This year, for Autism “Awareness” Month, I’m bringing “awareness” to some of the wonderful parts of autistic life.
There’s a nasty, pernicious stereotype that paints autistic people as unfeeling robots. Some so-called “experts” still tell parents that their autistic children will never feel or show love for them, leading to some Autism Warrior Parents to bemoan the fact that their non-speaking child may never say “I love you”. I’ve even had a woman say to me, after learning that I was autistic, that she’d once known someone who might have been autistic “but he had feelings”. Let me shut that crap down right the hell now! Autistic love is an incredible thing!
I don’t mean just familial love or romantic love; I mean love for animals, love of music and movement, love of our special interests – anything and everything, anyone and everyone that brings us joy!
Let’s start with people.
We love our people fiercely. We are loyal, even protective, because we know what it is to be rejected and left vulnerable by those we trusted, and we don’t want that to happen to people we care about.
We cherish our family – both blood and chosen. Because we face so much rejection throughout our lives, autistic people are highly devoted when we find Our People, those with whom we can truly be our authentic selves and be accepted and loved for it. These people are a precious respite from the rest of the world and make us feel like we’re not aliens after all.
We love our children – yes, autistic people have kids! There’s whole generations of adults, especially women, coming to find and understand their own autism through their children’s diagnosis journeys. Autistic parents will fight for our kids, to get them all the support and accommodations they need so that they don’t grow up feeling broken like we did. We play, stim, and laugh with our kids, accepting them fully as they are and loving them with all our being.
We love our partners. Autistic people are highly grateful for those who choose to share our lives. We know it’s not always easy – we live it, we know how bad the hard days are and how amazing the good days are and how tiring it can get being so intense. But we also love to share all the beauty, all the joy, all the pure happiness we find in life and it means the world to us to have people to share all that with.
Autistics show our love for people by learning the things they love and hate and trying to make sure that they don’t have to deal with unpleasant things when they’re with us. We show our love by remembering that you’re allergic to soy or you hate the smell of talcum powder or you only eat pasta with tomato sauce, never alfredo. Our love comes through in sharing our special interests with others and helping our friends through bad brain days.
Autistic people often have big hearts for animals, as well.
Some of us are much more comfortable with animals than we are with humans and many of us go into fields that let us work closely with them. We’re the ones who spend the evening playing with the cat or dog instead of talking to other humans at a party. After all, animals are much easier to understand. Our pets often mean as much to us as our family, especially if we have a strained relationship with our humans. Pets help us stay regulated and give us focus, and they don’t shame us for being as we are.
Autistic love makes us the people who feed strays because nobody else does and try to befriend the poor feral creatures who hiss at us. It’s the reason that we say hello to the spiders we find in forgotten corners and the snakes that come into our gardens (as long as they’re not dangerous), and why we feed the crows and squirrels – after all, they’re our friends!
Autistic people love our special interests, too, of course.
Pretty much all of us have those things that we obsess over and learn everything about that bring us so much joy! We love our special interests to a degree that NTs might call “cringe”, but we don’t care because they make us SO HAPPY! Our love is shown through knowledge, collecting, quoting, reciting, or developing and perfecting new skills.
Some of us can recite Shakespeare to a fare-thee-well. Others got so into medieval history that they learned to make chainmail and now they build cosplay and re-enactment gear to sell online and at Ren Faires. Some people collect all things Sherlock Holmes, from the original books to new stories to deerstalker hats. Still others know everything about their favorite director and can deconstruct all their films into pervasive themes. Regardless of what our special interests are, this is how we love these things – by learning and knowing and analyzing and immersing ourselves in them.
Autistic love is intense – like everything else. If you’re lucky enough to have autistic love in your life, whether from a partner, children, or friends, you know it’s fierce and consuming and beautiful and wild. Autistic love is squealing with delight and jumping for joy. It’s learning to make our partner’s perfect cup of tea and devouring their favorite shows with them. It’s enabling our friends’ special interests and exchanging infodumps because seeing our friends talk about things they love makes us just as happy as talking about the things we love! In short, autistic love is about appreciating everything that brings us joy and doing what we can to give that joy back into the world.
What has been your experience of autistic love? Have you ever had to educate people on the fact that autistic people do, in fact, feel love? Would you explain autistic love in a different way?