Autism Alone


peerrejectionofautisticchildren1For a long time, I always felt like I was treated differently.  People never got close to me. People were friendly, but I was always kept at an arm’s length.  I used to wonder what was going on with me.  Was it because I’m black? Over the last ten years or so, I’ve learned that race was not the reason people weren’t getting so close to me.  It was because I’m autistic.

One of the things you learn about being autistic is how socially isolating it can be.  You don’t feel close to anyone.  People don’t always go out of your way to get to know you. You start to wonder if you are doing something wrong. It’s already a task to get to know others even though that is what you want. You are afraid at times of talking to others because of this fear that you are going say something wrong.  When you are in a conversation with someone, you have to think of things to talk about and even though it might be a good conversation, you want to stop this talk because it feels like there is so much you have to do be a good conversation partner and not some freak.

I’ve learned that the issue is that people tend to be uncomfortable around autistic people– which makes social isolation even worse:

Autistics make other people uncomfortable, and we do this almost instantly upon meeting. In my communications classes, I teach about the 50 to 500 milliseconds during which most people develop first impressions. These impressions are difficult, nearly impossible, to counteract with evidence and familiarity.

Knowing us doesn’t undo the initial discomfort of meeting usThat is the cost of autism.

This paragraph from a person on Reddit puts the issue in stark relief:

I am socialised to show “support” for autistic people or I’ll face backlash. So here is me, and my true off my chest. You cannot force social change or change me by down voting me here.

I do not want to be friends with them. I do not want to date them. I don’t want to sit next to them on the bus or metro. I don’t want them as my colleague. I don’t want them as my neighbors.

Their actions can get disturbing and scary. From pushing people on the metro (yes I recognised the autistic children because of their school uniform), grabbing my hair (I happen to pass by a stop near a school for autistic children, it was really out of the blue) and making weird noise and hand gestures.

I also dated one once (didnt know he was autistic, we met online) and his lack of facial expressions is scary. Never mind dating etiquette, dating should be fun and all I felt was I am holding on to a robot with emotions and feelings….But the face is neutral and fixed.

I am sorry. You can hate me but you cannot change me. I’ll continue being a “bad human being” until I feel safe around autistic people.

Having autism means that making friendships, having connections with people is always a fraught exercise, and that has reprecussions in life. For example, some statistics say that only about 14 percent of individuals on the spectrum have jobs. One of the reasons that number might be so low is because of the difficulty of “connecting” with people. Interviews are as much about what kind of chemistry you have with the interviewer as it is about skills. When you are in the job, having a relationship with your supervisors and workmates can make the difference between getting a promotion or getting fired.

It shows itself in other ways. I’ve engaged people in fundraising over the years for churches and other groups I’m apart of. No matter how persuasive my writing is, the end result is always few if any donations. It’s not that people don’t like me, but asking for people to part with their money means you have to be able to make a connection with them. I know all the technical skills of writing a persuasive letter, how to present the request visually, but if I don’t have the “people skills” needed to make it happen then paraphrasing a passage from the Bible, I’m a clanging gong or loud cymbal.”

Can any of this change? Can I become learn now behavior that can make me more social and someone that doesn’t make people uncomfortable. The study which started this off would say that people need to be more accepting of the other ways people present themselves socially. Is that going to happen? I don’t know. What I do know is that the study seems to say that even before I go into that interview,or meet that new friend, people have already scanned me and made a decision.

I think at the end of the day, all I can do is try. That’s frustrating and it will not improve my situation. I guess you have to learn how to deal with rejection and learn how to move on.


I Miss Blogging


It’s interesting how things can alter our ways of life.  A decade ago, no one knew what a smartphone was, let alone imagine using a phone like a laptop, but now we are.  The advent of the light bulb made life after the sun went down possible.  Another thing that made life possible was air conditioning.  In the American South, it was an unbearable place to live until AC made it tolerable for people to live and want to live in the South.  Now we can order a pizza or clothing from a desktop or a phone.  Twenty years ago, Amazon was just starting and no one predicted it would sell more things than just books. We didn’t imagine we could do our whole shopping without having to go to the local mall, but shopping changed because of Amazon.

