June 27, 2021

You may have seen the phrase “autistic culture” in posts about social interactions that autistic people often enjoy – like blunt communication, expressing empathy through a personal story, or infodumping.

But what makes it a culture? Why not just call it a set of shared preferences, or habits, or traits?

To call something a culture, it needs a community.

Autistic children naturally develop unusual preferences, and habits, and traits. As we grow up, many of us make adjustments to fit in. But among fellow autistics, in person or online, our true selves are more likely to be understood and celebrated. There, pent-up preferences can be satisfied, and squashed habits can bubble over.

It is this side of ourselves – which is present from birth, often rejected, and easier to embody after witnessing it in a group – that we call autistic culture.

Most cultures are formed in the context of a community. Autistic culture is formed in the brain, but affirmed and enabled in the context of a community.

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.