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Common Autism Myths


Animated UFO Autism is a disability - To rebuke this, I must first go off on a tangent about evolving scientific definitions. Our Sun is of a class of star called a yellow "dwarf", in spite of being larger than over 75% of stars in the universe. This now-awkward label was created and assigned to the Sun in an age when telescopes were only advanced enough that they generally detected mostly abnormally large stars. In this biased sample size, our Sun did seem to be quite on the smaller size. With a more advanced understanding of the universe however, the original label has obviously become very outdated.

You may have heard about an "epidemic" of autistic children being born. While this is a myth on par with claiming an epidemic of stars popping into existence as telescopes improved, it is true that more and more autistic children are being diagnosed due to increased awareness and changes in criteria. It is understood that autism can manifest in a very diverse variety of ways, and the idea that it is limited to the stereotypical non-verbal special needs child rocking back and forth in a corner has been put to bed. Keeping modern knowledge of autism in mind, I personally view the "disability" label to be an archaic description that cannot be applied to its current definition.

It is definitely true that autism is oftentimes comorbid with mental disability, but this itself is not enough to label autism itself a disability. As I mentioned in the main Autism page, autistic people are simultaneously more likely than neurotypicals both to be intellectually gifted and to be intellectually deficient.

There is a sentiment that the sensory issues that come with autism constitute it being a disability, and this is very arguable. As I frequently bemoan in all sorts of crass ways, many of the sensory assaults that trigger autistic people are preventable and widespread due to the higher sensory tolerances and desires of the neurotypical majority.

Consider how you would feel if you found yourself transplanted on an island populated entirely by people with no sense of smell who all possess abysmal hygiene and see nothing wrong with passing gas around other people. Now imagine you were labeled as having a disability for expressing annoyance over their inconsiderate (and disgusting) behaviour, and you can perhaps see why I disagree with applying this definition.

Another major issue with labeling autism a disability, as opposed to a different way of being wired mentally, is that not all of the traits of autism are negative. The hyper-focus that autistic people are naturally capable of is rarely matched by neurotypicals, at least aside from meth users. I plan to make a "pride" subsection later that celebrates the positives of autism in more detail, but other positive traits worth mentioning include the lack of obsession with social status and conformity (and the creativity that comes with it,) less willingness to sacrifice principles, increased passion and work ethic for personal interests, and very strong attention to detail.

Animated UFO Autistic people are all like x - As the rainbow infinity symbol is meant to represent, autism is a vast and diverse spectrum comprising millions of unique people. There is a common sentiment that people who discover their autism later in life encounter after "coming out", that they are not really autistic because they're nothing like another autistic person(s.) I myself did not discover that I was autistic until approximately 2-3 years ago because I was under the impression that autistic people were exclusively stereotypically "disabled" people and thus never considered the idea in my quest to understand my mind.

I had been sent to a number of psychiatrists throughout my childhood but was never diagnosed with anything, and went through much of my life knowing nothing more than that I was an utter weirdo who couldn't connect with 99% of people for some reason or another.

There are some autistic people that neatly fit various popular stereotypes of autistics, but they exist in a sea of people that is overall no less diverse (likely the opposite) than neurotypicals.

Animated UFO Autistic people can't feel empathy - This is technically partially true, but not in the way that people usually believe. One of the classic (but not universal) traits of autism is having significantly less cognitive empathy - which is the type of empathy that gives a person the ability to "step into someone else's shoes" and deduce how they are feeling from observing them. Hence the prevalent stereotype of an autistic person rambling on and on about their special interest long after their conversational partner has lost all interest, oblivious to their irritation.

The caveat here is that autistic people are no less capable of emotional empathy than neurotypicals are. Emotional empathy is what allows one to feel someone else's emotions and feel compassion towards them. It can perhaps be thought of as a blind person with a book - they can't read a word of it, but are still fully capable of appreciating the information if someone reads it to them.

Interestingly enough, in this sense autism is the exact opposite of sociopathy. The prime trait of sociopathy is having elevated cognitive empathy but little to no emotional empathy, meaning that a sociopath is excellent at reading other people but lacks the ability to sympathise with them.

