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7 Things Autistic People Wished You Knew

By Aron Mercer,  Global Advisor for Billion Strong

Around one in a hundred people are autistic, perhaps even more. Yet many people have a very limited understanding of autism, and that may be based on incorrect beliefs. So here are seven important things that autistic people wish you knew about us!

  1. All autistic people are individuals.

If you have met one autistic person, you have met one autistic person. It would be best if you did not assume anything about someone because they are autistic or expect them to be anything like another autistic person you know. All autistic people are different in different ways!

  • Autism brings strengths.

Autism is still often portrayed as a negative disability that brings problems. Yes, being autistic can make life difficult, but that is usually because the world is not set up for how we think and operate. Autistic people can have hugely valuable strengths, like problem-solving and creative thinking, analytical skills, the ability to focus intensely on a work or subject, and many more.

  • Not making eye contact does not mean we are not listening.

Many (but not all) autistic people find eye contact very difficult and even painful, and it can take a lot of effort to maintain it. If we must focus on looking you in the eye, that leaves much less of our attention to focus on what you are saying. So, do not insist on eye contact if you want us to listen to you.

  • Pretending to be neurotypical is exhausting.

Most autistic people spend a lot of their lives pretending to be neurotypical to fit in. This is known as masking, and it is like spending much of your life playing the part of somebody else. Having to think about almost everything you say consciously and do instead of just being yourself is exhausting and very bad for your mental health.

  • We do not need or want to be “cured.”

Autism is not an illness, and we are only disabled by the world around us. Autism is a part of who we are, in the same way as our sense of humor and our accent when we speak. Suggesting the need for a cure is saying something is wrong with us, which is false. Autistic people are different, not deficient.

  • Nobody chooses to have a meltdown.

Autistic meltdowns can happen for many reasons and take many forms. They are never the same as a tantrum, even if they may appear that way, and they are deeply unpleasant. If an autistic person needs to do something to avoid a meltdown, like getting away from loud noise or bright lights or to process overwhelming thoughts and emotions, it is important to let them do so.

  • We are happy to talk about how autism impacts us.

Autism should not be a taboo subject. Because we are all different, most autistic people welcome being asked what adjustments they need and how autism affects them. Pretending autism does not exist helps nobody.

There are as many facets of autism as there are autistic people, so please keep learning and keep talking to us.

Learn more about Aron Mercer here.

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