Let’s Bust Some Myths!

During the month of April there are lots of facts and pseudo facts floating around about Autism.  Let’s take a look at some of them. Here, in no particular order, are ten myths about Autism.  Enjoy!

  • Autism is not being socially awkward.  Sure, lots of people can be socially awkward, whether they are on the spectrum or not.  But, just because someone is socially awkward or uncomfortable in large groups of people does not necessarily make them autistic.  And, some autistics are the life of the party!
  • Autism is not avoiding eye contact.  For some, eye contact is painful, for others it is no big deal, for some it is a learned skill.  I had to teach myself eye contact. Sometimes I can do it, especially if I am comfortable with a certain person. Other times, it may look like I am making eye contact when I am actually looking at your left eyebrow.  On the other hand, there are some of us that have eye contact that is too intense and this can also make people uncomfortable.
  • Autism is not lacking empathy.  People on the spectrum have very deep feelings but sometimes do not know how to express them or put them into words.
  • Autistic people do not lack imagination.  Think about Temple Grandin and how she revolutionized the way cattle are handled.  She had a very clear vision of how best to make these animals comfortable.  Autistic people have very vivid imaginations, and they usually work outside the box.  If you want an innovative solution to a problem, ask an autistic.
  • Autism is not black and white thinking.  We can think in shades or grey and see nuance.  We can see other people’s point of view.  However, we have a very firm sense of what is right and wrong and often can be seen as social justice warriors.  I don’t see this as thinking in black and white, I think is as being a person with high principles.
  • Autism is not a learning disability.  Some people on the spectrum have learning disabilities, others do not.  Many of us are twice exceptional. We are gifted in some areas and delayed in others.  My verbal skills are off the charts, but I struggle with anything beyond the level of sixth grade math.
  • Autistic people are incapable of lying.  This one makes me laugh.  My nonverbal son was very proud of himself at age ten when he figured out how to lie convincingly.  He rarely does it, but he takes pride that he can.  As for myself, I am a terrible liar and probably a worse poker player.  I suppose I could lie if I wanted to, but I don’t really see the point.
  • Autistic people are not polite.  Everyone can be taught manners.  Temple Grandin talks at length about this, and how it is important for everyone, but especially those on the spectrum, to have good manners.  When my son was little I wanted his teachers to teach him to sign please and thank you.  They said this was not necessary and would not teach him.  His PCAs and I set ourselves to the task.  At age 16, he knows he is much more likely to win people over if he is polite.  He can sign please, thank you, can shake hands while looking you in the eye, etc.  Yes, autistics can be polite. Sometimes we can be a bit blunt and we have to work on diplomacy, but we can be polite.  Good manners can carry one a long way in the face of other social deficits.
  • Autistic people are good at math.  This one makes me giggle.  I am definitely autistic and I am terrible at math.  Words make sense to me, numbers do not.  Other members of my tribe are highly mathematical, but I am not.  End of story.
  • Autistic people do not grow up.  Really and truly, I think some people believe that autism magically disappears on one’s 18th birthday and they ride off to a magical planet on their own personal unicorn.  Hmm.  Autistic children turn into autistic adults.  Like it or not, you are stuck with us for a lifetime.

I am certain there are many other items I could add to this list, but these are my top ten.  If you have any more myths to share or bust please comment below or on Facebook or Twitter!