On Trying to be Normal

Boy in a school cafeteria, sitting in a line of other kids, looking at the sandwich he is eating.
I tried for so long to be normal. And it drove me nuts and burned me out multiple times. It's not only an unreachable goal, bit it turns out it's not really the goal that I thought it was, after all.

When the goal is to be normal

Many autism therapies have as their goal to make autistic children “normal,” or “indistinguishable from their peers.”

This is the goal of many parents, autism professionals, and even many autistics themselves. It was my goal for a long time.

It’s so tempting. It’s normal to want to be normal. 😉

This is not my goal anymore.

I was born in this world the way that I am, which means I have a right to be in this world the way that I am.

When the goal is belonging

When someone says they want to be normal, what I think they really want is to fit in, to be accepted by the group, to belong.

It’s the belonging, the acceptance that we’re really after. Not being the same.

It took me years to take off the mask of pretending to be normal — which didn’t really work anyway — and to accept that who I am is valuable just as I am.

What the goal is not

Does that mean I don’t have goals for improvement? Of course not. There are many challenges I’m grateful to have solved, and some I’m still figuring out.

AND…I was born in this world the way that I am, which means I have a right to be in this world the way that I am. My happy, flappy autistic self.

So when I talk about removing barriers to being your best self, I am not talking about removing the autism to find a normal child underneath.

I’m talking about tracking down sensory stressors, integrating sensory perception, rewriting learned anxieties with more positive experiences, finding tricks to deal with common stressors that can’t be avoided, reframing autism to remove the stigma…in general, feeling more safe in one’s own body, more comfortable in one’s own skin.

Because I’m here to stay.

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Heather Cook

Heather Cook

Hi, I’m Heather. I’m an autistic writer, advocate, and life coach, and I'm building a life I love. I help other autistics to build their own autism-positive life. I love reading, jigsaw puzzles, every science ending in -ology, and all things Star Trek!

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