Finding Acceptance in the Neurodivergent Community
For Autism “Awareness” Month, I’m bringing “awareness” to the best parts of being autistic!
Autistic life can be hard, no doubt. This world simply isn’t made for us so we struggle. People don’t understand us, we face bullying, humiliation, rejection, lost jobs, lost friendships, and relatively little help as adults. That’s why one of the very best parts of being autistic is finding acceptance in the neurodivergent community!
What is the Neurodivergent Community?
The term “neurodivergent” refers to people who have different neurologies, such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, sensory processing disorders, etc. While we all have specific differences and no two of us have the same experience of our neurodivergence, we have enough in common that we recognize ourselves in each other.
When autistic people, especially late discovered autistic adults, find the neurodivergent community, it’s both a relief and a revelation. Just as realizing our autism let us know that we’re not broken after all, finding this community of other people who do the things we do and feel the things we feel lets us know that we’re not alone. We’re not aliens.
We have found Our People.
But I Thought Autistic People Weren’t Social?
If you thought that, you were SO wrong. Autistic people aren’t especially good at socializing with neurotypicals, that’s true. And many of us have made so many social mistakes and been rejected so thoroughly by NTs that we don’t make much effort to socialize with them anymore.
But you get a few ND people together and we get along like a house afire! You won’t see small talk, but you will see a ton of meaningful, enjoyable connection as we delve straight into our special interests, throw pop culture quotes (however obscure) back and forth, and trade dry, sarcastic quips. And we’ll discuss things that are quite normal to us, like GoodFeel and BadFeel textures, food aversions, and brain hacks we’ve figured out to help us make it in this world.
In short, we understand each other.
Don’t get me wrong, many of us still find people exhausting and need to limit our socializing. That’s why the ND community online is such an important asset for us.
Neurodivergent Communities Online
Online communities have always been important to marginalized communities. Since the early days of BBS, the internet has been connecting people who thought they were alone with others like them across the country and around the world. In the 21st century, social media makes it even easier.
An added bonus of online ND communities is that we can log off and take a break when we need to, and we can take time processing and composing our statements and replies instead of trying to keep up with an in-person conversation. This means we can conserve our mental and social spoons and we don’t get exhausted as easily. It also makes it easier for us to communicate what we really mean to say because sometimes words are just hard.
You can find ND groups all over social media. Some of the best communities I’ve found are on Twitter (yes, I know, Twitter can be nasty, but it can also be great). Neurodivergent Twitter and ADHD Twitter are fantastic resources for those who suspect they may be autistic or ADHD as well as those who know they are and are looking for support and camaraderie. We post about everyday issues, moods, new realizations, coping strategies, and we make great jokes. Most importantly, these communities allow not only autistics but all ND people to feel seen and recognized and valued. If you want to get a look at those, I suggest starting by searching the hashtags #AskingAutistics, #NeurodiverseSquad, and #ADHDTwitter. Or you can just follow your favorite autistic advocates and see who they like and follow for more ideas.
We are Everywhere
Finding our ND communities gives us the benefit of other people’s experiences to compare to our own. We get to see autistic and otherwise ND people in all walks of life, from minimum wage workers or those on disability to artists, journalists, and more. I cannot overstate the good that comes of seeing other autistic people talk about being academics, scientists, writers, non-speaking activists, parents and spouses, when we may not have known those things were possible for autistics.
We get to see other autistics discuss their experiences of gender and sexuality, sensory issues, relationships with friends, family, and partners, career and workplace issues, and we get to have conversations with people who understand why these aspects of life can be so difficult for us. Instead of getting the same platitudes or surface-level advice that we often feel we receive from well-meaning NTs, we can get detailed ideas about how to cope that make sense to us because they work with our neurology. Learning from each other can make all the difference.
Where do you find your community? What have you gained from the ND/autistic community? Do you have a favorite social media platform for connecting with the ND community?