30 Days of Autism: Autism and Passing

“Passing” in the context of autism means appearing allistic or faking normal. A good portion of autism therapies are focused on passing as a goal. This comes from either the belief that autism made invisible is autism cured, or that training an autistic person in normalcy will protect them from standing out and being bullied. Autistic people themselves may desire to pass or may feel a need to pass for employment, safety, or social reasons. That said, passing costs autistic people a lot and should not be something they are compelled to do for the sake of others.

Musings of an Aspie put it this way. “For every hour that we manage to pass, we spend two or three or five recovering. We pull off a great passing act at work and pay for it by needing the whole weekend to recharge. We juggle a full class load like our typical peers and end up overwhelmed to the point of illness by midterms.”

As Outrunning the Storm wrote,

I know a thing or two about passing. I know sometimes it’s a useful thing to be able to do. But, I also know it always has a price. I know the more you pretend to be something you are not, the more you bury the things that make you fully who you are, the more it rots you from the inside. I know that being proud of myself and having someone else hate me for it is a whole lot easier than hiding it and hating myself instead.

Teaching someone to play normal. Teaching passing. Teaching someone to be less themselves doesn’t make the autism go away. Not seeing the autism doesn’t mean it’s not there. It just means we’ve asked someone to cut out pieces of themselves to make us more comfortable. It means we’ve asked someone to hate a part of themselves because we can’t understand it.

I’ll be writing about how various autism therapies and how they approach the concept of passing over the next week.

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