5 COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT AUTISM
Although many people are familiar with the word 'autism', we have found that often their viewpoint of the condition limits itself to rather stereotypical and downright false ideas.
I would like to take the time to address 5 common misconceptions about autism and set the story straight.
1. AUTISTIC PEOPLE ARE SUPER-SMART and/or ALWAYS HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT or GIFT
Ok, a bit of cheating here, since those are actually two misconceptions jammed together, but they're somewhat related. Let's get this straight out into the open: autistic people CAN be 'super-smart', highly intelligent and pure geniuses, but it's just as likely that their cognitive abilities are way behind. A lot of autistic kids have learning disabilities and struggle with basic things. I think films like Rain Man unintentionally promoted the idea that autistic people always have a special gift or talent. This is completely dependent on your own personal view of the world. We'd like to think that anyone, autistic or not, has many special gifts and talents. In that sense, yes: autistic people have a special talent. And so do you. If one thinks that autistic people can always either draw an entire city from memory or have a superhuman, computerlike mathematic skills, then I must disappoint you. We're not all 'movie-material'. For me personally: I'm autistic and can not speak yet and don't know what equals 1+1. Yet; I can climb higher and faster than most kids my age. My talents are physical and I'm proud of it.
2. AUTISTIC PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS A BIT ODD, TYPICAL or STRANGE and CAN THEREFORE EASILY BE IDENTIFIED BY THEIR APPEARANCE and/or BEHAVIOUR
Perhaps again the portrayal of autistic characters in Rain Man or The Big Bang Theory has enforced the idea that autistic people are always comparable to the 'oddness' of a Sheldon Cooper and can therefore be easily identified. It's more likely however that you've encountered many autistic people in your life and you didn't know it. You see, some of us can be 'odd', just like 'regular people' can be odd (and what's wrong with that anyway?), but there are also many autistic persons who wouldn't easily stand out in a crowd. I've often heard people talk about me and say: 'He doesn't look autistic to me. He looks so happy and normal.' Yep. That's exactly what autism can look like.
3. ALL AUTISTIC PEOPLE LACK SOCIAL SKILLS and/or AVOID EYE CONTACT
It is true that a large number of autistic people have found difficulty at one point in their life dealing with social interaction and conventions. And while some may never completely get the hang of it, other people with autism are very open, sociable and assertive. When it comes to making eye contact: some have trouble with it, other not. Just like 'normal' people, I guess. Speaking for myself and only myself: I started out not making much eye contact at all, to the point where a few seconds a day became a monumental achievement to my mommy and daddy. However, around the age of 4 I started to enjoy making eye contact and nowadays I do it all the time.
4. AUTISTIC PEOPLE ALWAYS DEAL BADLY WITH CHANGE and/or NEW SITUATIONS
Although autism certainly comes with its share amount of challenges and difficulties, there is no reason to pitty us and think that we can't handle changes in our lives. Like Greta Thunberg recently said: autism can also be a great strength. We think differently, deal with emotions differently, but in the end: we can be just as happy, accomplished or flexible as anyone out there. While there are autistic people out there who don't like change, there is a substantial percentage of 'our kind' that can handle this just as well as non-autistic people do. Speaking for myself: I stay in many different places throughout the world, in many different countries, and look how well I'm coping with that!
5. ALL AUTISTIC PEOPLE DON'T LIKE TO BE TOUCHED
And perhaps the biggest misconception is that all autistic people somehow dislike physical contact. This is a bit of a falsehood, thankfully. There are many autistic people who enjoy hugging, kissing or just be close to someone.
To conclude: autistic people are as different from each other as anyone. Some perfectly commit to every stereotype, others don't. And as said before: you've probably come across more autistic people in your life than you're aware of. You just didn't recognise us.