Being autistic can be likened to a map with green and red areas. The green spots represent safe and comfortable spaces, while the red parts make you feel uneasy. This is how it often feels to be autistic. Autistic individuals experience life differently from allistic or neurotypical people. Sounds, lights, social interactions, textures, and smells can trigger feelings of unsafety and discomfort. Consequently, many autistic individuals limit themselves to avoid such distressing experiences, leading to a narrower life.
Contrary to the prevailing neurotypical narrative of pushing oneself beyond comfort zones and "getting over" autism, the reality is that for most autistic individuals, embracing a life that feels good means accepting limitations and avoiding situations that exacerbate their discomfort. Pushing into those red areas could actually worsen their quality of life.
It never fails to astonish me when I converse with an allistic person and realize the stark contrast in our experiences. For instance, most allistic people can walk into stores without distress, without constantly feeling watched, and without the stress of decoding social cues. They can go shopping or walk down the street without a second thought. In contrast, my experience as an autistic person involves being acutely aware of every detail when outside. My brain is constantly analyzing the environment, causing exhaustion and anxiety. It's truly amazing how some people can navigate the world with ease while others like me face constant challenges.
Acknowledging the very real limitations that many autistic individuals have does not imply a need to change them. As a therapist who values neurodiversity, I am cautious about suggesting that any neurodivergent trait must be changed. If there are aspects of life an individual wishes to modify, addressing them can be a worthwhile pursuit. However, when neurodivergent traits are seen as needing correction simply because they deviate from the neurotypical worldview, it becomes highly problematic.
Yes, as an autistic person, my life may be more restricted than that of an allistic individual, but I have never expressed a desire to change that. This is simply my experience, embracing my neurodivergent identity.