This is all of course broadly speaking. Autism is a diverse spectrum, and there are certainly autistic people who have very strong cognitive empathy and/or very little or even no emotional empathy. I personally hypothesise that the latter can occur as a learned response to having one's own needs (such as sensory requirements or stable routines) being ignored by unsympathetic neurotypicals and adapting to respond to other people's issues and needs in the same callous manner.

Animated UFO Autism is an exclusively male neurotype - Both men and women are diagnosed with autism and while men and boys are four times more likely to receive an autism diagnosis than women and girls, it has been suggested that this is because female autism is more difficult to detect. It is currently believed that autistic girls are more likely than boys to be able to "camouflage" their behaviour in social interactions. This is something that is still being researched, but regardless of what the conclusion will eventually be, there are still millions of autistic women and girls in the world today even going by current diagnosis rates.

Animated UFO Autism speaks is a respectable, benevolent charity - The amount of sordid problems with autism speaks (I will not dignify such filth with a capitalisation) are a comically tragic reflection on how little influence actually autistic people have in the public sphere. For starters, the organisation claims that its goal is to "cure" autism. Not only is such an endeavour logically impossible, but even if it were achievable, it would involve re-wiring a person's brain to the point where the original person has been effectively murdered and replaced by someone else.

True to their word, autism speaks devotes much of its funds to research and "treatment" that does nothing to actually help autistic people. They also routinely demonise autism as something evil. None of this is surprising, given that the organisation did not even think to hire autistic people to their board of directors until after a decade of criticism. The founder of the organisation has also routinely demonstrated her complete lack of respect for autistic people.

The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) organisation is run by actual autistic people (as should be the case), works to advance causes that actually benefit autistics, and deserves support far more than the perfidious autism speaks. Aside from ASAN, there is a vast autistic community on the web (including this website) that is working to provide useful and accurate information to both autistic people and those close to them. You can find a selection of these sites at the Autism section on the Dock if you want to learn more.

Animated UFO "Person with autism" is the preferred term for autistic people - This is something that I've repeatedly encountered on the web, that seems to be coming primarily from neurotypical charlatans (often SJWs) that believe they understand the needs and wants of autistic people better than autistics themselves (see previous question for an example.) There are certainly autistic people that prefer the term "person with autism," but they are a very miniscule minority from all that I have seen. "Autistic person," "aspie," or even simply "autistic" as a noun are almost universally preferred.

One of the major problems with the person-first term is that it implies that autism is a sort of accessory or disease, as opposed to the literal wiring of one's brain. Autism is an innately personal thing that directs and informs a person's every decision. Labeling an autistic a "person with autism" is as absurd as labeling a Swedish person a "person with Swedishness."

Animated UFO "Neurotypical" is a slur/I hate neurotypicals - As explained in the terminology sub-section, the "neurotypical" is a word that either refers to an individual that is not autistic or alternatively, a person who is not neurodivergent in any (major) way. I have seen some people take offence to this word because of the word "typical." Autistics make up less than 2% of the population, so it is factually accurate to refer to people with non-autistic brains as having "typical" minds. It is not meant to be offensive, any more than the "his" in the word "history" or the "men" in "amen" is meant to exclude women.

I will admit that I am guilty of using that word disparagingly (largely in Babel rants, which tend towards being offensive for humour value,) but it's important to note the context before making any assumptions. Autistic people are a very small minority and as a result of us being more likely to be mentally challenged than neurotypicals and having a depressingly high unemployment rate as a result of discrimination, people are very unlikely to encounter us, let alone to get to know any of us well. As such, most cases of neurotypicals causing offence to autistics by, for example, violating our sensory needs, are coming from a place of unawareness and not malice.

I once read an anecdote about Dr. Ben Carson encountering racist behaviour when he began working as a doctor, but refusing to take umbrage. Dr. Carson remarked that he realised that the behaviour was coming from people who had never met a highly educated black person like him and had no idea how to react because the idea simply did not fit into their Overton window. For much the same reason, I do not harbour hatred towards neurotypicals as a whole even if I have had unpleasant interactions with many of them. "Everything understood is everything forgiven" as a Russian saying goes.

It is also worth mentioning that with increasing awareness and acceptance of autism, there are more neurotypicals than ever that are very empathetic, patient, and understanding towards autistic people they know. I have the pleasure and privilege of knowing a quite a few such people, and they truly do more than make up for everyone else.

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