Can an autistic person still feel out of place or like a misfit around others on the autism spectrum?
I was diagnosed with ASD in the spring of 2022. Thus, I haven’t had much experience being around only other autistic adults.
I will be updating this article as time goes on – i.e., as I have more and more experiences interacting with autistic adults.
But so far, with only limited experience being around autistic men and women, I have to honestly report that I still felt out of place.
This could be due to one or more of several factors.
• I haven’t been around enough autistic people and need to be more patient.
There is much variation among the autistic population. We are not all carbon copies of each other.
There’s a well-known saying in the autism community: “If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met ONE autistic person.”
Just like not all neurotypicals (NTs) will automatically hit it off with one or two NTs in an NT group – we must consider that the same applies to autistic people, due to their variations as well.
• My perception, overall, was that the autists seemed more like NTs.
Because of this observation, perhaps I couldn’t allow myself (either consciously or subconsciously) to feel comfortable around them.
If I feel like an outsider looking in, when amid NTs, why would this feel much different among autistics who were coming across as more NT than autistic?
However, it’s also possible that most of the ones who presented as neurotypical just happened to be presenting that way in that particular environment. This is very believable.
For example, when I’m at the dentist, my autistic traits are difficult to detect, and would only obviously surface (e.g., failed reciprocity, reduced facial expression, repetitive speech) if the hygienist managed to develop a lengthy conversation with me – which would never happen, of course, since this would impede upon her service towards me.
But anyone who’d observe the entire hour-long appointment would never guess that I was autistic – because the environment isn’t conducive to revealing any of my quirks or autistry. I’m neutral and very relaxed in a dentist’s chair.
Likewise, some of the autists I’ve met thus far may have been neutral and relaxed in the social setting, with their autistry naturally dormant. This would explain why I felt as though I were around NTs more than autists.
I’m not saying I’d feel more at home among autists with amplified quirks and more obvious speech peculiarities.
There were a few who had these, and I felt no less out-of-place when interacting with them.
• Some were masking.
One thing is for sure. I felt more at ease at the prospect of stimming more than usual around people.
But this only amounted to more leg movement than usual.
When around autistic people, I know that any kind of stimming is very acceptable.
I could rock and rock, or flap my hands near my ears, and nobody would bat an eye.
In fact, at one meeting, a nonverbal man with pronounced ASD elaborately stimmed nonstop. Everyone (including myself) was perfectly okay with this.
But knowing that I could stim up a storm without judgement doesn’t make me feel any less out of place, especially since I never had a problem suppressing my stims around NTs anyways.
My judgements, pertaining to the absence of a feeling of belonging, may be quite premature after all. I could be getting ahead of myself here.
In the meantime, I want to also point out that research into this area is extremely limited.
There’s very scant information on any formal investigations into whether or not autistics feel more at home with other autistics.
There’s a study that reveals autistic adults felt more comfortable around other autistics.
But the study didn’t explore the concept of “still feeling like a misfit even among other autistic people,” or, “still feeling like an alien from another planet sent to earth to observe humans.”
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical and fitness topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. In 2022 she received a diagnosis of Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder.