It is very common for people who have autism spectrum disorders to state that “Autism does not define them.” For a long time I have struggled to understand what is meant by this, and have recently decided that what these people mean to say is that autism does not run their lives and that they are made of many other attributes besides those prescribed by their condition. Usually this phrase is used to indicate that people with autism spectrum disorders are able to do many good things despite their disabilities. What many do not consider is that while many of our struggles and downfalls come from the disabilities which do not define us, many of our faults are faults because in addition to being autistic, we actually are human beings.
It can be difficult to distinguish the faults posed by our human condition from those from our autistic condition, though it is easy to prove the fact that we have human faults simply by the fact that if we did not, then we would be perfect humans if not for our conditions. By this logic, everybody would have to have a mental disorder, and if everybody had a disability, then there would be no such thing as a disability. For those of us who are disabled, it is important to be able to determine the faults which do define us as opposed to those which are of the condition which does not. By being able to tell which social mistakes come from AS and which come from our human condition we are able to treat our autistic condition more effectively.
The main difference between our human and autistic faults is the intention of the action in question. If somebody tries to get my attention and I do not turn around it could be either because my autistic condition caused me to be distracted and I did not hear them, or it could be because my human condition caused me to resent them for some reason and therefore consciously ignore them. In the first scenario, it would be wrong to place blame on me for not responding, but in the second scenario I would have deserved blame because I made the decision to not turn around.
That being said, I have found that those with autistic conditions work more carefully to shape their human conditions because the impact of our human faults on our autistic faults tend to bear much larger consequences for us than for those who do not have autistic faults. If I were to decide one night that instead of adhering to my autistic routine of eating dinner, studying, showering, and sleeping, I would instead go out and stay up late instead of doing work, I would be demonstrating a human fault. However, this human decision would result in the breaking of my autistic routine, and my autistic condition would cause me to become overwhelmed by the break in the schedule and it could take a week or two to readjust to my routine, causing anxiety and a build-up of work. Somebody who does not live with an autistic condition may go out every night without studying but not become overwhelmed, and will only realize the consequences when they find they have failed their courses. Because those who do have autistic conditions take this into consideration, we are less likely to make poor human choices because we are more aware of their consequences.
It is necessary for us, then, to find the perfect balance between our human condition and our autistic condition. Autism may not define me, but it definitely does help me to live better as a human being.