As an autistic person, I’ve noticed that a lot of received wisdom on the subject is deeply flawed, and while a lot of people think that describing Autism is far easier than it really is. Over previous posts I’ve looked at common myths about the condition – but sadly, there are yet more myths that need busting.
All autistic people display exactly the same traits
It’s true that there are a collection of autistic traits, used to identify people during diagnosis. These include a lack of eye contact, an inability to develop peer relationships, restrained and repetitive behaviours, and many more. But no one person has every single trait, and every autistic person presents differently. And autism is a spectrum – some of us have more traits than others, while some of us learn to cope with and disguise our traits better. Autistic people are not a homogenous group.
Everything an autistic person does can be traced back to their autism
It’s a common human trait to want an explanation for everything, and this often extends to reducing others to a single characteristic. It’s tempting to blame a person’s autism for every action they take or every opinion they express, but the fact is that everybody with autism is an individual, with a number of other factors such as their personal beliefs, circumstances, social situation etc. also influencing who they are and what they do. Many people with autism also have other disabilities, including ADHD, ADD, Tourettes Syndrome, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia – these also affect personality and actions.
Autistic people are totally apart from ‘normal people’ – their brains are wired totally differently
Most scientists believe the difference between an autistic and non-autistic brain is very blurry. Every human has some autistic traits; if somebody had none, they would probably be unable to function in society. But only those with enough traits, and of a high enough severity, are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It might be helpful to think of Autistic people as being ‘intensely human’ – we’ve got the same traits as many others, but in greater magnitude.
Autism, therefore, is not a simple condition which can be easily described; neither are autistic people a rigid box of identical automatons. We’re all different; but we’re actually not that different from everyone else, especially at the milder end of the spectrum.
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