I have realized lately just how many things there are concerning autism that most people don’t understand. I thought that I would compile a list of things that I wish everyone would understand about autism.
1. It is NOT a disease.
Unfortunately many people do not seem to understand this. I frequently encounter people that think that autism is a contagious, terminal disease. I find it appalling that people actually believe that it is a disease. It is a neurological difference, not a disease!
2. There are often explanations for the seemingly “weird” things that we do.
Whether it involves refusing certain foods, feeling clothing before trying it on, or rubbing our hands together in a certain way, there is an explanation for why it is being done. Most commonly these behaviors are related to sensory sensitivity issues, or are a method of calming oneself. Many people on the spectrum have densities to certain tastes, textures, sounds, and sometimes even light and colors, which leads to behavior that is perceived to be unusual, in an attempt for the person to avoid sensitivities that they have. We also have behaviors such as hand rubbing, flapping, or twisting, in order to help calm our brains.
3. Communication is often overwhelmingly difficult to interpret.
Imagine that you are given a picture and have to determine what is shown in the picture. However, you are only able to see just around 20% of the picture. You would probably have a difficult time doing this most of the time, right? This is a good way to think about what communication is like when you have autism. Around 80% of communication is nonverbal. We often find nonverbal communication to be extremely difficult to interpret, and often we are incorrect in our interpretation of such communication. We have to interpret communication with only 20% of the picture all day every day. Could you imagine that? Living your life being able to understand only around 20% of all communication that you are involved in? That is reality for us every day.
4. Improperly handling situations involving us (and meltdowns especially) will only make things worse.
Nothing hurts more than being told by people that “we should know better” when we mess up. We are usually trying incredibly hard to correctly interpret and handle a situation, but often fail because we have difficulties interpreting such situations. Telling us that we should know better just makes us feel more ashamed and leads to us beating ourselves up mentally and emotionally more. Likewise, screaming at us during a meltdown exacerbates the situation, instead of “snapping us out of it” like most people believe. Meltdowns are often times in which we are in a fragile state, and adding stress onto the situation is not the proper way to react. Often times it will make the meltdown worse.
Hopefully this post leaves you with a better understanding of autism.