Ten things I need you to know….
Autism can be a difficult subject to fully understand.
Today I would like to go over some of the main things Autistic people want you to know to help you in understanding our condition.
When you meet one Autistic person…
…You’ve met one Autistic person. Yes, despite the stereotypes seen in the media, every single autistic person is different.
Also, if you’ve read one article or blog post by an Autistic person, then in reality you’ve only read one article from one Autistic person’s perspective.
Any time that you come into contact or you meet an Autistic person people tend to come to the same conclusion and think that every person with Autism can count cards like Rain Man, or that every person who is Autistic is a wizard at maths like Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory. That is simply not the case and it’s important that people understand that.
Stimming is not scary
For those of you who don’t know “Stimming” is a shortened version of self-stimulation, this occurs when we need to calm ourselves down or express emotions. If you are not familiar with stimming then you may be more familiar with flapping hands, running, jumping, repeating words, rocking back and forth, swaying, chewing, and fidgeting. The reason that Autistic people stim is because it helps us to calm ourselves down. For example; if an Autistic person is upset or nervous or angry, that person may rock back and forth. If an Autistic person is excited, we may flap our hands.
We struggle socially
As an Autistic person I find it increasingly uncomfortable to be in a social setting.
I find it uncomfortable to maintain eye contact and so I might spend most of the time with my head down. I am not being rude I just find it hard to focus and stare directly at you.
I am also very sensitive to noise. If a place where I am eating is too noisy then I may have to leave or fingers crossed, I’ll have bought my noise cancelling headphones with me.
The way that Autistic people behave in social situations is simply a part of us, and it is a part that cannot be changed without our own conscious effort.
Also Autistic people find it harder to read others’ behaviour and body language, we may not be able to tell when it’s appropriate to start, end or join a conversation. Y inviting us to contribute to a discussion and asking us direct questions can help.
Don’t call me “High Functioning”
Calling someone who is Autistic “High Functioning” isn’t as helpful as you may think
Every Autistic person has a unique combination of skills and needs and if you’re new to Autism, you might think that it’s beneficial to describe those differences in terms of how well we do or don’t “function.”
As noted Autistic Neurodiversity advocate Laura Tisoncik put it:
“The difference between high functioning Autism and low functioning is that high functioning means your deficits are ignored, and low functioning means your assets are ignored.”
Terms such as ‘high-’ or ‘low-functioning’ and ‘mental age’ may be convenient clinically, but they interfere with accurate perceptions of abilities and disabilities.
We don’t lack empathy
There’s no scientific evidence that proves this hurtful stereotype. In fact, research suggests just the opposite. One theory even suggests that some of us are dealing with an overabundance of empathy—feeling too much.
We work hard to be a part of your world. And we’re exhausted
From social interactions to managing sensory issues and everything in between, participating in an non Autistic world requires a lot of work, and sometimes it’s overwhelming, so I don’t just look tired, I am tired.
Special, focused interests are extremely common for people with Autism.
Autistic people can have very strong interests in a specific topic, from science to transportation to superheros. While the topic itself can vary Autistic individuals may talk about the topic of interest often because we’ve done a lot of research on a particular subject.
Anxiety and Autism
Many people with Autism may experience anxiety and depression along with being Autistic. Anxiety is a common for many people on the Autism spectrum. It can cause difficulties in everyday activities, such as going to work. If you are experiencing anxiety, then you should go and book an appointment to see your doctor who can refer you to a specialist.
Putting things in context can really help us
Understanding the meaning behind what people are saying can be a challenge for people with Autism, so giving some context is crucial.
An example would be if you were out and saw a bird and say for example that it was a Robin and you said to me
“Wow look at that bird!’ as someone with Autism I might struggle to understand what was so remarkable about it.
But by re arranging the above sentence and saying, ‘How strange to see a Robin at this time of the year”, I now know exactly what you mean.
Writing can be a helpful way to communicate
For someone with Autism, putting thoughts down in a text message or email can offer a less stressful way to have a conversation.
It allows time to digest messages, think things through and compose a response without the pressure to reply immediately. And it can be easier to understand what the other person means without all the additional social cues that come with conversing in person.
By contrast, Autistic people can struggle with phone conversations since the there’s an expectation that they will be able to respond quickly, and there may be distracting background noise.
People with Autism may repeat things
There are several reasons why someone with Autism may repeat a word or phrase. They might want to show the other person they’ve heard them, but that they can’t respond right way. They could be anxious and need reassurance. Or they might feel that a question they asked hasn’t been sufficiently answered yet.