Perceptions Of Autism De-Bunked

Sadly, it’s the more common and negative autistic behaviours that are most often what people in public witness and perceive incorrectly. ‘Bad behaviour’ in autistics is almost always a response to being completely overwhelmed and unable to cope, it’s a form of communication in the only way they know how when deeply distressed. Even verbal and high functioning/Aspergers autistics can struggle to communicate under stress.


Autistics have to work extremely hard to behave in social ways that we all accept, that we all do without thinking, and it’s exhausting for them. When upset or distressed they can lose their ability to self regulate and please know that what you see on the surface is just the tip of the iceberg ie the reasons for their behaviour lie beneath the surface and can be hugely overwhelming and scary for them (even physically painful). 

My own minimally verbal son can feel anxiety and stress over sometimes seemingly tiny, insignificant to me/us things. eg a simple change in plan being discussed. He begins to panic about what to expect that turns to rapid, shallow breathing (as though being chased down a dark alley and cornered) that can take minutes or even hours to recover from. I notice sometimes how thirsty, tired and hungry just a few moments of being overwhelmed can make him (as though he has had a deep shock and run the physical equivalent of marathon), and he will often lose his sense of time as though many hours have passed when it was actually only a few minutes. Can you imagine what this does to his heart and body and mind? We can have one episode a month or three in one day, it’s extremely difficult to guess what the triggers are, they often change and there is always the stuff we cannot control out there in public (places being closed, out-of-stock, changed, traffic, facilities not as expected etc. etc. etc.)


So lets de-bunk some of those perceptions and pass on a few truths about autism:

  • not all autistics are savant (genius), most aren’t. Most regular children and adults are not gifted or genius either. 

  • autism does not = The Rain Man film.

  • girls/females who have autism can be extremely good at masking it.

  • autistics can have wonderful senses of humour.

  • autistics do not all bang their heads on the floor.

  • autistics are not being rude when they bump into people, do not stand back at doorways, do not make eye contact, do not respond with ‘hello’, ‘please’, thank-you’. They do not see the world in the same we do and all of these social norms are very abstract to them, and extremely hard to remember to to do whilst still focusing on what you are saying. 

  • autistics are not anti-social they are waiting for you to join them in their world.

  • autistics do not lack empathy.

  • autistics can be very literal, logical, fact focused, visual, intensely into a special interest.

  • autistics can and do show love in their own way.

  • autistics are not stupid/brain damaged/slow and they do make progress.

  • autistics will often see the detail before understanding the big picture e.g. a picnic. They might be able to tell you how many squares are on the picnic rug, how many dogs there are, the different types of trees, number of bicycles and who knows what else before realising the social occasion of a picnic and what that means to us. Oh, and each picnic will be an entirely new experience for them unless it is an exact repeat. 

  • what looks like a temper tantrum to you could easily be a completely overwhelmed and distressed autistic person. Stop. Think. Be kind. It’s not always bad parenting. 

  • autistics and their parents/carers DO NOT tell people they are autistic for attention or as an excuse for no discipline or bad behaviour. Thanks to all the awful perceptions of autism out there it takes an enormous amount of courage to tell someone. The autism spectrum is vast. 

Flashback to my 1st ‘Chalkboard’ post on Instagram @autismthreads

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