The Sneakiness Of Embedded Allistic Ableism

This meme is making the rounds again, and it definitely hits different now.

Was at a training once where the facilitator said, "Unsolicited advice is criticism. Always." Half the room audibly gasped/ objected. The other half shouted a chorus of yes/thank you/amen. She offered no quarter to the "just being helpful" brigade. It was glorious.

Given how often allistic people mistake tendencies for negativity, it is hard to not see this as being actively perpetuating prejudice against other neurotypes.

I see the effects of this kind of prejudice when neurodivergent friends and significant others fall over themselves apologizing for offering suggestions, being excited about their special interests, and other behaviors that seem absolutely normal to me, but that allistic society has unrelentingly criticized them for.

I should stress that I do not think either the quoted trainer or the person writing the tweet is aware of their ableism; they are reporting what their experience is. It’s just that … well, some of us experience those interactions very differently.

This TikTok video gives a couple of dramatized examples
































♬ original sound – Jeremy Andrew Davis

The short form — if you can’t see the video — is that for many neurodivergent people, unsolicited advice is meant as support, nothing more.

Yes, there are jerks who will claim neurodivergence to shield themselves. They’re actually pretty easy to weed out; I’ve been using the "autism or asshat" test for something like a decade {1}. Asshats respond to pushback by doubling down on their authority to speak. Neurospicy folks tend to react the way dramatized in the video — confused and upset their motivations have been misunderstood so badly.

The original meme could be at least partially fixed by changing the first line to:

Was at a training once where the facilitator said, "Unsolicited advice is always seen as criticism by allistic people."

But in order to eliminate the embedded allistic ableism in the original, what we should really be striving for is this:

Was at a training once where the facilitator said, "The motivation behind unsolicited advice is not always criticism." They offered no quarter to the allistics insisting their interpretation of another's motivation was the only correct way. It was glorious.

{1} And man, the way I wrote it up then is super amusing to reflect upon now that I realize I’m in the neurospicy community myself.

Photo by David Matos on Unsplash

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