Around one in a hundred people are autistic, perhaps even more. Yet many people have a very limited understanding of autism, and that may be based on incorrect beliefs. So here are 7 important things that autistic people wish you knew about us!
- All autistic people are individuals
If you have met one autistic person, you have met one autistic person. You should not assume anything about someone because they are autistic or expect them to be anything like another autistic person you know. All autistic people are different in different ways! A common misconception we covered earlier this month is not all autistic people want to work in tech.
- Autism brings strengths
Autism is still often portrayed as a negative disability that just brings problems. Yes, being autistic can make life difficult, but that is usually because the world is not set up for how we think and operate. Autistic people can have hugely valuable strengths, like problem solving and creative thinking, analytical skills, the ability to focus intensely on a piece of work or subject, and many more.
- Not making eye contact does not mean we are not listening
Many (but not all) autistic people find eye contact very difficult and even painful, and it can take a lot of effort to maintain it. If we must focus on looking you in the eye, that leaves much less of our attention to focus on what you are saying. So if you really want us to listen to you, do not insist on eye contact.
- Pretending to be neurotypical is exhausting
Most autistic people spend a lot of their lives pretending to be neurotypical to fit in. This is known as masking, and it is like spending much of your life playing the part of somebody else. Having to consciously think about almost everything you say and do instead of just being yourself is exhausting and very bad for your mental health.
- We do not need or want to be “cured”
Autism is not an illness, and we are only disabled by the world around us. Autism is a part of who we are, in the same way as our sense of humour and our accent when we speak. Suggesting the need for a cure is saying that there is something wrong with us, which is not true. Autistic people are different, not deficient.
- Nobody chooses to have a meltdown
Autistic meltdowns can happen for many reasons and take many forms. They are never the same as a tantrum, even if they may appear that way, and they are deeply unpleasant to have. If an autistic person needs to so something to avoid a meltdown, like getting away from loud noise or bright lights, or to process overwhelming thoughts and emotions, it is important to let them do so.
- We are happy to talk about how autism impacts us
Autism should not be a taboo subject. Because we are all different, most autistic people welcome being asked what adjustments they need and how autism affects them. Pretending autism does not exist helps nobody.
There are as many facets of autism as there are autistic people, so please keep learning and keep talking to us.