As a consequence of more positive representations of autistic people on social media and in autistic writing in print, there has been a tidal wave of change in attitude, as far as the perception of what autistic people are capable of. Okay, it still has a way to go – unless you read this stuff, your opinions are unlikely to have changed. But little by little, word is getting out that we are, in fact, quite awesome.

And this is where the claim that we have superpowers comes in. I’m not a huge fan of this concept, probably because I’m not a huge fan of superheroes, so it doesn’t really work for me, though I know a lot of autistic people really love it. I also dislike this idea that, when all else fails, very much like Spiderman (pretty much the only superhero I can conjure, from the ’70s cartoon) we do a quick flick of the wrist, no particular effort involved, and all will come good.

That’s just not how I feel about myself. I don’t think I have superpowers, I think I am amazingly resilient in the face of massive adversity. That’s very different to having a superpower.

Still, I know that many, many autistic people like the concept of superpowers being our thing, and why the heck shouldn’t we? So, I will report as I find…

This website ← claims the following:

  • We can see up to three times further than non-autistics. As someone who owns no less than four pairs of glasses for every eventuality, I can’t even begin to verify this!
  • We are also considered to have incredibly acute hearing – now this I can identify with more but I certainly don’t consider it a superpower – it’s more like super-torture.
  • We apparently have a higher rate of gifted individuals within our ranks than the general population.
  • We are lateral, creative thinkers.
  • We are highly motivated, hard workers.

Many, or all of these may be true, but I still don’t see how they are superpowers. Let’s read on…

Okay, this quote, I like. And I believe it to be very true: People with autism are strong, as they’re born with challenges that others normally don’t face. However, they persevere when setting down the correct path, typically with skills that even their ordinary peers lack → Cross River TherapyLike I said above, this is us being resilient under difficult circumstances. Is it a superpower or have we just had to learn to develop strategies and compensatory behaviours, in situations that neurotypicals probably don’t even have to think about?

I’m still not convinced…

Ah, okay. Greta Thunberg, one of the most well known autistic people right now, is often quoted as having said “Being different is a superpower”. Well, I’m certainly not going to start disagreeing with Greta Thunberg, she’s way too scary! I’m guessing that’s where the trend started.

And do you know what? If we have to choose between being mocked, ostracised, stigmatised and bullied OR being considered in possession of superpowers… well, that’s an easy choice to make. And easy choices don’t come along often for us neurodivergents, so maybe we should just own it.