By Anna Everts
This blog discusses autism stereotypes and is written by an autistic writer, for employers.
Most people know what autism is, or at least think they know what autism is. Sadly, a lot of autism stereotypes exist and many people seem to believe them. That’s why it’s time to debunk a couple of them so you can truly understand what being autistic is all about.
1. “Autistic people are anti-social”
When people think about autism, they often picture someone who sits by themselves and doesn’t interact much with others. While some autistics may indeed be anti-social, this definitely doesn’t fly for everyone.
A lot of autistic people can be really social, but on their own terms. Being social is often exhausting for us because it requires a lot of our energy. We have to constantly adapt ourselves to fit in and on top of that we deal with sensory input that can cause a sensory overload. That’s why we often prefer quieter places for social gatherings and smaller groups (but once again, not all of us prefer that).
Most autistic people do enjoy having meaningful conversations with people and hanging out with coworkers and friends. When you hire an autistic person they may need time to settle in. So give us time to get comfortable around you.
2. “Autistic people are socially awkward”
This one is closely related to the one above. The reason autistic people are often thought to be socially awkward is because we react differently to certain situations. For most of us, we had to learn social “rules”. This means that many of the standard social behaviour doesn’t come natural to us.
In situations where we have no experience with how to reply or behave, we can come across as a bit awkward. You can see it as being handed a social manual with only the most common situations. If it’s not in the manual, we may have trouble reacting the right way.
Of course, this isn’t the same for everyone. Some autistics never had any trouble with this to begin with and others have mastered the art of being social. Working from a mental manual also doesn’t mean we’re faking. It just means social situations are more complicated for us than for someone who isn’t autistic.
Enna can help both the autistic employee as well as the employer to ease up complicated situations by creating mutual understanding for each other.
3. “Autistic people depend heavily on structure and routine”
This is a common one, because it’s portrayed a lot in media. While it is true that a lot of autistics do enjoy structure and routine, especially as kids, not everyone enjoys it. The reason we do like structure and routine is because it gives us something to not think about. We have to think about everything we do in life because our brains are not wired the way neurotypical brains are. This means that we always have to think about if we’re doing things the right way.
Having routines gives us something we have control over without having to worry about doing it wrong. But this isn’t always having everything colour coded and doing things in exactly the same order. Sometimes this is just having set times for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or maybe getting coffee from the same mug every day.
Most of us are at least a tad flexible and our worlds won’t crumble if something in a routine changes. A few of us don’t like routine at all. So while we do enjoy it, our lives don’t depend on it. The best way to figure out what we need is to ask us. If you need help communicating with your autistic employee, Enna can help.
4. “Autistic people are mostly white males”
Most autism representation you’ll find in media is that of a white male, usually a kid or young-adult. This gives the impression that autism is a white and a male thing. Obviously, this isn’t the case, because autistics are very diverse!
Autism shows itself in all age groups, all ethnicities and all genders. Autism isn’t something you get, it’s something you’re born with and will also die with. People who are assigned female at birth usually get diagnosed less quickly because most diagnoses are focused on traits present in people who are assigned male at birth. There are differences in traits between those two groups and because of the lack of diagnoses in one group, there appears to be an imbalance. But in reality, anyone can be autistic. You can’t tell from just looking at them.
5. “Autistic people are either high-functioning or low-functioning”
A lot of neurotypical people have this idea that autism is either very noticeable, which they call low-functioning, or barely, which they call high-functioning. So basically what they’re saying is that some people are more autistic than others.
Sure, some people experience greater struggles, but that doesn’t mean they’re more autistic. Functioning labels are actually harmful because they’re rating our ability to be a productive human being. People classified as “low-functioning” are often seen as less productive to society and thus less worthy of human rights. That’s really problematic and that’s why most of us don’t like the functioning labels.
Autism is a spectrum and it’s not a linear one. It’s a circle full of traits and everyone’s circle looks different. You can’t tell from just looking at someone that they’re autistic. Some people are great at masking (appearing neurotypical) but actually struggle with a lot of things.
Our worth is not determined by how well we can appear to be neurotypical. We are not worth less because we’re autistic. If you know one of us, you know one of us, because one autistic person doesn’t represent the entire group. So get to know us! We’ll surprise you with our versatility and our unique skills. If you want to hire us, Enna can help.
6. “Autistic people are just good at technical jobs”
Ever since it became known that autistics are popular amongst IT companies, people assumed that autistics in general are just good at coding and other technical jobs.
But as mentioned before, we’re a diverse group. That means we have different interests and aren’t all good at technical tasks. We can do any job we like. Those can range from marketing to security and from working for a call-centre to being a gardener.
Do you have an interesting job for us? Contact the team at Enna to help you find the right match.