Most people are more aware of autism these days due to popular media. That’s a good thing right? More people becoming aware of a disability because they aren’t being ignored in popular culture will lead to a better more inclusive society! However, the media is only interested in showing autism when it’s entertaining. The not very tactful, charming genius or the socially awkward, very sarcastic, misunderstood loner are common characteristics displayed by many autistic people on TV and in film. Characters like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory or Sherlock played by Benedict Cumberbatch come to mind, but these representations give people the wrong idea by only showing a “media-friendly” autism or by getting it wrong entirely. For example the two characters I just mentioned are very sarcastic, and most people with autism are to literal in their thinking to understand sarcasm.
In reality 25% of autistic people are non-verbal and 54% of them have an IQ below 85 but the media doesn’t see the entertainment value in these areas of autism. So next time you hear someone describe their ex as being autistic because they didn’t show them enough love or when someone asks what your loved ones ‘special gift’ is when they discover they are on the autistic spectrum you can send them this top 5 of popular misconceptions about autism.
Myth No.1 “Autistic people don’t feel emotions”
We all express our emotions in different ways and this is especially apparent with people who are on the autistic spectrum. Just because you don’t recognise an emotional gesture does not mean to say it isn’t there. I show my emotions in a way that would be unusual to those who have very little understanding of autism, but once you know about it you will understand me better and we will have a far greater chance of bonding and building a friendship.
Myth No.2 “Autism can be cured”
My brother Mark and find it especially frustrating to see parents dedicate all their energy to seeking out a cure for their child when that energy could be put to better use by accepting their child’s condition and begin finding ways to communicate more successfully. Learning how read all the unique subtle ways their child communicates can be the greatest breakthrough a parent can make. Progress can be made with my social skills by first learning how I communicate then using that ‘language’ to teach me your way of communicating. By practicing these social skills I was able to see how they could help me to have a better quality of life. This kind of progress doesn’t happen overnight it can take many years and in no way should it be seen as a cure.
Myth No.3 “Autistic people don’t want any friends”
I like many others who have autism struggle with many of the social skills you take for granted and therefore it’s a far safer option to keep myself to myself and avoid any difficult situations or misunderstandings. This comes across as if I am being rude or unfriendly so making friends can be incredibly difficult. However this doesn’t mean I don’t want any. Once we are more familiar with one another I find it less of a challenge to contribute more successfully to the relationship. As you can see this is a catch 22 situation, how can I become more familiar with you without talking to you as strangers first. Sometimes having a 3rd party helping to kick things off can be a great way of overcoming this.
Myth No.4 “All people with autism require special care and treatment”
Autism is not a single disorder, but a spectrum of closely related disorders with a shared core of symptoms. Every individual on the autism spectrum has different levels of disability and the combination of symptoms varies tremendously from person to person. The level of disability and the combination of symptoms varies tremendously from person to person.
Myth No.5 “Autistic people have remarkable mathematical skills”
Only about 10 per cent of all individuals with autism display ‘savant abilities’ such as remarkable mathematical skills or the capacity to remember large quantities of detailed information accurately. Yet understand this information on an emotional level or in a way where it can relate to real-world situations is often much more challenging.