much of her behavior was encouraged. No one would bat an eye when she would intrude in meetings and list my flaws, no matter how irrelevant they were. The good news is there was a point when it became blatantly obvious to everyone (well, except maybe her) that she was overstepping her boundaries, and I was supported when I made plans to move in with my boyfriend. Only problem is I moved far enough that I had to deal with new people were shocked that I really didn't want to give them my mom's phone number nor contact her at all. I'd had enough of her running the show and in fact, she ran it straight into the ground. I was able to get that across, but God, I was 24 and they expected to talk to my parents. I should be able to coordinate my own services, thank you.

  75. Wonderfully put! Will have to wade through all the comments to see if I need to add anything.

  76. -I am less likely to lose points on reading comprehension tests because of the way I think

    -I don't have to endure people trying to do things for me that I can do because my neurology makes people automatically think I can't

    -I am never told that I can only do certain jobs because of my neurology.

    -I don't have to jump through multiple hoops to get the services I need.

    -I can attend school events without being made physically uncomfortable by the noise level.

    -I don't know how to phrase this one, but as a person with autism, I hate having to explain my neurological specifics to people whenever I request an aisle seat (so that I don't have to be surrounded by people).

    -On one occasion, I had to get off a bus parked in a lot because the driver had the back door open, and after twenty minutes I could no longer tolerate the resulting alarm. I left several books on the seat to claim it. I got back on later, only to find that my seat had been taken by someone who then implied that it was my fault because I had "chosen" to get off. Again, I don't know how to phrase this one.

    To make a point -- I was not diagnosed until the age of thirteen. If autism was such a debilitating condition, I doubt I would have been able to function in a "normal" atmosphere for that long.

  77. If i'm into arts, my paintings, filmings, writings, drawings, installatings, showings, will not be described as " raw art " or " outsider art " but just art.

  78. "I will not be asked to leave a space, or to change where I live, because people are uncomfortable with my neurotypical behaviors."

    Waaaaaaaaaaait a minute. Some neurotypical people IRL *are* asked to leave a space, or to change where they live, because other people are uncomfortable with their neurotypical behaviors.

    Some neurotypicals do behaviors like peering into people's windows, staring at and even following people (especially women) and pushing people's (implicit) boundaries. Not all the people who they do these to feel comfortable with it. Some of the people who they do these to even speak up about their discomfort with it...

  79. If I behave or think differently from my classmates, people will not automatically assume that this is because of my neurotype.

    If I tell people my neurotype, they will not think that because I am an independent, functioning adult I must be lying.

  80. People will not assume that because they know my neurotype they know exactly what I am capable of. If they do think they know what I am capable of, their expectations will not automatically be much lower than my actual abilities.

  81. People don't have trouble accepting my neurotype because I don't behave like the stereotypical person of my neurotype.

    If there is something I love to do, to the point that I wold rather do this thing than anything else in the world, it is called a passion, not an obsession. Likewise, if I'm better at something than 99% of the population, it is called a talent or a gift, not an "autism superpower".

  82. I'm sorry I didn't make this into one big post, but I keep posting and then thinking of more.

    When I apply or interview for a job, I do not have to choose between keeping secret something that is a large part of my identity and disclosing something that could make an employer not hire me.
    *There are, of course, exceptions to this (people in the LGBT community spring to mind) but it is something autistic people have to deal with that many NT people never will.

    If I, as a child, did not want to participate in a group activity, whoever was in charge would consider the case as an individual situation, whereas an autistic person would be more likely to have such a preference dismissed because they "need to develop social skills".

  83. I will never have a romantic partner ask if I really love them due to my body language (caused by my neurotype).

    I have met others of my neurotype outside of my family (geneix things).

  84. I will never cry because I am neurotypical (Generalized Anxiety Disorder)
    I will never be embarrassed when people find out that I'm neurotypical.


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