Counterculture: Autistic shielding and neuro-anarchy

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I’ve been sitting on the idea of Autistic shielding and neuro-anarchy for a long time – they have been the way I describe my experiences for a long time but they’re terms I’m only beginning to focus on. It’s only just occurred to me that the two of them can (should?) go together.

Autistic shielding is involved with projecting yourself, parts of you which would be considered weird or strange, the kind of things people would bully you for (unfortunately for us Autistic folk that is quite a lot). This could include stimming, unique fashion styles and following our special interests without shame  – especially if they are very unusual!

The way I imagine Autistic shielding is like a magical bubble shield which goes over an entire person. It has a two-way membrane; it protects the person(s) within but also has the bonus of being able to let other people and interests in (see: What is Autistic Shielding).

In my teen years, my shield was counterculture, which I believe a lot of us engage with. These countercultures can include anything outside of the mainstream which is considered to have an ‘odd’ membership to it, for me that meant punk, skinhead and biker culture. It is through choosing these communities that we shield ourselves from normative culture, subverting normativity by completely disregarding it. The disregard is shared within those counterculture communities, changing and accepting new rules or adopting a sense of lawlessness and anarchy.

Neuro-anarchy, then, is a more focused shield which allows us to shed the hierarchy and normativity of counterculture itself. It comes from being on the outskirts of counterculture, which is not an uncommon feeling for us Neurodivergent folk. Neuro-anarchy in relation to autism, is the feeling of being on the outskirts of the Autistic idea(l) of being Autistic – the typical atypicality, either from an academic, societal or Autistic community viewpoint.

If auti-typicality exists – if there is a dominant Autistic culture – what does that look like for people like me who don’t exist fully within that culture?

When I came to my Autistic realisation, I sought out online Autistic communities and ever since I have found and lost myself within it. The overwhelming feeling of never quite fitting in reigns supreme (see Living at the blurry edges of gender and neurotype). Some of this is connected to my personal intersectionality and some of it is having more than one neurodivergence which can be chaotic in itself. And of course, we can’t forget that Autistic experience isn’t monolithic!

There are several aspects to neuro-anarchy and several ways it can be engaged with consciously and unconsciously, it is a big part of Autistic shielding, especially the conscious choice to engage in counterculture and culture which sits on the outskirts of counterculture itself.

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