By Aaron Bouma
For my peoples with disabilities, stigma is something we continuously face. It is how we are perceived to be, to act, and what we are believed to be capable of as well as what expections people have when they become involved with us. Expectations can be like a scale. It can be good in aspects but often times, more commonly it is negative and stigmatizing.
Let’s look at some common myths that create stigma about us.
Persons with Autism don’t have empathy for others.
It’s not only incredibly harmful, but degrading that neurotypical people think that they know how we feel. In fact we can and often have hyper-empathy for people and are pushed away for being too caring, or overly engaged. There are different types of empathy. In a panic attack or in a meltdown situation it can seem as if we lack empathy; as if we have tunnel vision. But that can be us reacting to a stressful situation that could be traumatizing or creates sensory overload.
Persons with Autism all respond to the same governance and behaviour training.
Behavioral therapy can be incredibly traumatizing to young children who are forced to expand their comfort and sensory zones. It can lead to pushback and regression of wanting to expand those zones to learn. We all learn things differently. Flawed ABA exposures and practices can create real harm in children on the autism spectrum.
Autistic people don’t date.
We autistic people are perfectly capable of dating. Everyone of us is different and have different needs, like anybody else. Different personalities are great for dating or working in day-to-day relationships. Sometimes we have trouble with social skills. You probably have experienced this, maybe even not even knowing it. I’ve been there. Trust me. We are stigmatized by potential dating partners over the entire dating sphere.
Autistics are violent.
Autistic people are actually more likely to be victims of violence and emotional abuse than neurotypicals. Persons on the spectrum are more likely to be targeted. See the research here. I know this effect all to well. We each respond to trauma differently. We can feel more vividly, more intensely. We experience frustration, anger, anxiety and depression etc just like everyone else, sometimes we can have a hard time handling those emotions. Hyper empathy is something I and others I know that are on the spectrum certainly feel, and can also be anxiety provoking as well, which if your like me with OCD, than you understand how it effects you specifically. But this can also help you discover what you may be feeling and not know it.
All Autistic people are savants.
Autistic people each and everyone of us have our own strengths and weaknesses. The term savant is out of date when talking about Autistic people. The term would more correctly is used when talking about a higher support disabled person with incredible gifts. Savant is a very ableist term because it is used when talking about persons with autism in general terms, when neurotypicals assume we have major challenges in certain areas and major skills. However, savant syndrome is really a diagnosis. But not all savants have autism, and not all persons with autism are savants.
Myth busting of stereotypes about autism for us Autistics is an everyday battle. Plus more scientific knowledge of autism comes out all the time, data from INSAR (International Scientific Autism Research) conference every year. We have allies, autistic people themselves, and the ones we call Gate Keepers and ABA, Autism Speaks there as well, which allows questionable and flawed narratives of our lives and strategies.
We Autistic people MUST ALL stick together and fight stigma in its many forms to continue to break down barriers that interfere with us having successful relationships, jobs and personal lives.
I was born in Woodstock NB Canada, I was diagnosed with Autism at 3 and Aspergers at 12. My business page is on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BOUMAWOODWORKS/ as well as Instagram. https://instagram.com/boumawoodworks?igshid=tmemj7m2l13k
Aaron Bouma has a Mind Like a 3-D Printer and is able to replicate complex military designs into model form.
May I add one more myth? “Autistics are white males”.
As a person with a female body, this have really set me back to finding the help I needed. I still haven’t.
So many minority people struggle to understand what is going on with them, but may never even do because of the doctors’ bias and lack of information.
To clarify: sensory and comfort zones are experienced as two different things?
[or are dissociated…]
this is in the middle of the second myth.
I think people know these myths – but they do not know how they create stigma or how autistic people experience stigma.
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