(My aim one day is to become an advocate for Aspergirls and to do talks and workshops, so just sharing some (not very original) ideas to present to those who think we’re all like Rain Man 😳 )
We cannot make eye contact or hold a conversation. Eye contact can be uncomfortable for us, but many of us, especially females, have learnt the neurotypical way to do it in order to get along socially. Likewise with conversations, we have learnt set patterns of what to say and some of us are so well practised in them that you would not know we are autistic if you only spent a short while with us.
We cannot learn or change. Many autistic people have degrees and PHDs so this is blatantly not the case. Autism may also be accompanied by a learning difficulty, but this cannot be assumed.
We do not make good friends. We may be hard for a neurotypical person to get to know at first, as we may be very socially awkward, or we may talk at length about subjects only of interest to us. But for those who can “tune in” to us, we make excellent and very loyal friends. We may come across as aloof and distant, but that is not our intention at all. We are honest, we almost always say what we mean and mean what we say. We are quirky and different and don’t blindly follow the crowd, so we are able to offer a refreshing perspective to those who are prepared to take the time to get to know us.
We have no empathy or feelings. It may appear that are lives are wholly governed by reason. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have any. On the contrary, we often feel too much. We sometimes have a problem with verbalising our feelings, or expressing them outwardly, but again this is something that can be learnt.
Our lives are governed by rigid routines and obsessions. This may be the case: the world can be a confusing place for us, and we need strategies to manage our confusion. But we are very rational beings and can learn to be adaptable if we see the reason for it.
We have limited imagination. We may like to carry out tasks in set ways, but we are also capable of great flights of fancy. Many great novels, music, artwork, designs, have been done by autistic people.
We have no sense of humour. We may not laugh at the same things as everyone else; our sense of humour is quirky and different.
We are not employable. It’s a sad fact that only 16% of autistic people are in full-time employment. That is partly because the interview system favours extroverts and those with good people skills, and partly because we may suffer from other related conditions including poor mental health that render us unable to work. If we are lucky enough to work, we can make excellent employees, especially if the job is related to our special interests. We are dependable and conscientious, we attend to details that others may miss, and we don’t waste time on unnecessary chit-chat and gossip.
We are all technology geeks who love sci-fi and gaming. Many autistic people do gravitate towards these fields it is true, but there are also many active in the arts and other fields, I for one am a case in point.
We have no dress sense. We all like to wear anoraks and carry rucksacks. This one is often true, we tend to dress for comfort rather fashion. Our lives are not governed by what other people think of us, so if someone doesn’t like what we wear, we might not care very much. We have more important things to be thinking about!
Please remember when you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met just ONE person with autism. We are all unique individuals and hard to generalise!