The Misconceptions I Want to Clear Up About Being on the Autism Spectrum

I was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) when I was 15 years old. My family all had their suspicions, but I believe they were afraid of there being something “wrong” with me. But gaining a concrete knowledge of why I am the way I am doesn’t change who I am.

Based on my experiences as a kid with ASD, here are the things I think everyone should know about what it can be like to live with ASD.

Saying “You don’t seem autistic” isn’t a compliment. Honestly, it’s extremely annoying to me. It tends to make me think you think less of people with autism, or you think everyone with autism is exactly the same. Everyone is different, whether they’re on the autism spectrum or not.

Don’t criticize us for stimming. Have you ever chewed your nails? Twirled your hair, tapped your feet, chewed a pencil, hummed? That can all be stimming, too. Twirling your hair and tapping your feet doesn’t hurt anyone, so why would rocking or drumming or any other stim be a problem? I’m beginning to believe stimming related to ASD is seen as “bad” or “annoying” by some people because of the stigma people with ASD are confronted with all the time.

Vaccines do not cause autism. I cannot stress this enough.

I am not Sheldon Cooper. While I may struggle with social cues and sarcasm as well, I am not a fictional character from “The Big Bang Theory.” I am not a walking stereotype.

I’d say to everyone out there who experiences the same misconceptions — I know how frustrating it can be feeling like you have to go through every day of your life dealing with people who don’t understand. But I firmly believe there are some people out there who are extremely good friends, particularly for those on the spectrum. Wait until you meet someone who will accept you for everything you are and not try to change the things that make you a part of the spectrum. There are those kinds of people out there.

And as for the loved ones of those on the spectrum, try to be accepting. Try not to have set expectations for behaviours. Your loved one is doing the best they can, and it is OK to try to give them a little push in the right direction. But if they don’t want that push, just let them be. And while they may not show or say it, if they put in the effort to maintain a relationship with you — even if it’s them just saying hi — it likely means they appreciate you.

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