You can't be autistic because...

Written in March 2022

This is something many of us hear on a regular basis when we disclose our diagnosis. These reactions are part of the reason we are reluctant to disclose, even when it can benefit us, because we are not believed. If you've read my article on behaviour correction you'll understand that invalidating experiences can be very damaging for us and our sense of self.

When our diagnosis (which often gives us the identity we feel we have been lacking) is challenged or disbelieved, or we are even suspected of some malfeasance as a result of disclosure, this is an existentially traumatic experience.


Here are some things which are not part of the diagnostic criteria, and which do not preclude an individual from a genuine diagnosis of autism. We hear these statements as “you can't be autistic because”, yet...


You can still be autistic if


  • You're married
  • You've got children
  • You're in a relationship
  • You've had relationships in the past
  • You have a job
  • You can make eye contact
  • You have a sense of humour
  • You don't like trains
  • You're not good at maths
  • You're not good at computer stuff
  • You can talk
  • You can cope with noise/flourescent light/odd textures/strong smells
  • You have friends
  • You're too pretty
  • You're too good looking
  • You get on with people
  • You understand people
  • You're empathetic
  • You don't have any weird obsessions
  • You like social activities
  • You don't need to wear earplugs/ear defenders
  • You go to gigs/festivals
  • You didn't go to a special school
  • You can talk
  • You wear make up
  • You can do sports or other physical activities
  • You can pay your own bills
  • You don't “look” autistic
  • You use/understand sarcasm


Please, if someone tells you they're autistic, don't say any of these things. If someone told you they had cancer, would you tell them they can't have it because they have hair? Would you really deny someone's diagnosis (and even their identity) because you think you know better?

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