So Perfect You’re Imperfect

One step…

Two steps…

He’s definitely autistic…

He stands straight and tall. Arms to his side. His pace perfect. His gait perfect. His body perfect.

And yet, a little too perfect. It seemed rehearsed. Walking perfectly upright, very little movement. Almost rigid. Obviously trained. And then as he approached, his hand jutted out to shake mine. Firm hand shake. A bit odd for his teenage body.

Perfect eye contact, or at least, what I could perceive as eye contact without giving eye contact back. Perfect speech pattern. But all so rehearsed. All so perfect that this could not be natural. So perfect that it showed years of training to look like a normal person, yet, gave away that he was not “normal.”


This is what behavioral and social skills training has come to be. Passing is the end goal. And while we were there, in the drizzle, it was so obvious. I felt droplets and briefly introduced myself. I had a small exchange. Then I left. Likely, my diagnosis was revealed after I left. Well, possibly. I don’t have that perfect posture. I don’t teach it to my kids. Because that posture, no one has that perfect posture.

I’d rather my body feel like mine, you see. I want my children to feel like their body is theirs. That body… that perfectly rigid body likely hides many things. Questions about what movement is right. Suppression from the obvious stimuli from outside that even his parents had noticed. And worst of all, impeding thoughts on what he could actually be thinking.

Try it for a day. Try walking straight, with very little arm movement. With a perfect heel-toe walk. Introduce yourself with a perfect handshake. Think about each and every moment whether you’re standing up straight. Think about whether you’re arms are moving. Don’t pick up your phone. Don’t do any sudden movements. Only those that are expected. Now imagine it day after day, having to think about it.. Because that is not natural for anyone.

Give everything up to pass as if you were anyone else and never stand out. Then tell me why this is what we are told we should want for our children. Constantly doubting every single movement, every single word, every single interaction.

Practice so long, so much, that while it feels like it’s natural. Watching yourself on a camera shows that it’s not natural. It’s structured and rigid and not your body. Instead, you’re hidden behind the mask. And do you know who you are any more? Did you ever know?

3 Responses

  1. Ylva says:

    You make it sound like it’s a choice they, the ABA’d autistics, make. Clearly it’s their parents. No one could have ever started that as an adult.

  2. Melody says:

    I didn’t intend to make it sound like it was the choice of the autistic person. I thought I was speaking to the parents and therapists of the autistic person in particular. Keep in mind my blog has several different audiences.

  3. Alison says:

    My daughter would love to be able to “pass” sometimes – although most of the time, she’s furious that that’s how the world works. She has come to the conclusion though that she’s not going to learn how to “look normal” if she’s in a class of other autistic people.

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