January 18, 2019

Would it be useful to announce my autism on a medical bracelet? What would that say about me?

Well, I know what I wish it would say.

I wish it would say to police officers, “I strictly follow every rule to the best of my ability. If it seems like I’m not following directions, it’s because I process audio more slowly under stress. Either that, or I feel confused because what you’re saying contradicts what I thought I was expected to do. Please slow down, assume the best, and¬†explain things very clearly.”

I wish an autism bracelet would say to paramedics, “I don’t know what’s happening, and I find that terrifying. Please tell me where we’re going, and exactly what to expect. Also, many kinds of physical sensations are uncomfortable for me, and that can be hard to distinguish from pain, so I may not know how to answer when you ask me if something hurts.”

I wish that’s what “autism” meant in emergencies. But it doesn’t.

For a lot of the public, autism means that a person will behave unpredictably, won’t understand anything, and might do something dangerous.

I can often predict the actions of other autistics, so we aren’t entirely unpredictable. I can usually understand what people say, though I sometimes have trouble responding quickly. I know that dangerous actions can result from feeling completely overwhelmed and reaching a breaking point, but no one should have to go through things that make them feel that way.

“Autism awareness” usually means spreading reminders that autism exists. I wish it meant learning how autistics actually think, act, and feel.

Then I could wear it on a bracelet with confidence.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.