Yesterday was Autistic Pride Day.
It’s a good day to celebrate the spectrum diversity of autism.
Contrary to what a lot of people think, the autistic spectrum is not linear.
It’s more like a scatter graph, which is why everyone on the autistic spectrum is unique.
Since I’ve become more vocal in my daily life about my assessment, I have generally received the same comments ranging from “but you’re still you” to “yeah, but we’re all a little autistic.”
The latter is hugely frustrating.
I’ve had to have it explained to me why people would say that to me as I don’t get it. It completely undermines my assessment and devalues me as a human being, but I’ve had to be told that it’s people poorly attempting to make me feel better or feel less “alone” even if it’s not a helpful way to do it (and they probably don’t realize it’s offensive).
This leads me to compile a list of common misconceptions about autism that I have encountered since my diagnosis. There are tons of lists like this on the internet but I am hoping that by sharing my personal experience of this it will help someone reading.
1.“We’re all a little autistic”
No, we all aren’t. Yes, more people have “quirks” that may look like autism (ex., most people don’t really like their routine disrupted) but autistic characteristics are beyond quirks.
My social interactions, my special interests, my need to have routine, my meltdowns, my anxiety caused by not understanding social cues, communication, etc., my stimming, my sensory avoidance are intrinsic aspects of my ASD.
They are not quirks.
It’s kind of like waking up with your sensory threshold already half full instead of empty so it will spill over a lot faster/more easily than someone who is not on the spectrum.
Not sure if that makes sense but I can’t think of any other way to describe it right now.
I am still learning a lot about my own unique strengths and weaknesses of high-functioning autism and it seems the scientific community as a whole is continually learning about autism as well.
This misconception really annoys me because I have suffered long and hard only because my brain processes are different. Had I had my assessment sooner, my life now would be very different. I have very painful memories that may have been avoided had I been diagnosed young. By telling me that everyone is autistic completely undermines my experiences.
2.“I know someone who is autistic. He/she is super smart.”
People diagnosed on the autistic spectrum tend to range from average intelligence and higher. Not everyone on the autistic spectrum is a savant. It is thought that less than 100 savants are currently living globally. In the UK alone (where I’m currently based), more than 1 in 100 people are on the autistic spectrum. That rate is higher in the US (where I’m originally from). You don’t need to be a math whiz to understand the statistical significance there.
People with autism do tend to see the world differently, yes. But not every autistic person is going to be some math, science or artistic genius. Some of the sensory sensitivities that a higher number of those on the spectrum possess, however, are actually a massive benefit to society and I personally feel like people should put more focus on that over IQ levels.
3.“But you don’t seem/look/act autistic”
Gthnx. What exactly does an autistic person look, act or seem like? Autism impacts everyone differently. If you do a #autisticprideday search on social media, you may be amazed to see how many different people are autistic. Or do a search for famous high-functioning autistic people and you may be shocked to discover how some of your favorite musicians, actors, speakers are autistic.
Autism comes in a wide range of colors, characteristics, abilities, challenges, strengths and weaknesses that are unique to the individual.
Anyone who receives a score above 10 on the ADOS report is autistic. End of story.
Those are basically the three common misconceptions I have encountered thus far. I’m sure that will change the more comfortable I become with discussing my diagnosis in my daily life.
I feel it is very important to be vocal about autism to help bring awareness, education and insight as so many people do seem to lack an understanding of it.
I may process information differently, but I am still a human being.
All of us—neurotypical and neurodiverse—are all on this ride together.
I am proud of who I am. You should be proud of who you are too. 🙂