Although most people have a vague understanding of autism or have at the very least heard of it, many people do not have an entirely accurate understanding of the condition and how it affects people. Many people do not know what is myth, and what is fact when it comes to autism, not helped by the way it is usually portrayed in extremes in the media.
One of the most common misunderstandings about autism is the idea that people with autism do not feel, or show, emotion. This is entirely incorrect. Autism does not inhibit people from feeling emotion the same way that everyone else does. What they struggle with is knowing how to communicate those emotions. People with autism often communicate their emotions differently from neurotypical people, however this does not mean that they feel emotion with any less intensity.
It is also commonly believed that autistic people cannot understand the emotions of others. Again, this is incorrect. They have just as much capacity for empathy as anyone else. Autism affects a person’s ability to understand unspoken interpersonal communication, meaning that they may struggle to detect someone’s emotions based solely on their facial expressions and body language. When one communicates their emotions more directly however, they are often much more empathetic and compassionate towards that person.
Friendships and Relationships
This leads on to the next assumption that people make, that those with autism don’t want / will never have proper relationships and friendships. Many, if not most people with autism struggle with understanding social etiquette. There are a lot of unspoken rules involved in socialising that most people don’t think twice about but seem illogical to those with autism. This makes it much more difficult to interact with one’s peers. This may come across as them being shy or uninterested in friendships, but it may simply be because they are unsure as to how to communicate with other people. This does not mean that they don’t desire the same meaningful relationships as everyone else.
This difficulty navigating social situations also leads many to believe that those with autism never find, or do not want to find love. Again, this is not true. Many people with autism have a long term partner and get married. Dating is full of unspoken rules and social expectations that have to be followed. This makes an already daunting situation that much more complicated for those with autism to navigate. All this can make it more difficult to find the right person. On top of this some people with autism are more uncomfortable with physical attraction than neurotypical people. Whilst this makes it more difficult or daunting it does not mean that they cannot feel love or that they are unlovable. It simply means it is a little more difficult.
Most people assume that those with autism are either intellectually disabled or that they are a genius. The truth is that autism is a spectrum disorder, and people can be at either end of it with everyone on the spectrum presenting differently. Those with autism may have extremely high IQs, or they may struggle intellectually. The problem is that people assume that those who are non-verbal are intellectually disabled. it is more difficult to know what a person is thinking when they struggle to communicate but it does not automatically mean they don’t understand. Conversely, many assume that everyone with autism is a genius, or at least that most geniuses are on the spectrum.
It can be frustrating with people automatically assume that because you have autism you have a ‘special talent’. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and autistic people are no different. Research shows that approximately 28% of autistic people have some sort of special talent, but as of yet researchers are not sure why this is. Part of the reason for this myth may be that the public is prone to confusing special ‘talent’ with the specific interests that those with autism often develop. Many people with autism have very specific interests and they endeavour to learn everything they can about this interest, making them experts in said subjects.
It only affects boys
Many are under the impression that autism only affects boys. This is not true. Although it does seem to appear more commonly in boys, there are many girls with autism also. The difference is the age at which they are diagnosed. Research has shown that girls are more likely to ‘mask’ their autism and learn more skills to interact with the world around them and their peers. This means that whilst most boys are diagnosed at a young age, girls are usually diagnosed later in their teenage years or when they reach adulthood.