There are enough misconceptions about autism. There are quite a few prejudices and they sometimes make it difficult to deal with autism. People who are diagnosed at a somewhat later age (not if they are younger than ten or so) may already have prejudices and misconceptions about autism and what it means to be an autist. This of course has consequences; People become less open about their autism, sometimes feel embarrassed and other people sometimes treat you strangely when they know you have autism.
So it seemed like a good subject to talk about. There are enough prejudices, and I will miss some! So if you have additions yourself, or run into things that I don’t mention here, let me know!
Autists are always honest
This is partly true. I know enough autists who are indeed always honest in most situations. It’s not really about lying. At least up to a certain height. I know of myself that I can tell a lie or keep things secret even when asked. However, it is true that I am direct. At least, according to NT people. This too is an expression of autism; be direct. Give an answer to the question that is asked, without dressing this answer in “social fluff”. For example, if you are asked if a certain item of clothing looks good, you immediately answer: “No, that doesn’t” or “Yes, it does”. Or, if someone does not realize that they are being asked about their appearance; “Huh? Clothing can’t look at all?”
But always fair? No. Just like everyone else, autists are perfectly capable of lying. But often they don’t see the need to lie. And in some cases they don’t do it on principle. Please note; I hereby mainly speak from my own experience with Asperger’s syndrome. Classic autists don’t actually lie is my experience (for better or worse).
Autists have no empathy
This is a persistent one! And not true. Autists (often) have problems with feelings, whether they belong to someone else or not. But I think we can empathize with someone’s feeling. However, this empathy does not happen by really “feeling” what someone feels. I imagine how I would feel. I argue what that feeling would be and what that would do to me. The whole “empathy” what another feels, to me is an alien concept. Yet I know, by dealing with other people, that there are enough people who work this way. You hear or see that someone is sad, and that makes you sad. To me this is a strange thing; how can the feeling of another trigger the feeling of my own?
This happens to me seldom. Please note; not never! It can happen that someone close to me experiences something similar, so that a feeling is evoked in me. However, I only experience this with people who are very close to me. My children, my parents, my best friends. But from others … No … I can imagine that something evokes sadness in someone, but I don’t experience that myself. That doesn’t mean I can’t show empathy to anyone …
What I want to say is that there is certainly a difference between “emotional” empathy and “cognitive” empathy. And I think that people with autism are certainly able to express that last form to people. Whether they do that, I think depends more on the person than on ASD.
Autists are quiet and shy // live in their own world
Autistic people are not all “Rainman” … We do not all live in our own world. And we are not all shy either. It is true that making contact with someone with autism is a challenge, but for some it is more to maintain that contact. It is often thought that autists are shy because they do not make eye contact with people. That they often look away during conversations. However, this has nothing to do with being shy. When I look into someone’s eyes, that is a very personal moment for me. And it becomes uncomfortable for me, because it feels very personal to me. I look at people occasionally, but not constantly. If during a conversation I notice that someone finds this annoying, I don’t look at the eyes, but exactly between them. It seems that I look at someone while my eyes are focused on something else.
Looking at people is quite normal for most people, but not really a thing for autists to do.
You get autism from vaccinations
This is a lie that is often repeated by some organizations and parents who are against vaccination in general. It has also been proven in many scientific studies that it is not true. Having autism is genetic and cannot be contracted through things like vaccinations.
Steven Novella, neurologist and skeptic, has made an extensive post about the claims and why they are incorrect. I strongly encourage everyone to read his post.
In short, it comes down to the fact that there is no scientific evidence for a link between autism and vaccination.
Autists have no emotion
Strange, but some people dare to claim this. It is true that people with autism often have problems expressing emotions or dealing with their emotions. But not having emotions is really not true. Usually autistic people even have profound emotions, but have problems expressing them. As a result, we sometimes come across as a bit harsh or cold, but we do indeed feel emotions. We are just like people.
Autism can be cured // You will grow over it
Bluntly; No. Autism is not a disease. Autism is a part of you as a person. You are always autistic. I myself am also in favor of describing myself as an autist versus having autism. Autism is not a “phase”, it is there forever. Of course you can learn to deal with the interaction with people who do not have autism. With that it may seem to them that you become “less autistic”, but that does not change how things are going in yourself.
Many people with problems in their younger years learn to deal with this. They learn how to adapt so that they have fewer problems. I myself have learned this throughout the years. I also wrote about this before. However, this never means that my autism is “over” or “has decreased.” It means that I have learned how to hide my autism from the outside world.
And the “cure” of autism is definitely a ridiculous thing to think about. You cannot cure what is not a disease …
People with autism have a low IQ
How high or low your IQ is, is not directly related to having autism. However, it is true that people with classic autism, for example, often have an intellectual disability. However, this is a comorbidity and not a characteristic of autism itself. The opposite is also quite possible; someone with autism can also be highly gifted.
With Asperger’s syndrome, an above-average IQ occurs more often than average. This is one of the characteristics of the syndrome. However, this does not mean that this is the case with all people with Asperger.
But the fact remains that there are many autists with a normal to high IQ, and that the fable of having a low IQ is incorrect.
People with autism cannot make friends
Making friends is sometimes difficult. Not so strange, because the understanding of social rules and ways of making contact sometimes surpasses us. But we like to have friends, just like other people.
It often takes a while before I start seeing someone as a friend. In addition, I can be quite suspicious about someone’s intentions. But I have enough people in my area that I see as a friend. And no, I really don’t speak with them every day. I also warn people about this; I am a social ass and cannot talk to you for months, but you are still a friend to me! Now that I know how it works for myself, I can also adjust people’s expectations.
Autists may make contact in a different way and they may maintain contact in a different way, but we are certainly happy to make friends.
Did I miss something?
Did I miss anything about prejudice? Do you hear any other prejudices about autism? Let me know below in the comments or via Twitter