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5 Assumptions About Autism That Aren't True for Me

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If you’re a newbie to autism, there are many assumptions about autism that have been fueled by stigma. I’d like to tell you a little bit about myself and how I differ from them.

1. Autistics avoid eye contact.

While true in many cases, it isn’t a given! For example, I’ve never struggled with it. I have no trouble looking people in the eye, and only close my eyes or look away so as to shut out other distractions while I’m trying to think of what to say while talking to someone. I feel totally comfortable exchanging glances.

2. Autism causes one to not want to socialize.

Not for this girl! I’ve been a social butterfly since day one. While I do have trouble reading between the lines and picking up on social nuances, I’ve never hesitated to walk up to someone and say hello. In fact, when I was about 9, I was on this kick where I’d ask random strangers their shoe size! I’ve also maintained friendships for many years and loved being a part of groups. I’m also a chatterbox!

3. Autistics always experience sensory overload and meltdowns.

This has never been the case for me. While I have certain tastes, sounds and textures that are rather unbearable, I’ve never experienced what a lot of people describe as overload. I’m a sensory seeker. I love flashing lights, feeling various fabrics and smelling scents that I find pleasant. I have meltdowns, but they’re more emotional. Sensory stimuli does not trigger them for me. When I melt down, I start crying whenever I feel that I’ve let someone down or my feelings have been hurt. It takes some time and reassurance until I pull myself together.

4. Every autistic has a savant skill.

Not always. While I have an affinity for Sonic the Hedgehog and am pretty versed in the Android operating system, I wouldn’t say I have a skill that I’ve mastered way beyond the point of my other skills. Special interests, yes, but I’m not a genius in math or can take apart a machine and put it back together. I have skills in a variety of subjects.

5. One outgrows autism.

Never! A lot of people assume that just because someone has learned to cope well with their environment and has survival skills, that they have outgrown their autism. The truth of the matter is that one learns coping strategies and how to navigate the social world as they get older. Many people, myself included, fall under the radar for many years before receiving a diagnosis because they’ve learned these mechanisms and have gotten by with the tools they’ve gained. People’s traits can also change over time. One may stim by flapping their hands as a child and then move on to fidgeting with a pencil later on, or vice versa. I used to pick my fingers really badly, but with medication and substituting fidget toys for the picking, I’ve cut down greatly.

So, there you have it! Here are just some examples of the beliefs that can exist out there and how they aren’t always the case. I hope you’ve learned something, and if you ever have any questions about autism, the best source to go to are autistics themselves!

Originally published: September 10, 2015
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