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Breaking the Stereotypes About Autism

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Before I was told of my diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, I knew about autism, but I didn’t truly know what it was or how our culture often responds to autistic individuals. I assumed autism was this large-scale issue that wasn’t really talked about in a positive way. But since my eyes were opened to how my brain truly functions and how that translates into my response to this big world of ours, I have had a firsthand look at how far too many people who are not autistic treat those who are openly autistic. How people who are uneducated love to throw words around and gatekeep. How the media uses autistic people as inspiration porn to make others “feel good” about themselves. How the voices of autism that are loudest are the parents of autistic people and not the actual autistic people themselves.

Some people in my life have treated me differently since I have been open about the way I see things. Most people have treated me the same, and they’ve told me their respect for me has grown since I’ve shared my heart. But there have been some who don’t really understand what being autistic means, or they stereotype me and assume it takes me longer to understand what they’re saying, or that I’ll take everything the wrong way, or that I need to be spoken to and treated like a child in a public setting.

I may not reveal my emotions outwardly as much as other people do, but every time I experience this, I get very emotional on the inside. It takes everything in me to not reveal those emotions and end up lashing out at the other person simply because they don’t understand. (Or they’re too ignorant to choose to understand. Those people are the worst.)

It’s incredibly frustrating to realize that what most people know about autism is stereotypical. But our culture is the reason for that. The majority of educators are trained to respond exactly like that. It’s assumed that all autistic people are the same, that we all aren’t smart enough to lead “normal” lives, and that we need to be treated as “less than” because we don’t get it.

Just because I’m autistic doesn’t mean I can’t act like an adult.

It doesn’t mean I have a low IQ.

It doesn’t mean I have a slow brain.

It doesn’t mean I can’t interact well with people.

And the same can be said for many others. There are autistic people who are famous actors, artists, musicians, writers and athletes.

Don’t get me wrong, there are autistic people who need a lot more support, who have intellectual disabilities and can’t live on their own. But this stereotype has blurred over to include all of us. All autistic people are basically treated the same, and when we respond negatively to such treatment, people assume it’s our fault. Or when we spend most of our lives hiding our true selves because we’re afraid of being treated differently and then take off the mask, people often don’t know how to respond. Sometimes they leave; sometimes they revert back to the autism stereotype and assume. And I’m sick and tired of it.

Instead of assuming we all need the same treatment, ask those of us who can respond if you’re hurting us in any way. Or simply ask questions about us. Read our blogs and our Mighty posts. Send emails or texts our way and treat us like the human beings we are. Don’t just assume because we’re autistic we can’t relate to you or carry on a conversation with you.

We can do so much more than people realize, but we have to be given the chance to speak up. Are you willing to listen?

Image provided by contributor.

Originally published: December 19, 2018
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