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The Mythology of Autism: Tackling Misconceptions

Category: Blogger's Corner, inclusion, diversity, Autism

The Mythology of Autism: Tackling Misconceptions

Of all the disabilities and disorders I’ve researched, I’d wager autism is second only to schizophrenia in the number of myths it’s spawned that simply don’t stand up to close scrutiny. So far, I’ve already tacked six common myths, but there are yet more to deal with, such as:

  1. Autistic people lack imagination

It’s true that autistic people generally lack social imagination[1] – the ability to accurately guess how people are going to respond to a social action, such as a joke. So we can be prone to accidently offending people. But when it comes to abstract imagination, this couldn’t be further from the truth – some autistic people can be incredibly imaginative[2]. Indeed, that’s often why we’re said to be ‘in their own little world’[3] – our imaginations can be so intense that we become absorbed in them. It’s also why many autistic people make good fiction writers.

  1. Autistic people have no creativity

Similar to lacking imagination, many people assume autistic people can’t be creative. This often means that workplaces place us in routine jobs, feeling this is the best use of our talents. But while autistic people find it hard to express themselves, we can be very creative. Often we see the world very differently from others[4], and approach problem-solving very differently too. We can be a great asset in discussions and bring diverse views to the table. Indeed, some of the most innovative and creative figures from history are now thought to have been autistic.[5][6][7]

  1. Autistic people are skilled only at STEM subjects

The stereotypical image of the Asperger’s maths genius has fuelled a myth than autistic people’s academic talents – assuming they have any – must lie in maths or science subjects. But autistic people can be skilled a variety of subjects. In fact, there’s a condition called Hyperlexia[8], often co-morbid with ASD[9], which often gives people a natural aptitude for languages. And a key autistic trait is an over-developed visual-spatial sketchpad[10], which means that autistic people ‘see’ more than others, often thinking in pictures, and are often skilled at graphic design[11].

These are just some of the fundamental misunderstandings many people have about autism. I’ve a few more, too – but they’re tales for another day!


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