Autism Awareness Week: Am I To Blame For My Own Ignorance Regarding Autism?

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It was only after watching this BBC Three video , Things Not to Say to An Autistic Person, that I questioned my own problematic behaviours as a person who prides themselves on how ‘woke’ or ‘politically correct’ they are.

From thereon, I started thinking about the saying ‘hindsight is 20/20’, and it has never been more true than when I am reflecting on how hypocritical I can be about things I know nothing about; yet insist on talking about like I have a PHD thesis stored away in my brain.

Just to be clear, the following examples I’m about to give I have never personally stated, they are all from here. I usually prefer to stay in my lane, so if I have a thought which I know may come across as insulting I keep my mouth shut, not always the case but often enough.

Apparently, some people believe it is appropriate to say to someone on the spectrum that they ‘don’t look Autistic’. This may be largely influenced by the gross misrepresentation in the media that portrays people as Sheldon Cooper from the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, the description given of Christopher Boone in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, or Forrest Gump.

A common portrayal of these characters is that they are all anti-social and unconventional, therefore viewers go out into the real world expecting people to behave in the same manner, only to discover that is not the case.

For a really long time, I genuinely believed that Autism was something only white males were born with. This was because even within medical articles, the central focus was always this demographic. Their stories were the ones on TV and in newspapers. When it came to other genders and sexes, I failed to understand that Autism is far more common that it is portrayed to be.

When it comes to conversing with a person on the spectrum, depending on the person, they may be so used to ignorant comments that they don’t bother to correct or educate you on Autism so you go onto to ask them: ‘what’s your special ability?’. This is simply because you watched one grossly inaccurate documentary on Autism about some child prodigy and came to the conclusion that all people on the Spectrum have some special ability they’re hiding from the world. These stigmatisations from the media go onto affect how people interact with each other and removes the opportunities for some to establish themselves as individuals not as characters. I’ve been guilty of this when silently watching people who are wildly talented and wondering if there was any correlation at all.

Another comment highlighted in the video is that ‘autistic people can’t feel empathy’, again many TV shows don’t help with this stereotype  Through personal experience I have discovered that the only person I feel comfortable enough to cry in front of, because I know they’ll understand what I cannot put into words, happens to be on the spectrum.

Getting to know people on the spectrum has allowed me to see the real picture, keeps me in my lane and encourages me to do more research. Before embarking on this article the only knowledge I had on Autism stemmed from this episode of House, and the bits of information filtered into my mind when half listening to people and half reading articles on it. It wasn’t until I was about to write this article that I realised I didn’t know enough and needed to really research the topic that I realised just how little I knew, in addition to how hypocritical I may be when it comes to being politically correct.

To conclude, the answer to the article title is yes, as it is up to us to educate ourselves on things we don’t understand not expect those who do through personal experience to take time out of their day to answer questions that have been asked before many times.

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