“You are not like my child” is a line adult autistics encounter frequently from parents of autistic children trying to shut down our arguments.
Adult behaviours are often different from those of children. We have grown. We have changed. And that’s a big part of why we “don’t look like” your child. Because “outwardly problematic” autistic behaviours get converted into more socially acceptable alternatives as survival mechanisms as we age.
I’ve written about how Autistic shutdowns are meltdowns “turned inward”. I suspect they are more common for autistic adults. We learn that shutdowns are more acceptable than meltdowns, even though they may be equally or even more damaging.
We learn to fake eye contact. Pick a spot to look at that’s near enough to the eyes that nobody notices.
We keep our mouths shut when Echolalia wants to spring forward from our lips, developing mental Echolalia or ear worms instead.
We learn to stim more discreetly, in more subtle ways like twirling our hair or tapping our pens.
We learn hacks and tricks and different ways of being because we have learnt our authentic selves are frowned upon.
But we also naturally grow and develop new skills, like all humans do. Our experiences shape us and change us. We are not static. And neither is your child. Every day, every week, month, year, we grow and change and develop.
Some of these changes are good and natural. Some are forced and harmful but used to cope and survive. Each is something that has taken some time.
We are not your child. But we have experienced similar childhoods. And their lives will take similar paths to ours. But with one key difference. If we all work together, if we work hard and fight against ableism, then they will only experience positive and natural changes and won’t need to change themselves in harmful ways just to survive.