Autism and intersectionality

Autism and intersectionality is a topic that is important although not talked about as much as it should be. Intersectionality describes how an individual can experience a variety of identities. For the autism community,we are referring to the fact that, alongside being on the autistic spectrum, a person considers things such as race and ethnicity as a big part of their identity. Having different factors that contribute to an individuals’ identity means that there are a variety of experiences among people on the autistic spectrum. As a writer on the autistic spectrum myself, in this blog post, I will talk about this topic in more detail.

For someone on the spectrum, autism is a part of their identity. However, autism is not the only thing that makes up an autistic person’s identity, and as mentioned in the first paragraph, there are other things that contribute that are just as important. Additionally, some of the other things that make up an autistic persons identity do influence the autism aspect, rather than it being separate from autism. 

One common example of intersectionality is autism and gender. Various studies show that women are much more likely to be left undiagnosed or diagnosed late than men. This is because autism presents itself differently to women compared to men. For example, women are more likely to mask their autistic behaviours. Moreover, women tend to be more shy and quiet than men. This leads to autistic behaviours not being detected, which leads to a misdiagnosis or lack of diagnosis. Therefore, the fact that less women are diagnosed with autism than men isn’t a result of less women being autistic, instead it is because autism presents itself differently and in more subtle ways in women compared to men. However, this emphasises the fact that for autistic individuals, their gender is not something that can be considered completely separate to their autism diagnosis, and that your gender does have an impact on the autism aspect of your identity.  

Another good example of autism and intersectionality is when it comes to the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) community. From being in an Asian background, this is something that I can relate to. Overall, it is harder for BAME autistic people to get the support they need. Research from the National Autistic Society showed that there tends to be a lesserof understanding of the autistic spectrum upon the BAME community, which includes parents and relatives of autistic individuals. This can lead to incorrect assumptions being made on autism, which can lead to delays and other challenges when it comes to getting a diagnosis. Furthermore, in my opinion, there is also a lack of autism awareness and understanding among the BAME community. From my own experiences and speaking to others in the BAME community, there is a stigma that is attached with an autistic diagnosis, in that being autistic is something to be ashamed of. As a result, families in the BAME community can initially refuse to acknowledge that their child is autistic, which can lead to them and the child missing out on valuable support.

Intersectionality is an important topic to consider when it comes to talking and raising understanding of the autistic spectrum. When some of us talk about the autistic spectrum, we (albeit unintentionally) assume that all other factors are equal, in that other aspects of an autistic persons identity don’t matter when thinking about the autism specific experiences of that individual. However, by not considering other factors that can influence the experiences of an autistic person, we are missing out on valuable insights that can help towards autism acceptance and understanding. As highlighted in the previous 2 paragraphs, the experiences of an autistic women in the BAME community can differ widely from an autistic man that is not in the BAME community. We need to be able to learn more about how the experiences can differ as part of autism acceptance.

In my opinion, the topic of autism and intersectionality emphasises the diversity of experiences among people on the autistic spectrum. I find it really interesting how different aspects of a persons identity can influence their experiences of being on the autistic spectrum. From my personal experience, I do think that being in the BAME community has influenced the way I think about autism, as I have a greater appreciation of the challenges that factors such as gender and race can have when it comes to the experiences of autistic individuals.

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