Social media has changed things in our world as well.  One of the things it has changed is the demise of the weblog or blog.  Until a few years ago, blogs were a way for people to get ideas out to the wider world.  People were able to share their views in a way that took time.  It took time to write those posts and it took time to read them.  A number of my friends blogged and if you were to go back to the mid-aughts, you would see a rather prolific blogger opine on religion and politics.  I loved blogging, but over the last few years, I’ve blogged less and less.  There are many reasons for this, but I think I, like so many other former bloggers, gave up blogging with the rise of social media.  With Facebook and Twitter, you no longer had to write a long post on an issue; instead, you can point at an article and write a short and sweet post that includes the word “this.” We link to an article, but we don’t expound any further. We’ve practiced how to be snarky instead of how to better reason a specific issue.

But social media and blogging are two different things, using two different parts of the brain.  Blogging tends to be more thoughtful. Yes, it can be emotional and overwrought, but it is a space where reason and intellect can be put to use to explain an issue.

Social media, on the other hand, is totally a reptilian brain kind of thing.  Twitter and Facebook are places where we emote, where we express ourselves.  We aren’t thinking as much on social media as we are feeling.  One only need to see how our current President uses Twitter- it’s not based on thoughtful sentences, but on pure emotion.

It’s not that you can’t be reasonable on social media, you can.  But I think more than on blogs, the temptation is to respond with emotion and not with reason.

The other thing is how social media seems to focus more on showing off.  It is not a place to be vulnerable, but a place to show off.  People don’t share when they feel depressed or how hard it was to get out of bed this morning, but they will talk about how mad they are at this politician.  A number of the blogs I followed over the years shared vulnerability, they showed their real selves.  Social media lends itself to virtue signaling, but not to be honest with others.

Social media tends to be again more about reassuring your friends that you share their same views instead of trying to change minds.  MAD Magazine has a not-funny comic about children and gun violence that is making the rounds.  Those who are favorable to gun control see it as emotionally gut-wrenching.  But will it persuade those who are skeptical or against gun control?  No.  The whole point is not to change minds, but to reassure like-minded folk that their cause is just and those who don’t share those views are just wrong if not out and out evil.

I’m going to try to blog more over the coming months, but what I really wish is that folks that used to blog start up again.  I’d love to be able to take in people’s viewpoints instead of seeing the latest screed on Twitter about what have you. Social media has changed us as a public, but just because it can change us doesn’t mean we can’t reverse it.

My Mixed-Up Religious Election Day Story



Most of this was written on election day 2018.

I voted today and I would be lying if I didn’t say I am invested in the vote. (You can read an article I wrote recently about why I voted the way I did.)  I think voting is important partially because it wasn’t that long ago that people who look like me weren’t allowed to vote.

But I have mixed feelings about the election today.  I think current political situations make it more important than usual, but I feel at times that politics (in which I mean partisan politics) is nearing idolatrous levels.  We look at our political parties as vehicles of salvation that will bring about some kind of utopia.  Someone I follow on Twitter put this tweet out this morning and I have to say it speaks to me:

But there is also something about the quote that bothers me. Politics doesn’t “save” people, and yet it can. I remember watching a the movie “Selma” a few years ago. For those who haven’t seen the film, it tells the story of Martin Luther King and other leaders in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s pushing for voting rights. It shows the many protests that took place and how the white leaders and police beat the protestors, especially on what was later called “Bloody Sunday.” The end of the movie sees President Johnson pushing for the Voting Rights Act which was passed in 1965. Politics can’t save our souls, but it can save people caught in unjust situations.

