20 Key Things to Know About Autism2 min read

1.  There is no visible way to tell if someone is autistic.  At all.  Unless they wear a hat which reads, ‘Hi, I’m autistic,’ which is possible, though unlikely.

2.  Autism is genuinely an invisible disability, as most autistic people can actively hide their autistic traits in order to fit in.  This costs a great deal of energy.

3.  Autism never goes away.  Autistic children become autistic adults.  There are a *lot* of undiagnosed autistic adults out there.

4.  Many autistic people don’t understand the concept of deference to authority and so may seem overly friendly or push boundaries.  This isn’t done to annoy or insult, most of the time.

5.  Autistic people can and often do have a good sense of humour.

6.  Autism is not an illness.  Any suffering we experience will most of the time ultimately stem from living in a world not designed for us.  Though it’s true certain aspects of autism can cause direct suffering, like some sensory issues.

7.  All genders can be autistic, and are.

8.  Autism itself is not a learning disability.  It can often be co-morbid with other learning disabilities, but in and of itself is not.

9.  Much, though not all, of autistic behaviour viewed as ‘negative’ or ‘challenging’ can be easily avoided with very simple support and understanding.

10.  Autistic people have a significantly shorter life expectancy than non-autistic people, due in part to increased rates of suicide and heart disease, possibly from chronic stress.

11.  Autistic people might use repetitive movements as a way of keeping calm and grounded.  This is called ‘stimming’ and is necessary and (almost always) harmless.  Leave us be.

12.  Autistic people can miss implications and subtexts, in questions, instructions, descriptions.  Use plain, clear language.

13.  Autistic people might find it difficult to explain their emotions.  They do have them, frequently very strongly, but expressing and handling emotions can be hard.

14.  Autistic people are not robots who don’t feel anything and don’t empathise.  We are often hyper-emotional people who feel everything a great deal.

15.  Autistic people overwhelmingly prefer to be called autistic people, rather than “people with autism.”  Ask em.  Try it.  I promise you.

16.  Autistic people have very powerful interests and passions in things that may, to you, seem unusual.  But the connection we have with these interests is hugely important to us and must not be belittled or treated with contempt.

17.  Autistic people can have a big connection with animals, nature, the outdoors.  It can be useful to remind us of this if we’re in a bit of a funk, to be honest.

18.  Autistic people find sudden changes in plan or routine very difficult to handle, possibly because we’re already overwhelmed by stress and see routine as a way to cope.

19.  Autistic people can be extremely creative and very bad at mathematics, so don’t assume anything!

20.  Autistic people are not sociopathic, nor are they anything like Sherlock or Sheldon Cooper etc – there’s huge variety among the autistic population.

Pete Wharmby

Pete is a secondary English teacher who was diagnosed with Asperger’s in 2017 at the age of 34. Since this time he has become very active online, writing a blog about his experiences as an autistic adult and regular threads and videos on Twitter that add some insight into the autistic experience. He has written on a large variety of topics, including autistic burnout, autistic identity and masking, autism and parenthood, autistic humour and autistic interests. He is a keen writer and illustrator, though Lego is perhaps his biggest obsession. Subscribe to Pete's Patreon here, or buy Pete a coffee.
Pete Wharmby

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6 Comments

  1. Thanks for this Pete!

  2. My beautiful and bright autistic granddaughter needs all her energy to cope with this world – When together we are as one soul πŸ™‚

  3. Love these wise words: simple, clear and succinct.  Says it like it is πŸ™‚ Thanks!

  4. Succinctly written with a gentle sprinkle of wit.  Love it.  This handy list dispels a good deal of harmful myths that hurt autistic people.

  5. I have recently had thoughts about ‘stimming’.  Unless I am unusually, it is not really stimming at all.  It is a response to stress.  It probably helps reduce the high amounts of adrenalin (or maybe some other neuro chemical?).
    Fiddling with things when stressed is normal in normal people.
    Here I am today rocking and wobbling my knees and trying very hard to NOT scratch, and feeling suffocated with all the wood ash in the air.  (Coffs Harbour, NSW, Australia where huge bushfires have been burning for two weeks or more).

  6. 21.  It’s not caused by vaccines!

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