Autism: Beyond the Stereotypes

What does the average citizen really know about autism?

Sometimes we don’t understand the things that don’t affect us directly. In many cases, people rely on stereotypes, media representation, and hearsay to inform their knowledge about certain subjects. Unfortunately, this is often the case for autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Sourcing the Stereotypes

Although media representation by and for the autistic community is improving, it’s not quite there yet. Like the many cases of misrepresentation of special needs in media, ASD is still widely misunderstood and misinterpreted in movies, television, and even books. This, unfortunately, just adds to the plethora of misinformation on autism throughout the world. More research, knowledge and accountability need to be taken into consideration when creating movies and shows in order to eliminate stereotypical portrayals, accurately represent the autistic community and change the perception of ASD within the general public.

Fact vs. Fiction

So, just what exactly are the stereotypes about autism?

Fiction: Autism is a childhood condition

Fact: ASD has nothing to do with age and everything to do with a person’s brain wiring. It affects an individual for their entire life, although in some cases, the symptoms are present and recognizable in childhood.

Fiction: Only boys have autism

Fact: Both boys and girls can have ASD, although it is more commonly diagnosed among boys. This may be, in part, because girls with ASD present different behavioral characteristics than boys with ASD. Because so many women and girls on the spectrum slip through the cracks, it is hard to pinpoint the exact number of males to females with ASD. However, researchers estimate that the proportion of affected males to females may be 3:1.

Fiction: People with autism don’t want/need relationships

Fact: Individuals on the spectrum crave human interaction just as much as anyone else. However, it’s more difficult for them to foster and maintain those relationships because of their atypical social skills. Most have the desire for friendship and romance but may lack the tools to make those connections happen smoothly. 

Fiction: Autistic people can’t contribute to society

Fact: Untrue. Many folks with ASD are talented, driven, and intelligent. Although they may struggle with certain things – who doesn’t! – many people on the spectrum are perfectly capable of contributing to society in a variety of roles.

The Future is Bright

Luckily, these stereotypes are slowly being broken down and autism is beginning to be fairly and accurately represented in mainstream media. There are now several shows and movies that incorporate actors on the spectrum and better represent the community of individuals with ASD. 

After the many years of inaccurate and stereotyped portrayals of autistic characters, it is good to finally see accurate representation.

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