But the tweet still has merit because of the nature of our civic life these days or lack thereof. We live in a time where civil society is very thin. Organizations are on the wane, political parties are weaker. But we are invested in identities; not just racial or based on sexuality, but also ideologically. The irony is that as political parties have grown weak, we are far more polarized. Writing for the digital magazine ArcDigital, Jonathan Peter Schwarz laments the loss of a participatory culture in America and how that has changed politics and life in America for the the worst. We tend to think democracy is simply going to the polls and voting, but that is only one part of what makes a democracy. Our current non participatory culture makes citizens into consumers:

American politics cannot currently be recognized as a participatory republic. Politics is now a national spectacle where citizens sit passively and watch with little ability to impact the proceedings. Our politics is no longer about participation. It is about manipulation. Political consultants slice up segments of the electorate into identity groups, isolate wedge issues to instill fear and rage, and turn the political process into a perpetual branding campaign.

In our current context, the church has become less of a civic organization in society, than another interest group. We can see that among the many evangelicals who have placed their support for President Trump, but it is found among progressive Christians as well.

I think when it comes to politics, some think the church should be detached and not be so invested in partisan politics. In college, my evangelical church group told me  that Democrats were the godless party (not from my parents, they were dyed in the wool Democrats).  Now I hear how voting for Democrats and against Republicans is virtuous.  The church these days can be very biased on either side, producing far more heat than light.

When the last vote is tallied, we will still be a very divided nation.  Can the church be a place that can bring together people from accross the class, political and racial spectrum?  I think for that to happen, we have to adopt a theology of the table.  We have to see the importance of the Lord’s Supper and how in every church at every table, we need to see a place where everyone can come to God’s table and we try to stay at the table and break bread together.

There’s a lot more I could say about this, but let’s leave it there for now.


Why I Can’t Give Up the Mainline


A recent article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune got attention nationwide.  It focused on the closing a rural Lutheran church this coming summer in particular and about the Mainline Protestant Church as a whole.

The long decline of the Mainline denominations is nothing new. It’s been happening for decades, but it’s speeding up.  Over the years, I’ve agreed with some that the Mainline churches tend to at times de-emphasize the gospel to the point that the church offers little to the general public. Anyone who has read this blog over the years know that I have issues with my own denomination and the mainline church and I think those grievances are legit.

But even though I sometimes feel adrift where there is a strong focus on social justice but very little at times on the spiritual, even though there might be churches and denominations where I could find a better fit, even though there might be churches where the theology is sounder and not feel like its being tacked on to whatever cause, even if there are places where I feel like evangelism is viewed as important as social justice, I will stay in the mainline church for one very important reason:

It is the only place where I can worship God openly and safely as a gay man.

This is something that sets me apart from other people who might be evangelical, conservative, orthodox or traditional (ECOT). They can happily leave, but I can’t.  Because even though there might be places that have the “correct” theology, they are not places of welcome for me or other LGBT people. For example, I’ve always been impressed by the Evangelical Covenant Church, especially in how the deal with racial justice (there is a very good interracial church in Minneapolis focused on racial and ethnic justice), but it is not ready to accept any church that is openly welcoming of LGBT people. A lot of the more conservative churches are places where I could never be a pastor, and in some cases not even be a member.

Paul Moore, a colleague and Presbyterian minister, is also familiar with decline.  But he has also been involved in revitalizing one church and planting another, in a time when the Mainline is declining he has been a planting seeds of revival.

As someone who helped redevelop a Presbyterian church and who started a new Presbyterian church virtually from scratch, I live and breathe the question(s) of how to build a church ministry from a Mainline perspective that is appealing to the wider community.

Do I think it is possible to build a growing, vibrant, mainline congregation in 2018?  Of course I do!   I’ve seen it happen in the two contexts I’ve served.  And more importantly God hasn’t changed in the last 18 years; the stories of Jesus haven’t changed in the last 18 years; the possibility of individuals and the wider community having their lives transformed in the last 18 years haven’t changed either.

I don’t think that the path to building a growing, vibrant, mainline congregation is easy. And the ways to do this are many.

