So, recently, fidget toys have become a popular trend. But not for the reason of helping neurodivergent kids, but rather neurotypical kids using them as literal toys and getting them taken away from EVERYONE, including those who need them. And it's a terrible thing, but also expected at this point.
We like to talk about appropriation for lots of groups, but I don't hear about appropriation from neurodivergent people. Which is a real, and very current thing.
This is not a rant about fidget toys, it's about appropriation.
It's about how people actually need self diagnosis for legitimate reasons (class, age, home situation, people not taking them seriously, etc.) but neurotypical teens have started abusing it now that if they have at least one trait of something they are suddenly diagnosed with the whole DSM so they can be "special" or "edgy" or "cute"
It's about how we turn common neurodivergent behaviors like stimming into trends or glorify them while ignoring less "aesthetically pleasing" stimming, and the ways neurodivergent people stim differently than a neurotypical sometimes does.
It's about how, not even just now, but for ages we take conditions like autism or OCD or bipolar disorder and use them as adjectives. Like, autism is the new hot thing to make fun of lately. It's the new "cringy" thing. I don't see what's so funny about my neurology but, okay. I don't let ignorant, stupid teenagers define how I feel about myself, so enjoy your memes ;)
And when I was first diagnosed with OCD, I thought it was just a term, because I didn't know any better and I didn't know it was the reason I was doing a lot of things. Sometimes when I talk about mental illnesses, I feel the need to add a disclaimer. Like, yes I actually have OCD I'm not just a "neat freak" Yes, I'm talking about actual bipolar disorder not the weather. No, I mean actual ADHD not just some term for an easily distracted person.
It's how we're making neurodivergent people, and their needs and struggles into jokes, trivializing them, or ignoring them like they're some neurotypical prank or "snowflake" fad.
It's how now I have to wonder "what's next" because it just doesn't end. I have enough on my plate, and NT's trying to be Cute Trendy Neurodivergents™ similar to how adults often try to be "hip with the kids" shouldn't be one of them.
And it got me thinking "hmm, what are some other things neurotypical people can romanticize and appropriate for their aesthetics or trends?"
Here's a list (feel free to add on yourself in the comments or in your head!)
- Having to find a safe place to have a meltdown in public where you won't be stared at, ridiculed, judged, or even worse than that.
- Having to deal with unwritten rules and double standards CONSTANTLY
- Being/appearing confident but having incredibly low self esteem and feeling worthless without the validation or approval of others.
- Spending your whole life feeling different and having that acknowledged but also being "too (blank)" to know why exactly that is.
- Having a fear of being stared at because you've literally been gawked at like a zoo animal your whole life because those neuroatypicals sure are fascinating and also freakish, aren't they, Christina?
- Being afraid to stim in less aesthetically pleasing ways for fear you'll be stared at, infantilized, or even harmed/abused.
- Loving yourself and your neurodivergence but having an occasional, painful meltdown or shutdown about the fact that you're not neurotypical, you'll never be able to do things that you see other people doing, can't hide a lot of your traits, won't be respected by many neurotypical people, will be seen as less then by some, and not being able to shake the fact that none of that f*cking matters. But in that moment, it does. Because you've been taught your whole life subtly that it does and you still have so much to unlearn.
- Dealing with the fun neurotypical catchphrases such as "just calm down!" "Have you tried (insert neurotypical coping skill here)?" "Some people have it worse" "Oh, but you look so normal!" (Or alternatively "You don't seem (insert neurodivergence here)!") "you're too (insert stereotype about neurodivergence) to be (insert neurodivergence here)" "Oh, everyone goes through that!" "You'll grow out of it!" "Choose to be happy!"
- Not having the attention span to read except in small spurts, losing interest and focus easily in things you love, being highly critical about this and constantly breaking down about it.
- Being so critical and doubtful of yourself you quit before you even try.
- Needing to attain to seemingly pointless (even to you) rituals because if you don't everyone you love will die.
- *minor inconvenience* *instant suicidal ideation*
- *minor criticism* *burst into tears*
- Being afraid to talk about your intrusive/suicidal thoughts because you hear the experiences of those who did everyday who wound up taken away from their family, institutionalize against their will, arrested just for their thoughts, demonized for something they can't control, and more and worse. And you in general feel terrible for them.
- *small, micro sized change to routine happens* *entire life is ruined and the sky is falling down*
- Having really abnormal yet crippling fears of things
- Having your condition invalidated except when it's convenient
- The smallest of tasks completely drain you and are seen as many small ones
- Having to worry about going out due to lack of accommodation, understanding, boundaries, and also the affect it will have on you afterwards.
- Having to save up your energy for only the most important things and feeling/being deemed as lazy because of that.
- Not being able to do things you "should" do, but being able to do things you "shouldn't" be able to. Being invalidated for both of those things.
- The smallest of things can trigger meltdowns, flashbacks, episodes, etc. You also can do stupid and reckless things during these times out of emotionally driven reactions and thoughts, and feel beyond terrible afterwards, which just leads to the downfall of depression.
- The constant struggle/strain on/with social interaction
- Being made fun of, even by people who should really know better, for things like misunderstanding jokes or not being able to process what someone said
- Having to unlearn and relearn so many things and take tremendous steps everyday to be content and to love yourself.
- And so much more.
- So much more.
It's fine to need to stim and be neurotypical. It's fine to enjoy "aesthetically pleasing" stims too. But it is not fine to take many neurodivergent behaviors and tools and turn them into trends, misuse them, and completely appropriate them. You are invalidating our experiences and our very real needs. You are mocking us. You are making it harder to live in this world which is already so unaccommodated and ignorant. You are claiming to care about autistic people and then making fun of us for the very things you claim to do yourself (I.e. Stimming, and more)
I'm beyond sick and tired of neurotypical people turning and romanticizing our very real needs and struggles into trends and therefor trivializing them and making them seem less important by doing so. Maybe we do all stim, maybe "everyone experiences these things" but I'm neurodivergent, and the things I experience are very different than the way you do. And they will not always be pretty. And they also more times than not cannot be glorified. They shouldn't be.
Yes, making stimming and other common neurodivergent behaviors more accepted in society is a good thing. But misusing stim toys and also mocking and trivializing neurodivergent experiences in the process is not how we do it. But we are.
My life isn't glamorous, it's not a joke, and it also isn't a tragedy. Please just do your neurotypical thing, embrace it, own it, and I'll do mine. What happened to just being ourselves rather than appropriating and hurting people to create us? Because that's what so many people are doing. It's more than just stim toys, it's the fact that we're "prettying" neurodivergence and watering it down.
I am not your trend. I am not some article of clothing to wear for fun and throw on the ground when you're done with it. Because you may experience a little inkling of what I do as a neurotypical person, and you may find it "fun" to enjoy some things I do, but at the end of the day, what I experience is different, and often more intense. You can turn off your paint mixing videos but I can't stop being disabled. This is my life, for you, this is nothing more than a jacket you can take on and off. My neurodivergent reality is very real and it matters. Every neurodivergent experience, life, struggle, etc. matters. And it is not a trend, not a joke, and very serious. With all means, don't let me stop you from enjoying your fidget spinner and engaging in your "funny memes", but please don't forget actions have consequences, and that for some, a fidget toy is more than a toy, and what seems pointless to you really matters to some. And for every time you dip your toe into the pool there's someone who swims in it everyday.
An autistic, mentally ill person, tired of the bullcrap.