There are many myths out there about both people with autism. While below is an attempt to clear up some of those myths, it is important to remember that each person with autism is unique and there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” approach.
• People with autism think slower.
This is a common misconception. It is not that people with autism think slower, rather they think differently. Essentially, there are neuronal pathway differences, meaning that the collaboration of various parts of the brain is different from those in the “neurotypical” population. One situational example we can use is picking up a pencil: for someone who has neurotypical functioning, he/she can pick up the pencil essentially on autopilot. For some of those with autism, the coordination of the various parts of the brain necessary to complete this movement, such as prefrontal and motor cortexes, is essentially more “round about,” and therefore can make it more difficult to easily and succinctly pick up the pencil.
• People with autism tantrum often.
It is false to assume that all individuals with autism tantrum often! Some people with autism may exhibit “tantrum-like” behaviors, frequently with the intent of trying to communicate something. As mentioned before, the coordination of movements can be more difficult for those with autism, especially language. Therefore, anxiety and frustration can increase in a person who is trying to communicate something but finds it extremely difficult to do so. Thus, the tantrum-like behaviors can be a learned response to quickly communicate that something is wrong. However, it would be a gross error to assume that tantrumming is an inherent characteristic of a person with autism.
• People with autism don’t like other people.
Much of the autism population has difficulty connecting socially with others, as it is one of the main diagnostic criterion. However, this does not mean that every person with autism is averse to people! Large groups can often be overwhelming because there is a lot of both auditory and visual stimuli to process at once. As an example, a person with autism may have three good friends who he enjoys seeing separately, but refuses to see in a group because the increased sensory stimuli are too much for him to effectively handle at one time. An aversion to social situations does not always mean an aversion to people in general.
• People with autism don’t want to learn.
False! Many of those with autism do want to learn, but it can be extremely difficult without the correct supports; unfortunately, such supports are not always available when needed. School especially can present many barriers to success that can become overwhelming and overshadow any motivation the student may have previously had to go learn. Such barriers can include sensory aversions (bright lights, intense smells, loud bells, etc.), and schools can also be very difficult to navigate socially, presenting social learning challenges in and of themselves. When proper supports are established, learning can be an enjoyable and inherently positively reinforcing experience.
Written by Catherine F., Novastar Prep Coach.