Chasing Coffins: Answering the Call to Stand in the Gap for Autistic Persons
Sitting near the window in the cafe, I kept busy while occasionally glancing at the time on my watch. Where could he be? He gave me no response to my messages, and it had been 45 minutes since our appointed meeting time.
Could he be dead?
If your response to my thought is, “Don’t you think you’re being just a bit melodramatic?”, then you probably don’t understand the reality for the population of persons I serve each day.
Autistic adults are killing themselves in droves.
Not that our media seems to be taking up any sort of call to action, or even much notice, but we have seen research in the last year pointing to an ugly truth: autistic adults face an average life expectancy of 36 years of age. I’ll leave it to you to ponder on the cause of this horrid statistic.
It’s been estimated autistic, or neurodivergent persons, see a suicide rate which is nine times the average for suicides of the neurotypical population. And even more tragic- these are diagnosed autistic persons, and not the many autistic persons who live in hiding, those who mask their neurodivergent minds from the rest of the world in order to try and fit in to it.
These autistic persons, social chameleons- live just under the radar screen of mainstream notice, each of them exerting tremendous personal energy each day in hopes of fitting in to some measure of cultural normality. They’re living exhausted from trying. I’ve witnessed this deep exhaustion firsthand, in the persons I serve.
The autistic community has a codeword phrase about running out of “spoons”, and I know many who live each day using plasticware, doing everything they can just to keep swimming in the current of life.
Nerds, weirdos, odd, eccentric. Dying to be known. Dying.
When I speak to groups, or even individuals, I usually describe this yearning, this search I see borne out in the lives of autistic adults as a decades long striving to find the “frequency” of the social communications landscape…