So today was the Communication Shutdown for Autism— a fundraiser in which people voluntarily chose to log off of Twitter and Facebook for a day to raise funds for autism charity and promote autism awareness.
The thing is, to me, this seemed rather counterintuitive. The whole thing was supposed to be a simulation of the communication challenges faced by autistics— but they didn’t very well mimic the issues that I had. In fact, textual communication via online social networks is easiest for me— when I first logged onto the internet in 1996 (wow, I feel old), it was so freeing that I could communicate with people halfway around the world without having to deal with any of that pesky deciphering of spoken language! A much better simulation, in my opinion, would’ve been to only socialize online, and not use speech for the entire day instead.
So instead of that event, I decided to join a counter-event proposed by autistic blogger Corina Becker: Autistics Speaking Day, in which autistics and allies were to flood social networks rather than abstaining from them.
Thus, I’ve been tweeting all day on my Twitter feed (which I’ll still continue to post autism-related stuff, incidentally). And I decided I’d post something here as well.
I decided, given that this is all about autism awareness, why not provide some counterexamples to prevalent stereotypes and myths about autism? I already did a bit of this last April on DailyKos, but since then, I’ve thought of five more myths that needed debunking.
So here we go…
MYTH: Autistics are all intellectually impaired.
FACT: Autism and intellectual disability are not directly connected. There are some autistics with above-average IQs— and, for that matter, there are others with below-average IQs. And that really doesn’t mean a lot anyway, because IQ tests can produce drastically misleading results for people on the autism spectrum… but that’s probably worth another rant entirely.
MYTH: Autistics are all savants.
FACT: Nope, this one’s not true either. Sure, there are some autistics with savant skills. But there are plenty more of us without any such skills at all.
MYTH: Autistics are monolithic, in general.
FACT: As several people have put it, “if you’ve seen one autistic person, you’ve seen one autistic person.” We’re as varied as neurotypicals.
MYTH: Autistics don’t have imaginations.
FACT: Autistic people may not play imaginatively in the same way, but we definitely have imaginations. Remember sitting in a box as a kid and pretending you were on TV? Yeah, I did that. I also distinctly remember racing Matchbox cars around the bathtub. And let’s not even get into the dinosaur fights (yep, like pretty much every other kid, I had a bunch of dinosaur figures).
And I’m hardly the only one. Corina Becker, mentioned above, is also a writer and cartoonist. Dora Raymaker, another online friend of mine, is an artist and writer. And even with more mundane things like computer programming, some degree of creativity is still a necessity. And these are just the people I know; let’s not even get into more famous autistics like Gary Numan!
MYTH: Autistics have no sense of humor.
FACT: We may not have a normal sense of humor, but yeah, most of us have a sense of humor. In my experience, autistic humor tends to lean toward the absurd; Monty Python is a perennial favorite amongst many autistics, for instance. Humor that mocks absurdities of everyday life is also much loved amongst autistics. What many of us don’t care so much for is humor that belittles others for things that are beyond their control— something that’s all too common in modern comedy, sadly.
So those are the five myths I felt like debunking today. If you found that interesting, be sure to check out my prior mythbusting post on DailyKos. (And for those of you who don’t lean to the political left, I’ll emphasize that that particular post is quite neutral politically— as are most of the other KosAbility posts too, for that matter.)