I do believe that one essential way to growth is to adapt continuously.

One of the strengths of liberal, Mainline churches is that they have been willing to welcome those that have in the past been banned or restricted. Not just gays, but allowing women to become ministers and be able to fully listen to their call. It was in the forefront of the civil rights movement, helping the nation finally live up to the promises it said it followed in the Constitution.

What has made Mainline churches go into decline is not liberalism. Instead, it is what a pastor I know has said: mainline churches are no longer good at communicating the gospel, let alone explain the role faith has in their lives. This is where evangelicals shine, because they know what they believe in. What I think needs to happen is that pastors in mainline congregations have to begin preaching the gospel, Jesus Christ and merge that with it’s social liberal outlook.

So, I want to stay to build up the lost vital center in mainline churches. We have to find ways to be strong on social justice and evangelism. We have to help people know what they believe and use their faith to preach liberty to the captives.

I believe the mainline church does have a future. It has to, for my sake. I remain, hoping to help change the church for the better, because it is the only faith home I have.

With all the problems it has,with all the ways it seems out of step with my faith, I want to stay in the mainline church. I want to stay to reform it, since at the end of the day, it’s my only home.

Sermon: Thirteen

This is the sermon I preached yesterday. You can read it here and you can also listen to the podcast. Yes, Thirteen is referring to Romans 13.

Exodus 20:17, Matthew 22:34-40 and Romans 13
Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
Ten Words from God Series
June 17, 2018
First Christian Church
Mahtomedi, MN

Download this episode (right click and save)

2yearoldcryingI’ve shared this before, but I first learned about the internment of Japanese Americans in high school. I can remember reading about the Issei and the Nissei, the names for the immigrant generation and the first generation of native Japanese Americans respectively.  They came to the United States seeking a new life and set up lives and communities along the Western coast of the United States. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the lives of these immigrants dramatically changed. All of the sudden, over 100,000 American citizens were viewed with suspicion.  In the days following the attack, the United States declared war against the Japan and we formally entered World War II. But our government also did something else. Executive order 9066, signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt allowed for the government to round up those 100,000 Americans and place them into Internment Camps across the West.  The United States government forced 100,000 people whose only crime was to share the ancestry of a current enemy, to give up their homes and businesses, to leave their hometowns to go to camps where they stayed until the end of the war.

We look back at that time with a sense of shock and shame.  We wonder how a government, our government would be willing to do that to American citizens.

And yet, here we are 70 years later at another point in history when our government is doing something that seems unimaginable.  

We have all seen and heard the stories about families who come to the border who are forcibly split up children from parents to go to special detention facilities.  Vox, the online magazine states, “Between October 1, 2017 and May 31, 2018, at least 2,700 children have been split from their parents. 1,995 of them were separated over the last six weeks of that window — April 18 to May 31 — indicating that at present, an average of 45 children are being taken from their parents each day.”

This is part of a new “zero tolerance” policy by the Trump Administration, an effort to make coming to the United States, legal or not, as so horrible that people will stop coming. Many of those coming are requesting asylum, escaping violence in Central American nations.  But it doesn’t matter to our leaders. No matter what, if a family comes to our Southern border, the children are separated, even to the point to taking a woman’s child as she is breastfeeding them.

When asked to justify this policy Attorney General Jeff Sessions responded by using a passage in the Bible. This is what he said:

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions said. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent, fair application of law is in itself a good and moral thing and that protects the weak, it protects the lawful. Our policies that can result in short-term separation of families are not unusual or unjustified.”

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Of course, I am speaking from Matthew, but I want you to remember that as we look at Romans 13.  This passage written by the Apostle Paul has been one of the most misused pieces of scripture in the BIble.  If you look at it alone, then it could be bent to excuse government policies which is what the Attorney General did this week. This passage has been used to justify government oppression which is not the intent of Paul.  Anglican Priest Fleming Rutledge has said that this passage has been used to keep people in oppressive situations. Today we are justifying the separation of young children by saying that Romans 13 says it okay.

