20 Key Things to Know About Autism2 min read

1. There is no vis­ible way to tell if someone is autistic. At all. Unless they wear a hat which reads, ‘Hi, I’m autistic,’ which is pos­sible, though unlikely.

2. Autism is gen­uinely an invis­ible dis­ability, as most autistic people can actively hide their autistic traits in order to fit in. This costs a great deal of energy.

3. Autism never goes away. Autistic chil­dren become autistic adults. There are a *lot* of undi­ag­nosed autistic adults out there.

4. Many autistic people don’t under­stand the con­cept of def­er­ence to authority and so may seem overly friendly or push bound­aries. This isn’t done to annoy or insult, most of the time.

5. Autistic people can and often do have a good sense of humour.

6. Autism is not an ill­ness. Any suf­fering we expe­ri­ence will most of the time ulti­mately stem from living in a world not designed for us. Though it’s true cer­tain aspects of autism can cause direct suf­fering, like some sen­sory issues.

7. All gen­ders can be autistic, and are.

8. Autism itself is not a learning dis­ability. It can often be co-morbid with other learning dis­abil­i­ties, but in and of itself is not.

9. Much, though not all, of autistic behav­iour viewed as ‘neg­a­tive’ or ‘chal­lenging’ can be easily avoided with very simple sup­port and under­standing.

10. Autistic people have a sig­nif­i­cantly shorter life expectancy than non-autistic people, due in part to increased rates of sui­cide and heart dis­ease, pos­sibly from chronic stress.

11. Autistic people might use repet­i­tive move­ments as a way of keeping calm and grounded. This is called ‘stim­ming’ and is nec­es­sary and (almost always) harm­less. Leave us be.

12. Autistic people can miss impli­ca­tions and sub­texts, in ques­tions, instruc­tions, descrip­tions. Use plain, clear lan­guage.

13. Autistic people might find it dif­fi­cult to explain their emo­tions. They do have them, fre­quently very strongly, but expressing and han­dling emo­tions can be hard.

14. Autistic people are not robots who don’t feel any­thing and don’t empathise. We are often hyper-emotional people who feel every­thing a great deal.

15. Autistic people over­whelm­ingly prefer to be called autistic people, rather than “people with autism.” Ask em. Try it. I promise you.

16. Autistic people have very pow­erful inter­ests and pas­sions in things that may, to you, seem unusual. But the con­nec­tion we have with these inter­ests is hugely impor­tant to us and must not be belit­tled or treated with con­tempt.

17. Autistic people can have a big con­nec­tion with ani­mals, nature, the out­doors. It can be useful to remind us of this if we’re in a bit of a funk, to be honest.

18. Autistic people find sudden changes in plan or rou­tine very dif­fi­cult to handle, pos­sibly because we’re already over­whelmed by stress and see rou­tine as a way to cope.

19. Autistic people can be extremely cre­ative and very bad at math­e­matics, so don’t assume any­thing!

20. Autistic people are not socio­pathic, nor are they any­thing like Sherlock or Sheldon Cooper etc — there’s huge variety among the autistic pop­u­la­tion.

Pete Wharmby

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  1. Thanks for this Pete!

  2. My beau­tiful and bright autistic grand­daughter needs all her energy to cope with this world — When together we are as one soul 🙂

  3. Love these wise words: simple, clear and suc­cinct. Says it like it is 🙂 Thanks!

  4. Succinctly written with a gentle sprinkle of wit. Love it. This handy list dis­pels a good deal of harmful myths that hurt autistic people.

  5. I have recently had thoughts about ‘stim­ming’. Unless I am unusu­ally, it is not really stim­ming at all. It is a response to stress. It prob­ably helps reduce the high amounts of adren­alin (or maybe some other neuro chem­ical?).
    Fiddling with things when stressed is normal in normal people.
    Here I am today rocking and wob­bling my knees and trying very hard to NOT scratch, and feeling suf­fo­cated with all the wood ash in the air. (Coffs Harbour, NSW, Australia where huge bush­fires have been burning for two weeks or more).

  6. 21. It’s not caused by vac­cines!

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