Greetings Earthlings! 🙂
After reading a write in to an advice column in the newspaper this morning, the parent of a recently diagnosed child rationalized that the diagnosis didn’t make sense as their child was doing well in school, popular and “good socially.”
I found this particularly annoying as this type of attitude is something that we high functioning autists encounter all the time.
“You don’t look autistic?!”
“You can’t be autistic!”
These are some of the most common phrases I hear when I talk to people about my diagnosis, as do many high functioning autists. Whilst this is a great compliment to my upbringing and acting skills, this kind of reaction can be quite damaging for autists.
First things first- no one looks autistic 😛
It’s a neurodevelopmental disorder, how are we supposed to look? Unless you have eyes like an MRI or some type of X-ray vision, you won’t physically see our neurological differences! Roughly 1 in 68 people are autistic- that’s 1 person per double decker bus, 1 person per carriage on the average train, and 3 people on the average international flight. Would you say that you’ve seen someone that “looked” autistic every time you’ve used these transport services? 🤨
We’re everywhere, looking exactly the same as you do.
^^^ Sorry couldn’t resist giving my favourite musical a shout out- 10 points if you get the song reference 😎
With autism, it’s very much a case of “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”.
With the increased generalization of the spectrum, from the outside, our books look alike, each with the same rainbow-coloured ‘autism’ cover on display. The stories inside however are very different. There may be similar themes, experiences and symptoms between books, but ultimately each is unique.
Contrary to popular belief, just like the child in the advice column, many high functioning autists have an active social life. In college I was at every party going and the last one on the dance floor- had you seen me, would you have said I was autistic? Appearances can be deceptive, you don’t know how hard some of us have to work on our social skills behind closed doors. Eye contact isn’t natural for me, but with practice and forcing myself out of my comfort zone, no one would be any the wiser when chatting to me now. I’m a social butterfly who doesn’t outwardly appear autistic, but I have a piece of paper and an autism spectrum quotient score that say otherwise
No, I do not “look” like the stereotypical image of autism, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not riding that spectrum.
This attitude towards autism’s outward appearance could in fact be quite detrimental. If we don’t recognize that a person is autistic when they don’t fit the preconceived mould; they may languish for years without adequate understanding and supports for their needs. This is especially true for females on the spectrum who have learned the art of social masking, often flying under the radar of male centered diagnostic criteria.
As I have discussed many times before, autism is a spectrum, everyone is different and therefore their traits will be different. Don’t judge us by the ‘autism’ cover adorning our story, delve deeper into the book and you may be surprised at what you’ll learn 🙂
Hope you enjoyed this post and have a lovely bank holiday weekend dear Earthlings! 😀