What’s in a name? For autistic people, names may be an overwhelming social construct.
Names are NT social constructs that are usually given to us without consent. As such, names may feel disconnected from who we are as individuals. Even more, names are often gendered, and many autistics do not exist within or align themselves to the gender normativity promoted by our cis-sexist society.
Some autistic people do not respond to their names. Imagine a loud room, full of sounds, colors, and conversation. Every little detail is perceived with equal importance. Now, imagine someone calls an autistic person’s name. Would we hear that detail above everything else? Would giving someone our attention be more important than monitoring the other sensory and social stimuli? Would we even be ready or willing to engage? With all this in mind, our names may come to represent over stimulation, forced social interaction, and punishment.
In general, other people’s names carry little weight for me. I see people as traits or visual features. Names feel arbitrary. Even more, if an autistic person struggles with working memory, names may be a frustration, especially if coupled with prosopagnosia.
Autistic people are also known to be creative with constructing new names. We may nickname others based on a character in a special interest. These nicknames are often signs of affection toward another person & should be taken as compliments.
Due to a pressure to mask our autistic traits, we may nickname ourselves as a means of performance. New names may draw out personas that give us a sense of bravery in social interactions. Throughout our school years, we may rename ourselves multiple times in the hopes of refreshing our social lives.
Names are unique, individual identifiers. My only tip is to consider whether a name change brings us closer to our true selves or to a performance. There is great power in being able to identify as our authentic selves and not as a person that society tries to force us to be.