What is Autism?

Autism or ASD (autism spectrum disorder) is a condition that makes the brain work differently. It is something you are born with. It started out as a condition Aspergers, but this label is no longer used medically. However, some people may still prefer it. There is no cure for Autism.

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Autism is not:

Some people believe abilities common with Autism give them an advantage in certain situations. But calling Autism a superpower, you also disregard some harder parts of the condition.
Autism is not an illness. It is a different way for the brain to function.
While low and high-functioning labels may appear beneficial at first, it is one of the primary ways to get help. For example, low-functioning may get much more help and support due to the clearer need for help. But high-functioning people may suffer just as much, but are simply better at hiding it.
It may not be obvious that a person is Autistic. They may be hiding it to “fit in”. Some people can learn to hide it or control it to the point it seems like their personality.
Autistic people may have any level of intelligence.
Autism and vaccines have no link.
Autism is not a joke. It is life for millions for people.
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Autism is:

While Aspergers is the original name, it is no longer used medically, as Autism is the new name. However, some people may still prefer to use Aspergers.
Sometimes described as a spectrum, being autistic is not something you are more or less of. There are instead many behaviors that may show up more or less. This means there are infinite ways a person can be autistic.

Common behaviors

The following are some common behaviors for people with Autism. They do not apply to all people, as the condition is individual and varies from person to person.

For autistic people, the brain uses more energy processing facial expressions than normal. This can make eye contact unpleasant or even painful. The behavior is even observed in babies. Not looking into eyes also has the effect of people presuming you are uninterested or distant.
Things like irony, jokes and riddles may not be intuitive to the same level as for non-autistic people. This forces the brain to figure things out in manual ways, requiring much more energy.
There is a tendency for autistic people to interpret things exactly as they are said, instead of what they suggest. Asking “can you open the window?” may result in a “yes”, followed by the person not opening the window. They can open the window, but they don’t realize they’re asked to do so.
Autistic people often have an easier time focusing on details, rather than the bigger picture. This has benefits when digging deep into a topic, but is unhelpful when it comes to quickly assessing a situation.
Some people with Autism may be non-verbal. This means they cannot speak, but that doesn’t mean they cannot think or feel just as you or me. There are also Autisitc people who are verbal normally, but lose the ability when under stress.
Senses can be overwhelming and overpowered. In conversation, an autistic person may have trouble tuning out the background noise and focusing on the person/group they are talking to. Things like bright lights, touch and smell may also be felt more intensely.
Due to the behaviors mentioned above, an autistic person may have to spend significantly more energy than their peers in social situations.
Some autistic people realize their behaviors aren’t perceived as “normal”. If this happens, they may start studying how to “act normal”. Successfully, this may make their Autism invisible to others. This constant acting is draining, leaving them exhausted after social situations.

What can I do?

  1. Stop joking about Autism. These jokes and memes are often insensitive and hurtful to people with the condition. By joking, you’re spreading misinformation and disrespecting people with autism.

  2. Spread awareness. Next time you hear a person using the word autistic incorrectly or having a stereotypical view of people with Autism, send them this page.

  3. Support groups for Autism. There are many organizations that raise money to support autistic people and their families. Even if you can’t support yourself, you can help share these groups with others, so they can support these groups.