Paul’s intent was to say that God created the world and that government is part of God’s created order.  Government is there to protect us, so we should be good citizens, paying our taxes and obeying the laws.

When you are reading Paul’s epistles which are letters to local churches, you have to understand it in that context. It is dangerous to take this passage whole as something that can be used in all times and places.  Yes, as Christians we should be good citizens and respect authority. But you can’t and shouldn’t use this to bless government activities. Romans 13 never tells us how to deal with a tyrannical government. You can’t really use this if the government is something like Nazi Germany. It is one thing to respect the authorities when the government is acting in a way that is just.  But Romans 13 has nothing to say when the government is unjust. The Attorney General also didn’t read the last part of this chapter where Paul tells the people not just to respect authorities, but to live in a certain way based on love. Paul says, “Don’t be in debt to anyone, except for the obligation to love each other. Whoever loves another person has fulfilled the Law. 9 The commandments, Don’t commit adultery, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t desire what others have,[a] and any other commandments, are all summed up in one word: You must love your neighbor as yourself.[b] 10 Love doesn’t do anything wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is what fulfills the Law.”

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Love is what is at the base of what we do.  If it isn’t seen as loving, then it isn’t love and it isn’t from God.  Ripping kids from their parents when they are already in a strange country where the language is different isn’t loving and it isn’t ordained by God. If someone tells you this, they are a liar. Even Paul knew that government even if it is good, is only provisional.  The ultimate power is not the Caesars of the Roman Empire or the United States, but it is found in God. When early Christians said that Jesus is Lord, that was dangerous. It was political, because in a place where the leaders were considered a deity, saying Jesus was lord was saying that someone else was challenging their power.

What is happening at the Southern border is not biblical.  It is not approved by God. The God that heard the cries of the Hebrew children killed by the Pharaoh, is not going to approve of destroying families.

I’ve spoken that the church is called to be a place where people of all backgrounds can come together at Christ’s table, especially at a time we are so divided.  But the church is also the church militant, it is called to speak out against injustice. We can’t remain silent when something like this is happening. We can’t allow the Caesars of this world to bend Scripture to justify their evil practices.

This is not about partisan politics.  This is not about bad Republicans and righteous Democrats. If you are thinking that way, stop it. We aren’t here to just speak out when we don’t like Caesar, we are called to speak out when the Cesar is unjust regardless if they have a D or R after their name.

You and I are called to speak.  This is a time to speak up. At the end of the day, we are called to love God and our neighbor.  Because to love God and neighbor are the foundation of every other commandment. If it isn’t loving it isn’t Jesus and if it isn’t Jesus we need to speak up.  Now is the time. Thanks be to God. Amen.

The Politics of Jesus

partisanpolitical.jpgOn Wednesday morning, Southern Baptist missiologist Ed Setzer tweeted the following:

This bothered a number of folk. Among them was theologian James K.A. Smith who replied with the following tweet:

I’m thinking that Setzer and those responding were talking past each other.  My take is that he was responding to a certain situation. He was at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas, where, Vice President Mike Pence was coming to make a speech.  Setzer had his own opinion of the speech and the ideology behind it:

So, is politics and religion a bad mix or not?

I think Setzer is 70 percent correct and thirty percent wrong.

Setzer could have phrased this better. Of course, at a basic level, the church is political. It can’t be apolitical in the face of racism or sexism or name any other social sin. When liberation theologians say that God has an option for the poor, it is saying that God chooses sides. God is not sitting on the sidelines.

