I recently compared side by side photographs of myself. One has me with no glasses, smiling into the camera. The other has me with glasses on and smiling, but my gaze is off. I wanted to show through photography the ridiculousness of telling someone "they don't look autistic" or that they must fit the stereotype when they aren't making eye contact, but making every effort to be pleasant. That isn't hard to do in nature. I think the media created a stereotype at least over the past two decades that an autistic person must be white, male distant, apathetic and having a persistent, off-gaze all of the time.
I wanted to show the ridiculousness of telling someone "they don't look autistic"
I do have a slightly lazy right eye. When I am stressed or very tired, the eye does move off center. That is also my migraine eye. Sometimes, my ever-buzzing mind distracts me right before a picture is taken. The smartphones can be hard to see exactly where the lens is, especially if I want a picture taken sans glasses. Sometimes, in the case of the selfie or groupie (I only do them to document where I go in any given moment of time and to showcase the effort that goes into looking presentable in public), it is hard for me to focus on just where the target is.
Making eye contact is simply too much information.
I don't make eye contact, even with people I've known my whole life. It isn't to be rude, it simply is too much information. My mind can't focus on the content of what they're saying. Looking at their feet or the top of their head is about it.
As a growing Christian, I practice ways to be empathetic. I don't lack empathy, but can miss others' cues that they need it. I listen to their words and tone of voice. What is the context of their speech? Is their tone indicating something is wrong even if they say, "I'm fine."?
This is one autism story that addresses one very misunderstood topic.
I hope this gives someone reading better information about women autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that will disprove the media stereotypes. Maybe you are part of the media. This is one autism story that addresses one very misunderstood topic. Listen to ASD individuals, their families and friends. It is my hope that the stereotypes will begin to dissolve and a broader picture will form. It may take a little time, like a Polaroid picture, but I believe it can happen.
Photo: Left: Allison wearing her glasses; Right: A second pose of Allison without her glasses
Allison M. Kramer is a woman in her thirties from the American Midwest. She was first diagnosed as having “autistic features” in 1998 and was diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder in 2004. Rocking has been Allison’s default stimulus since she was old enough to sit up. It helps relieve the intense anxiety she experiences on a perpetual basis. If a sailor has a ship in every port, Allison has a rocking chair in (almost) every room. She has limited engagement with the outside world. She lives with her older sister in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, and authors a blog at https://through1filter.blogspot.com/?zx=c1eb5e3f47839c06