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Too Autistic For Black: Navigating Blackness And Neurodiversity

“You’re too rude. You’re too sensitive.”

Sound familiar? These are typical remarks many black girls and women have heard to describe any modicum of behaviour that doesn’t fit inside the parameters of ‘appropriate’.

But these remarks particularly affect a certain type of black woman, as they navigate school as a child, the workplace as an adult, their relationships and more.

When you’re an autistic black woman, labels such as ‘rude’ and ‘sensitive’ are often the go-tos to describe you, instead of considering that a neurological condition could be a factor, which in turn delays diagnosis and necessary support. 

In the short documentary Too Autistic For Black, Melissa Simmonds, campaigner for Autism Awareness says, “Too many black children receive late diagnosis because their behaviours are seen as aggressive instead of a communication difficulty. This leads to [the] school to prison pipeline, they’re criminalised.” 

As a result, these labels can be far more damaging for black autistic people and although autism rates have increased, with these responses to potential signs in black children, it’s not surprising then that it’s challenging to get a diagnosis. Yet black children are 26% more likely to be autistic.