“If you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism.” ~ author unknown
This is a subjective list based on my interaction with over 10,000 Aspies over the last four years. 🙂
10 Myths About Aspies
Myth #1: Aspies Don’t Have Friends
We do have relationships. Like all human beings, sometimes our relationships last and sometimes they don’t. We might prefer to be alone or have a lower tolerance level for crowds and the company of another person for extended periods of time, but we do like having kind friends and kind partners. Some of us choose not to be in a relationship, some of us choose to be in a relationship, some of us cannot find a relationship that ‘fits,’—just like most of the human race. Aspects about Aspergers make the probability higher that we will have had more struggles in finding or keeping friends, but many of us have been in longterm relationships, married, lived with close partners, raised children, and maintain contact with people we care about.
Myth #2: Aspies Can’t Be Successful at a Job
We are managers, supervisors, bosses, teachers, professors, scientists, inventors, mathematicians, artists, writers, dog groomers, life coaches, counselors, software testers, computer programmers, and much more. There are some of us who struggle to find work because of obstacles, such as lack of support systems, communication barriers during the hiring process, misunderstandings, and the like. But there are those of us that are very successful in our chosen career. Many are self-employed or hold multiple degrees
Myth #3: Aspies are Much the Same
We are all unique. I live with two on the autism spectrum, and between the three of us we have our unique ways of looking at the world, our unique understanding of self and others, our unique spiritual beliefs, and unique passions and interests. We have different tastes in music, in foods, in entertainment, in literature, and politics. We have the commonality of a fast-thinking brain and ramifications of social communication challenges. We have the commonality of unique traits associated with Asperger’s syndrome. But the rest of who we are is very individualized.
Myth #4: Aspies Can’t Read Body Language
Most of us can understand and interpret body language. Most have trained ourselves about communication through trial and error, through examination of others and through other educational resources. Sometimes we may appear not to be picking up clues during a conversation, but that is often because we are distracted by our own thoughts and emotions. Our minds are often going a mile-a-minute, and thoughts of body language aren’t typically on the top of our list.
Myth #5: Aspies are Selfish
We are highly-focused and highly-analytical. We tend to see things outside of the box and have capacities to solve problems and challenges in a new light—sometimes with lightening speed. When we are hyper-focused on a job, we are project-focused. When we are largely preoccupied by our anxiety, we are focused on survival. When we are in over-load from sensory sensitivities, we are focused on regrouping and regenerating. When we are triggered by multiple events or happenings in a day, we are focused on self-preservation. We come across as selfish because we have strong convictions and need a large amount of alone time.
Myth #6: Aspies Need to be Taught by Non-Autistics How to Be in the World
There is nothing more insulting to most Aspies than another’s assumption that we need to be taught how to be in this world. Adult Aspies have taught themselves how to survive from a young age. We had to. We had to learn, imitate, and get by with our building skill set. We don’t generally welcome or appreciate unsolicited advice, nor do we have fondness for others who think because they hear a label that they know more about us than our own selves. We learn the best through self-study and through the companionship of other autistics. We learn the best when we aren’t preached to, told what to do, how to act, or set up for failure by mainstream’s expectations that we should somehow mold ourselves into being someone else.
Myth #7: Aspies are Rude
Aspies, myself included, can be blunt, straightforward, matter-of-fact, and entirely transparent. There is a give and take in having an Aspie as a colleague, friend or partner. You will typically know that what they say is what they believe or feel at the time. You can generally rest assured when dealing with an Aspie that there aren’t any giant secrets, hidden agendas, plotting, back stabbing, gossip, or ill-will transpiring. You can also expect to get your feelings hurt a bit, be shocked, and sometimes even shake your head in laughter. Because like I mentioned previously, we aren’t typical thinkers. Yet we also aren’t ‘game players.’ We tell it like it is. And there comes a great freedom in that, if you stick around long enough to release some of the ego aspects of ‘hurt feelings’ and get to the heart of really what is being said.
Myth #8: Aspies Lack Feelings
Aspies have a difficult time distinguishing between their emotions. They might have an opposite response to a situation—such as laughing when they should be crying. They might feel nothing at all or completely numb initially. Often times this is an automatic self-preservation mode. We become so overwhelmed with intense emotions—such as grief, let down, anger, and love—that we are boggled down in the extremeness of the situation. We then might respond in an unexpected manner, e.g. shut down, escape, meltdown, or breakdown. After time, when our minds have had time to filter through the emotions, we can come back with the ‘typical’ emotional intake, having leached ourselves of multiple emotions, and bled out the muck that was clogging up our responding pipes.
Myth #9: Aspies Throw Tantrums
We live on high-alert and heightened awareness with such deep connections to everything that adding to that the unexpected event can tip us over the edge. We feel things at intensity. We constantly try to negotiate with our own minds. We constantly try to fit in within our own universe. Everything is complex. Everything a puzzle. When we are pushed too far by one thing or another, it may seem a simple nothing to the onlooker, but to us it is the hundredth, if not thousandth, trigger in our day. We hold it together amazingly well for all the challenges we face. Life isn’t just hard, but the very act of trying to exist itself.
Myth #10: Aspies Long For Attention
We sometimes share a lot about our struggles, about our autism, about our Aspergers. We might write blogs or share posters on social networks. We might advocate or speak publicly. We don’t have a choice anymore because others who aren’t autistic have been largely speaking for us. And the information that often rotates through the masses is inaccurate, misrepresented, and/or stereotypical regurgitation that is outdated and false. We get tired of being told who we are and what we are and how to treat us and fix us. We don’t think we need fixing. We think others who lie, deceive, manipulate, and purposely hurt or ostracize others are the ones that may perhaps need counseling. We find our ability to maintain laser-sharp focus, to accomplish large endeavors, to create in a new way, and to find answers no one else knew were there, amazing! We appreciate our often off-the-charts admiration and adoration of nature, music, and animals. We appreciate those of us that our poets, those of us that are philosophers, those of us that are comedians, those of us that are scholars, and the like. We often celebrate our accomplishments, despite how minor they may seem to others. We aren’t seeking attention; we aren’t complaining; we aren’t even whining; we are just waiting to be understood, and if not understood, then at minimal, left to be.
Author’s Note: I could have added ‘#11 Aspies Lack Empathy,’ but I just couldn’t stomach explaining that, yet another time! In my 3.5 years of communication with more than ten thousand people on the autism spectrum, I can honestly say three or four have been huge assholes that seemed to lack compassion. Statistically speaking, I’d say that’s not too bad.
You can find a lot more about Aspergers on my other site everydayaspergers.com
Sam’s new book is here!