Thursday, 14 May 2015

Autism Myths

Ouch!  Another morning where the media reports people saying things like, "You must be autistic - you have no feelings and no empathy".
This is such a damaging myth.

Let me explain it this way: Supposing you have a friend who is Blind.  And you are feeling sad.  You go into a room where your Blind friend is sitting, and you look sad.  A silent tear runs down your face.  Your friend says nothing to console you.  You accuse them of being unfeeling, cold, a rotten friend.   What would be wrong with that accusation?  Yup.  Your friend cannot see you.  They cannot see that you are upset.

It's just like that with autism.  Just the same.   Generalising, our brains do not have the right internal wiring connections for decoding faces and body language.  Or hearing tone of voice very accurately.  All the signals you think you're sending....well, we're not built to detect them.

If someone comes up to me and says, "Ann, I am so sad because...."  then I know they are sad.  And then I feel dreadful for them and want to be there for them.  I have to be told how they are feeling, because I cannot see their face properly or hear their voice tone accurately.

Some autistic folk have emotional delay or language delay, too.  That makes it harder.  Because even once we've been told something, we've got to wait patiently for our brains to think, "cor, what did that mean".  And then find just the right set of words to say how we feel inside.  Meantime, people are looking at our faces for signs of face expression that we can't do very well.  And waiting for an instant response, the same as they can get from non-autistic people.

It's so easy to mistake slower response or 'blindness' for a lack of compassion.  
There is good research showing that autistic people are generally more fair than non-autistic ones, and more concerned about social and world justice.  We are caring folk.

Working with so many hundreds of amazing, wonderful,  gentle, loyal, honest autistic people all over the world, I can honestly say that I have never met a finer group of people.
It hurts most of us so much when people assume we are unfeeling monsters, and pre-judge us.
Most of us love being with people, and value friendship and working relationships enormously.  The same as any other group of people would.

Take time to get to know us.  Refuse to accept negative myths about autistic friends.  And be ready to explain how you feel...and what would help, in really clear ways.  We'll appreciate that greatly.