If I choose to disclose that I am autistic to someone, they usually respond with, “But you don’t seem autistic” (though for people who know me more closely, it isn’t always so much of a surprise). People often have an idea in their head about what an autistic person looks like, and I don’t fit it. I myself had assumptions about what autism looked like, and it was only through a lot of research after working with a therapist who suspected I was autistic, that I realized I was, and suddenly a lot of challenges I had throughout my life made a lot more sense. I am verbal, as opposed to non-verbal (sometimes too verbal), and have learned to “mask” or camouflage my autistic traits. High capacity for masking is very common for autistic people who are female or assigned female at birth (fun fact, non-binary and/or gender diverse people are three to six times more likely to be autistic), and/or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour). This is because greater societal pressure to be viewed as socially competent and “normal” can increase learned skills in masking autistic traits. Masking can often be completely involuntary and unconscious, but it can also often be very exhausting. There is a stereotype that autistic people lack empathy, or have a lack of emotion, but the opposite is true for many autistic people - emotional sensitivity is intense and deep, which has always been my experience.
Being autistic and neurodiverse - a term that describes how some brains are different from a majority, or “neurotypical” brain and this isn’t a “deficit” - can allow people to be incredibly innovative in STEM fields because we see the world in different ways and may focus on different things than neurotypical people. Where some people might see a “weird” thing about someone, this could actually be used as a superpower. (However, not all of these superpowers are useful. I remember birthdays as soon as they have been disclosed to me. I remember my 7th grade teacher’s birthday - June 4th - but often can’t remember the last thing someone said to me in a conversation.)