Autism is a neurotype that includes people who share some of a series of traits. A person with this neurotype is autistic.
Autism is a not a simple line gradient, but rather a multi-dimensional spectrum. In other words, there are several independent traits that might lead to the label. Two autistic people can be wildly different from each other while being equally autistic.
Autism has some correlation to genetics, tending to run in the family.
The antonym of autism is allism.
Here's some autistic traits, expressed from the point of view of an autistic person.
- Lowered ability in engaging in social functions.
- Inability to innately recognize and express emotions through facial expressions.
- Inability to innately recognize and express emotions through body language.
- Inability to innately absorb unwritten social expectations, conventions, and read in-between the lines.
- Lack of innate respect/interest for hierarchies, authority, power-structures.
- Questioning of hierarchies, authorities and arbitrary things.
- Special Interests.
- Higher tendency towards (and heightened benefits from) stimming.
- Digestive issues.
- Occasional or consistent problems with verbal communication (non-verbal).
- Sensorial Sensitivity (extreme discomfort in certain sensorial situations).
- Extreme discomfort with certain tastes/textures.
- Touch/Texture from certain materials or people.
- Discomfort and loss of attention when doing prolonged eye contact.
- Heightened hearing and discomfort and loss of attention in loud environments.
- Pleasant experiences and attachment to familiar and comfortable sensorial experiences.
- Safe foods
- Benefits from Sensory Toys.
- Information processing differences.
- Love for familiarity, routines (and a problem with unexpected change).
- Atypical intelligence: learning difficulties, heightened intelligence [See: Savant] (which, of course, vary from each area of study).
- Atypical empathy: Alexithymia (Lower empathy recognition and expression), Hyper Empathy.
For all sensorial issues, there are complementary positive experiences with the same sense.
To reiterate, an autistic person might have any amount of each of the traits described above.
It's difficult to identify someone as autistic, since a lot of the traits can be masked (intentionally or not), and their expressions varies from person to person because of culture, race-related bias, gender norms and biases, age bias, and individual personality.
Furthermore, autistic traits interfere with other mental health conditions, like, for example, ADHD. AuDHD (portmanteau of Autism and ADHD) exhibits very different expressions of traits relating to executive function, thought patterns and behaviour. It's even more peculiar since ADHD is extremely common in Autistic people.
These difficulties, as well as the lack of a formal diagnosis, often leads to Imposter syndrome.
Other Autistic Symptoms
Because of the ableist status quo most autistic people find themselves in, there are certain non-inherent traits that are associated with autism. Those are rather consequences of discrimination, bullying and trauma.
These traits might be seen from the point of view of the autistic person, or from an external unassuming observer:
- Monotone speech
- Unusual communication
- Cuddling pillows
- Prolonged baths, especially with warm water
- Touch sensitivity
- Autistic burnout (which resembles depression)
- Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD)
- Suicidal thoughts / ideation
- Being perceived as emotionless / having no empathy
Autistic experiences might also lead to Anxiety.
Autism in relation to Allism
It seems as if the Allistic people gravitate towards people-related things: society, social structures... while Autistic people gravitate towards things and ideas: special interests, routines, experiences.
This affects so, so much about how autistics and allistics communicate and behave.
- Allistic brains are hyper social, innately absorbing -- like a sponge -- social cues and norms;
Autistic brains are rather learning all about the things that bring them joy.
- Allistics care a lot about what's "right and wrong", "normal and weird," and will use social situations (and shame) to express concerns and try to change their peer's behaviours. The idea of normalcy will often (but not always) override factual correctness and their internal morality.
Autistics, on the other hand, care more about what's "correct and incorrect", "good and bad." This is not to say that autistic people are all morally good.
- Allistics innately gravitate towards behaving in socially accepted ways,
while autistics often are forced to do so, or do it consciously.
- Autistic individuals are more likely to come out as LGBTQ+ or be seen as the odd one out, generally.
How to interact with Autism
It's important to know that Autism itself isn't a disability or a bad thing. A lot of the bad things with living as an autistic person comes from ableism, discrimination and trauma. Allism is a particular kind of neurotype, just as Autism is, that requires its own accommodations -- the difference is that they are more socially accepted, and society is built for them.
That's not to say there are not inherent difficulties regarding Autism (like sensory issues, and learning deficits on everyday skills).
Still, it's possible to recognize the struggles and deficits of Autism while still treating the autistic individual with proper respect.
In fact, it's easier than you might think.
- Avoid shaming behaviour simply for being uncommon (weird, cringe).
- Do not shame or attempt to suppress stims.
As people get more understanding and are allowed to be who they are, they start seeming "more autistic." This is normal.
As well as doubting yourself as you notice it happening. This is normal, too.
- Avoid overly-enforcing traditions and norms just for their own sake (Greetings, speech patterns, conversation topics, eye-contact).
- Allow for (and if, possibly, provide) accommodations (especially in schools and workplaces).
- Communicate wants, ideas, necessities, schedules with clarity, by, for example, using phrases with words that convey the meaning you intend to express.
"Ollie, Dishes." (Incorrect)
"Ollie, go wash the dishes." (Better).
- In fact, express more of your wants, ideas and necessities, so the autistic can properly take them into consideration.
- Avoid relying too heavily on unwritten/unspoken communication.
- Do not infantilize autistic people (making voices).
- Avoid clichés (we're tired of hearing them).
- "Everyone is a little bit autistic."
- Usage of Functioning labels.
- The idea of "overcoming Autism."
- Classification of Autism as a disease.
- Look for a "cure" for autism.
- Respect their bodily autonomy.
- Respect their sensory issues (it's often not just a casual dislike).
- Do not touch them without their permission, or grab them around like an item (children).
- Do not force eye contact.
- Remember that autistic people have emotions, an inner dialogue and consciousness (can't believe I have to say this).
- Avoid usage of slurs.
But, of course, since every autistic person is different, the general rule of thumb is: stop assuming, start observing. When you stop enforcing a certain way to behave, and assume an allistic thought process for the autistic, your relationship will truly flourish.
Whenever my parents wanted me to do something, let's say, begin to take the trash out every day... instead of saying something like "Pedro, please begin taking the trash out regularly," they would do something way subtler -- like place the trash on the front door.
I would go past it and think "Huh... that's a weird place to put trash at." Then, on the second day: "Hmm this is still here, how peculiar. Is it for recycling?" Then on the third day: "Is this even trash??? It's in plastic bags but I can't see... It's starting to stink, why the heck is this here."
And then, when they get pissed off they would hit me and tell me "Pedro take the damn trash out." So I'd do it exactly once and then never again.
After being hit a lot they explained, exhausted, that I should do it regularly, at a certain time, without being told beforehand. And I was like "Ohhh, alright."
I was never rebelling, and I was always up to help them, I simply didn't understand what was being expected of me -- because, well, they didn't tell me.
- MrPedroBraga (talk) 14:07, 23 August 2022 (UTC)
Once I understood I was autistic, I realized that I don't have a personality. I've only ever had the masks, and then with my autistic traits I feel like I'm a cutout from a book about autistic people. For the first time I felt very much like I wasn't different.
Then, and I'm not making this up, I saw a tweet on an autistic person saying "woah, autistic twitter made me realize I haven't had a single unique experience ever," and like... uh... that's awkward!
- MrPedroBraga (talk) 14:07, 23 August 2022 (UTC)