These are society’s ignorant beliefs of disabilities in general, along with misconceptions of autism from fictional characters (mainly from Rain Man and Mercury Rising). Autism appears on an enormously broad spectrum. There are so many areas that can be affected, especially given that a human being is a very multifaceted organism. What complicates the situation even more is that not every key autistic trait will appear in every individual. In other words, the case is usually that certain areas are strongly affected by autism, and other areas may not be affected at all. Very often other disorders attach themselves to ASD. Though for now we’ll focus on autism alone.
The first assumption we generally face is that it’s often believed that if we have an impairment in one particular area, it must mean that we have below average skills in every single other area. Yet this is never the case when it comes to any disability.
In fact when certain areas of functioning are weaker, other areas of functioning are often strengthened to compensate. In my own case I have to constantly rely on my long-term memory due to having difficulties with thinking quickly on the spot. It’s always best for me to make my decisions based on circumstances that had worked in the past. This is also why changes of routine make me feel very uncomfortable.
It is true that autistic people have areas in which their skills are much stronger compared to areas where they show significant weakness. However despite any strengths that we do have, they are never an indication of how well we could function as an independent person. As mentioned above, human beings are a very multifaceted organism. An impairment in one particular area doesn’t mean that we’re impaired in every other way; and a strength or spark in one particular area doesn’t mean that our skills are advanced across the board. In fact our advanced sparks are usually contained solely within a very narrow area.
Something else that doesn't generally work too well with autistic people is an IQ test. These tests were designed at the turn of the 20th century to give a measurement of how intelligent and (in particular) functioning people are. Their main intention was to test for levels of Intellectual Impairment.
Yet by saying that, those tests are currently designed with the intention of a neurotypical person achieving a score of 100. So the results we achieve will be perfectly accurate if we have absolutely no disabilities and an average processing speed. But quite often (though not necessarily always) people with autism receive scores that cause society to either underestimate or overestimate their living skills.
Some autistic people get a result that falsely indicates that they’re Intellectually Impaired, particularly due to our inability to process information as quickly as a typical person. It’s a very similar case for people who are have other learning difficulties such as dyslexia and dyspraxia as well.
On the other end of the scale an autistic person who’s mind is intensely focused on word organisation, logic and memory puzzles (as many of the questions are geared towards those areas) may receive a score that can make society question whether or not they need assistance at all. This is why it’s more helpful to assess those of us with autism an adaptive functioning test, rather than a standard IQ test that gives us an overall numbered score.
Every one of us with autism is an individual person, and eve one of us has our own level of capability (I am definitely not among those who are the most capable). So the best way to assist and help people on the autism spectrum is to begin by pinpointing exactly where our strengths and weaknesses are. Ideally this should be carried out during our childhood, but it is still possible to help us during adulthood. Then from there we should be encouraged to learn in our own preferred method. Yet most importantly it must be known (by society and ourselves) exactly what autism is, and acknowledged that to have ASD means that we do face challenges that the general population doesn’t face.
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The number of autism diagnoses at the moment are climbing higher every year. So much so that it’s being described by many as an epidemic. The media are indeed paying attention to this. But there is one particular word that many reports are including, which still continues to give us misconceptions. Many are reporting autism as a childhood developmental disability.
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