Autism Myths and Misconceptions part 2 – people with autism are usually anti-social

It is a widely held misconception that autistic people do not enjoy being sociable. A lot of people have the belief that autistic people only enjoy the pleasure of their own company, and never have any desire to go out, and spend time with others. Most people who know more about autism are aware that this isn’t true. Lots of autistic people do have active social lives. They may not spend as much time with other people as neuro-typicals do, but they often still have friends, and have no desire to be on their own for the rest of their lives.

The misconception tends to arise from the fact that people judge others social lives by what they would want themselves. So if somebody with autism has a couple of friends, and goes out with them occasionally, many neuro-typicals may say that person has a poor social life.   But it may be more than enough for somebody with autism. And they may love spending time with their friends, but find it so overwhelming they can only do it occasionally. Then there is the other group of people who wish they could be more social, and spend time with more people, but find this incredibly difficult. They might not have any confidence when it comes to talking to people, and making friends. But this doesn’t mean that they are anti-social, and have no desire to be with others – it just means that it is much more difficult for them to do so than neuro-typcial people.

The misconception that autistic people are unsociable makes sense in a way – despite the fact that most people associated with the autism community know this to be untrue – they are also able to see why people would make that mistake. The harm that can come from this is that people may not try to include autistic people in their events, or social circle because they believe they are not interested. This could be incredibly damaging to the autistic person`s self-esteem, and could make them less willing to attempt socialising again in the future. The more people are excluded and left out of social gatherings, the more anti-social they may become throughout their life. Whereas if people are given a chance, they can often make good friends, and become very social in certain circumstances. The amount of social contact, and the number of people this is had with, will vary depending on the autistic individual. In some cases there will be autistic people who don’t want to socialise, but for the most part, autistic people want to give it a go, and are just a bit scared to attempt it.

It would be better if more people had an understanding that just because autistic people find being sociable hard, that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to try, and at least have the chance to be included in the things that are going on around them.

Part 1 about the myth that those with autism lack empathy can be read here.