Let’s go bust a few myths about autism today.
Myth: Autistic people don’t understand sarcasm or idioms. While I can probably dish sarcasm better than I can take it, that doesn’t mean we’re incapable of learning to process communication cues and context that would clue us in on idiomatic and sarcastic usage.
Myth: Autistic people are incapable of empathy. That’s flat out untrue, but I’ll admit that this myth didn’t come from the nothing. We might view some emotional circumstances far more concretely and detach ourselves from reacting as most would, but that’s not to say we can’t empathize at all.
Myth: Autistic people are savants with some kind of super ability. Some are! But that’s not generally the norm. It’s not like I can’t fold a shirt the right way yet can bust out Beethoven on piano with my eyes closed. No, I just can’t fold shirts.
Myth: You can’t be autistic if you’re independent. This is why I’m not a fan of functioning labels. Some autistic people have greater needs and dependence. Some don’t. And some phase between both at different times in life.
Myth: Girls and women can’t get autism. That…no. Just no. One of my own key discoveries in this journey was with how imbalanced the diagnostic story is with autism, skewing more male than it should. I’ve been more woke to autistic women and their voice, and you should be too.
Myth: You can cure autism. *spitting out bleach* Uh, what’s there to cure?
Myth: An autism diagnosis is a death sentence for your child. It’s not. You’re more supported than ever. It might not be easy, but you’ll make a world of difference inappreciating them for their autism, not despite it.
Myth: Autistic people can’t make many friends or have meaningful relationships. I might not have many friend-friends, but I have a couple very good ones. I’m also married with three kids. I’m extremely fortunate. It has been a journey for us all, but at least that’s a journey that can be made.
Myth: People use autism as an excuse to be jerks. People think this. This is wrong. Please stop. When I’m a jerk, I’m a JERK because I’m a jerk, not because I’m autistic.
Myth: It’s difficult to hold a normal conversation with someone autistic (h/t Katie Wagner). Depends on your definition of ‘normal!’ If we’re talking ‘small talk,’ or otherwise run-of-the-mill, banally anodyne conversational fare, that’s painful for us too. We’re not always the most chatty, but sometimes we’re overly chatty – by no means are we going out of our way to make it difficult.
Myth: Autistic people are all introverted and can’t socialize. Whoa, yep, this here is a myth. There was one event where people claimed they missed me because of my flair and energy or something. Yeah, weird, right? It’s exhausting, but it’s by no means a natural inability. Some of us do enough to get by.
Any other myths we need to smash? Comment and lemme know.
4 thoughts on “Let’s Go Bust Myths About Autism!”
A myth I’ve run into is that autistic people *can’t* make eye contact. And theres also the corresponding myth that they should be made to do so. For some, eye contact actually impedes their concentration and processing efficiency. Others have been taught to do it as children, though, or naturally do so in more secure environments (more familiar/less input) or with more trusted people.
The other comment I get about my son all the time – “Oh, well he doesn’t *look* or *sound* autistic! He must be very high functioning…”
Just because a child is verbal (most of the time) and reasonably cute doesn’t make them less autistic. No more than being different looking or nonverbal automatically means a child is on the Autism spectrum.
On empathy, for me I believe I feel empathy as deeply as any neurotypical, it just takes me extra processing time to get there. A lot of being on the spectrum for me is just recognizing there are things most people can intuit quickly and respond that require time and concerted effort for me.
For my wife and I this realization has been very important, because when she needs emotional support from me I can’t respond as quickly as most people. My default “processing…” face is interpreted intuitively by her and others as something else (disgust, apathy, confusion, etc). There may be some truth to the last one..
This is SO true – I find even these small adaptations (“looking empathetic on my face while I working on processing to feel it more”) can be taxing
With empathy, I find that I actually feel it so strongly that it overwhelms me and I often have to unplug from it to stop it causing a meltdown.