Normal Is Overrated

Musings and meanderings on the autistic spectrum

November 1, 2010

Speaking up for, and busting myths about, autism

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.)

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 8:16 pm


  1. As someone with Autism I thought it was a huge disservice as well. I made a really good video about why I disagree with Autism Communication Shutdown Day. Check it out.

    By the way – I closed captioned it. The first video on YouTube that I did it too because of people like you pushing for more closed captioning. I’m going to try and close caption all my future videos.

    Comment by Zach — November 1, 2010 @ 10:03 pm

  2. @Zach: Saw it earlier today– great video! And thank you so much for adding the captions; it was hard to hear some of the speech over the music, and that helped immensely.

    Comment by codeman38 — November 1, 2010 @ 10:04 pm

  3. Hey, I did the same topic! XD

    Your post is fantastic; I’d like to post a link to it on my blog. Is that all right?

    Comment by Allecto — November 2, 2010 @ 9:39 pm

  4. @Allecto: Sure– go right ahead!

    Comment by codeman38 — November 2, 2010 @ 10:19 pm

  5. A couple of things about the first two myths – Dr Darold Treffert, a recognized expert on savantism, says that only about 10% of autistics are savants, and the majority of those have intellectual disabilities. Sounds about right to me.

    Comment by Clay — November 3, 2010 @ 2:09 am

  6. Sorry, but you’ve missed the point. You said it yourself – you find it easiest to communicate online. Taking away the easiest form of communication means you have to work harder to communicate with the people around you – just like autistic people do every day.

    Comment by Amy Wright — November 4, 2010 @ 6:45 am

  7. @Amy: Perhaps we just have different worldviews, but to me, that’s a false equivalency to say that online communication for me is the same as online communication for a neurotypical. Taking away online communication from someone who has numerous other methods of communication is just a small drop in the bucket, but taking it away from someone who mostly communicates online, like many on the spectrum, is a very huge deal.

    Comment by codeman38 — November 4, 2010 @ 10:02 am

  8. […] 14. Codeman busting myths about autism. 15. The Coffee Klatch on their Twitter event, which you should totally check out if you have […]

    Pingback by The Success of Speaking « No Stereotypes Here — December 2, 2010 @ 7:56 pm

  9. Wow thanks for the insight. I feel like there is always more and more to learn about autism, because there are so many viewpoints out there. Even so, it is difficult to find relevant opinions and based on real experience. I found this center for autism which has really helped, if anyone is interested you should check this out:

    Comment by Shane — December 8, 2010 @ 7:31 pm

  10. As an Autie, I totally know what you mean about belittling humour. I don’t even like humour where the person making the joke is the one being belittled, such as Curb Your Enthusiasm. It acutely embarrasses me!

    Comment by Jiheishou Daigakusha — December 25, 2010 @ 11:58 pm

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