The church has been political, especially when people are being oppressed for who they are. In the book God’s Politics, Jim Wallis shares a story about former Archbishop Desmond Tutu and what he faced when he and religious leaders involved in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa:

“The former South African archbishop Desmond Tutu used to famously say, “We are prisoners of hope.” Such a statement might be taken as merely rhetorical or even eccentric if you hadn’t seen Bishop Tutu stare down the notorious South African Security Police when they broke into the Cathedral of St. George’s during his sermon at an ecumenical service. I was there and have preached about the dramatic story of his response more times than I can count. The incident taught me more about the power of hope than any other moment of my life. Desmond Tutu stopped preaching and just looked at the intruders as they lined the walls of his cathedral, wielding writing pads and tape recorders to record whatever he said and thereby threatening him with consequences for any bold prophetic utterances. They had already arrested Tutu and other church leaders just a few weeks before and kept them in jail for several days to make both a statement and a point: Religious leaders who take on leadership roles in the struggle against apartheid will be treated like any other opponents of the Pretoria regime. After meeting their eyes with his in a steely gaze, the church leader acknowledged their power (“You are powerful, very powerful”) but reminded them that he served a higher power greater than their political authority (“But I serve a God who cannot be mocked!”). Then, in the most extraordinary challenge to political tyranny I have ever witnessed, Archbishop Desmond Tutu told the representatives of South African apartheid, “Since you have already lost, I invite you today to come and join the winning side!” He said it with a smile on his face and enticing warmth in his invitation, but with a clarity and a boldness that took everyone’s breath away. The congregation’s response was electric. The crowd was literally transformed by the bishop’s challenge to power. From a cowering fear of the heavily armed security forces that surrounded the cathedral and greatly outnumbered the band of worshipers, we literally leaped to our feet, shouted the praises of God and began…dancing. (What is it about dancing that enacts and embodies the spirit of hope?) We danced out of the cathedral to meet the awaiting police and military forces of apartheid who hardly expected a confrontation with dancing worshipers. Not knowing what else to do, they backed up to provide the space for the people of faith to dance for freedom in the streets of South Africa.”

So, yeah the church gets political and it has to. But I don’t think that was what Setzer was getting at. He was more concerned with how the church bows down to Ceasar, meaning how conservative and progressive Christians bow down to the current makeup of American politics.

We often tend to look at the mixing of partisan politics and religion as something that occurs on the right, but progressive politics and religion are also in bed together.

The thing is, the church in America doesn’t really know how to be political without being partisan. What churches in America tend to is ape what happens in Washington or name your state capital. From Sojourner’s on the left to Focus on the Family on the right, we tend are politcally engaged not as the church being the conscience of the society, but as another interest group a political party must deal with.

This is what Setzer is getting at when he says mixing religion and politics means you get politics.  It means that what happens is that you become the spiritual wing of the political parties.  Instead of transforming politics, we allow politics to transform the church.

This is what Episcopal priest Frederick Schmidt gets at in his latest post observing the different plans being put forth ahead of the 2019 General Conference of the United Methodist Church.  The denomination is trying to find a way to both open up ordination to LGBT Methodists and keep traditionalists in the church. Schmidt thinks that the individualism of the culture, the lack of any kind of ecclesiology or theology of the church is destroying the modern “body of Christ:”

The language of ecclesiology (a theology of the church) has slipped to the margins. Instead, Methodists draw comparisons with Starbucks[3] and talk about the church’s “constitutional” polity, and everyone assumes that whatever needs to be done, it should take the form of national legislation.[4]

This behavior and this way of navigating decisions in the church is now the standard. There is little room for theological deliberation. There is even less room for theological struggle, and there is no room for pastoral care and attention to the individual or community.

That is, in large part, because both by design and by inattention the politics of the culture have invaded and overrun the life of the church as the body of Christ.

That loss of talking about the body of Christ has been evident in the discussion on homosexuality. I can remember back in the mid-90s when churches were really dealing with this issue. When a church was deciding to more publically welcome gays, there was usually a vote and after that hard vote, it was not uncommon to hear a pastor say that they now must attend to healing. They knew there were good God-fearing people on both sides of the issue and that for the body to move forward, attention had to be paid to the losing side.

