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Nuance Is Hard

Updated: May 17, 2023

So if you’ve read my welcome intro, perhaps you’ll remember that part where I said I would occasionally challenge even my own community? Well, this is one of those. I hope you’ll stick with me for a minute, because it’s important (and in all fairness, I *did* warn you).

Nuance is hard. For everyone, not just ND folks. Sure, autistics get a bad rap for black and white, rigid thinking, but I honestly don’t think allistics are any better at it than we are. I mean, we wouldn’t have the political divides we do if 98% of the population was so great at it, amiright?

So yeah, nuance is hard. And ABA is one of those topics that is VERY easy to have a black and white position on. But it turns out that even with something as clearly problematic as ABA, there is some nuance to be had. Discussions around things like access to services, working within current systems, harm reduction, and yes, intersectionality, are hard but necessary.

I’m not here to rehash or put a spin on what advocates like Fidgets and Fries and nigh.functioning.autism have already said and written. They have expressed themselves just fine. This post is more about how I’ve watched them be misinterpreted and treated badly as a result. No matter how hard they try to inject nuance and shades of gray, I see them being met with rigid, black and white reactions. STILL. And I just…come on y’all, we can do better than that.

Look, I get it. I’m someone who’s pretty comfortable in the gray and can nuance the sh!t out of just about anything, and even I find this discussion uncomfortable at times. I mean, racism and ABA and trauma *are* painful subjects, and challenging the things you thought you knew is always hard. But I stick with it, because being as inclusive as possible is important to me. If you want to be part of building a stronger autistic community, or just grow as a person, you should probably give it a try, too.


Since nuance is hard, here are some tips for navigating it:

1. Listen to understand, not to argue.

2. Remember that you can listen to and understand someone’s point of view without coming to the same conclusions.

3. Remember that we are not all living the same kinds of lives with the same kinds of choices available to us, and people are generally doing their best with what they have.

4. If you can’t respond without attacking (and I’m not talking “tone” here, I mean name calling, swearing at people, projecting things that weren’t said, and hateful, vitriolic sentiments), it’s really okay to just not respond. Seriously, you have my and everyone but Zuckerberg’s permission to just not engage.

5. Sometimes there is room to educate, and sometimes there isn’t. Maybe it’s not your place, maybe they’ve tried everything you’re going to suggest, maybe they don’t have a choice, maybe they’re not emotionally ready to move to that yet…the list goes on. Learn to know the difference and meet people where they’re at.

6. You can rail against harmful practices and systems without demonizing the people who still have to operate within them.

What have you done that helped you grow in this area? Where do you struggle? What’s something you have developed a more nuanced opinion of over time? Let’s help each other out and do something to make our community, and our world, a little better.

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