Autism in academia. A thread.

#Autistic people often have intense interests. These can quite quickly become areas of specialism & expertise.
Presumably, universities would have high numbers of autistic people, surely?
#ActuallyAutistic #AllAutistics #AutisticsinAcademia /1
It's hard to know.

I began my PhD 10 years ago. I've yet to meet a scholar or student who is openly autistic. I am literally the only one I know. I 'network' a lot, I've worked in 3 institutions.
Not one person.
On Twitter, there are a fair few of us. Many autistic scholars specialise in autism research. This is extremely important. #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs

Why is it so hard to find other autistic academics 'on the ground'?
Academia is competetive.
It's highly stressful.
Anyone completing a degree knows that academic jobs are like gold dust.
There is huge uncertainty in the job market.
Autistic people find uncertainty difficult.

Again, it's competetive. /4
Excuse the typos, folk.

If you're in a permanent post & are already recognised in your field, perhaps you feel 'safe' enough to disclose. I don't know that many do.

What is at stake? /5
Would our students, our bosses and our colleagues see us as incapable?

Would be lose out on job interviews if we disclosed?

Would the unique(-ish!) skills we possess be overlooked? /6
Or might students be inspired? Any autistic academic will know what I mean here. It is not easy.
Hierarchies, politics, cliques, nepotism, unwritten rules.

The first presentation I gave was in Australia. It was awful. Someone filmed it. I said 'Umm' 50 times. Seriously. /7
Presentations will never be my forte. But I don't need beta blockers/CBT do do them anymore.

Sometimes I have folk write to me after papers. I once gave a paper in another language. Members from the audience queued up afterwards. As a student, I never could have imagined. /8
It took me years to realise I cannot give a paper/lecture without at least having scripted sections at the start & finish, or having most of the paper scripted.

Now I know I'm autistic, I can see why I feel safer this way. I like to have a plan and to stick to that plan. /9
Some of us may struggle with 2 in 1 questions after papers & lectures. Processing delays etc.

I've started asking panel chairs to announce that I take questions one at a time. Thankfully, I don't care too much about what anyone thinks about that. /10
It's not all about presenting though. We have a lot to offer in so many ways.
We tend to be innovators. We tend to be honest. We synthesise information. I don't even really know how I synthesise the way I do. It just happens.

Some people have to dig deep to do that. /11
We tend to be fair. We tend to naturally be critical thinkers. We like to be useful.

We have so many skills that fit and that are in demand. Universities need staff who are ahead of the curve.

What if we were more vocal about what we are good at? /12
I'm thinking out loud here, apologies if this thread is disjointed.

I worry about undiagnosed autistic academics.
I worry about undiagnosed autistic students.

As an autistic person, I worry about a lot of things.
But autism just isn't on anyone's radar. /13
I suspect that many (of our) colleagues, students & lectures are suffering.

If you're diagnosed, it's hard to get adjustments & even understanding.

But imagine having absolutely no idea you're autistic, getting angry & upset every day. Meltdowns but not knowing why.

Meltdowns without even knowing you're having a meltdown!

I wish it was safer for us to talk about autism. On campuses, in meetings. In class.

I think there are many, many more of us.

I await the day I meet another openly autistic academic.

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