When the state of Minnesota approved same-sex marriage five years ago, I commented to friends that we must think of the other side who lost. They looked at me as if I had come from Mars. The church is no longer was interested in dealing with those who were on the losing end. We have sucumbed to the politics of the now.

Maybe one of the most important things that can happen in these times is for the church to recover its ecclesiology. It is only then we can really recover what it means to be the church political and not the church partisan.

The Trouble with “Normal”


It has been sometime since I wrote something on autism/aspergers, partially because I didn’t have anything I wanted to write.  But I stumbled accross an article on Facebook that reminds me of the situation that I face on daily basis.

It’s been nearly 10 years since I was diagnosed with Aspergers or High Functioning Autism.  When I got the diagnosis, I was relieved.  It was something I could hang all of the difficulties I faced as an adult in relationships and employment. I was hoping that I could explain to my employers what was happening with me and that they would understand.

Boy was I wrong.

The problem with having High Functioning Autism is that you don’t look like you have autism.  I can “pass” well enough for people to think I don’t really have any issues.  But that’s not true.  A recent article on the challenges those of us with High Functioning Autism face explains:

If the media is to believed, the high end of the autism spectrum is peopled largely by eccentric geniuses—Bill Gates and Albert Einstein are often mentioned, along with Dan Aykroyd and Daryl Hannah—who by and large do very well indeed, though they march to the beat of their own drummer. The reality, however, is that “high functioning autistic” and “genius,” “business tycoon,” and “Hollywood star” rarely go together…They may also have significant challenges which stand in the way of living a comfortable life, succeeding in work or romance, or achieving a sense of self-worth. Those issues are made more challenging, in part, because they surprise and upset others who don’t anticipate odd behaviors or reactions from people who “pass for normal” in many situations…

While people with more severe autism are not generally expected to just suck it up and get through difficult moments, people on the higher end of the spectrum are expected to do just that…

Lastly, people with high functioning autism are, in general, very aware of their own difficulties and extremely sensitive to others’ negative reactions.

I’ve experienced this situation over and over. I can work to try to fix my mistakes, I can go over and above to show that I can do my work well and at the end of the day, it is not enough. I am told things that sometimes cut to the heart, even though you know that you’ve tried to be the best worker in spite of my shortcomings. But you have to suck it up and try to function even though you’ve been shamed and told that you aren’t a good worker. The thing is, you can try as hard as you can and at the end of the day, it. is. not. enough.

You have to suck it up, because you don’t look autistic.  Which means that people don’t take your autism to account.  Instead you are looked at like a giant f**kup.

And when your high functioning autism isn’t taken seriously, it affects you in future situations.  Work becomes a place where you are waiting for someone to point out a mistake you made and then, you overreact, fearing that it’s all downhill from here.  You end up not trusting people, because you fear them- you fear they will judge you and that your job will be in jeporady.

So, work becomes a minefield, one that can become of your own making.

What I would like to see from people at work not just for me, but for anyone with high functioning autism is to stop assuming things. As Ashlea McKay notes:

Don’t think because I’m a successful adult female that communicates verbally that my existence is ‘mild’ or that I ‘don’t seem that autistic’ to you. That is insulting to both me and every other autistic person on the planet. I know you’re just trying to understand and have probably heard a number of things about autism over the years, but instead of assuming what it means to be autistic, just ask.

If someone tells you they are autistic, ask a damn question as to how you can help them be the best employee. Don’t assume. Don’t just automatically go to belittling them. Sometimes people are just not good employees, but sometimes we just need help and encouragement.

One thing that I am learning over time is that I need to be willing to advocate for myself.  Simply telling folk isn’t enough. At times I might need to politely push back.  Because I think sometimes people don’t understand things unless they are hit metaphorically by a 2×4.

So, when an employee tells you that they are autistic, talk to them. Learn all you can about autism and how to be a good manager to them.  Just because they appear “normal”doesn’t mean you can treat them as normal.