What the misconceptions mentioned previously in this series seem to amount to is that a diagnosis of autism is some terrible thing that can only be negative for children, and their families. There are people who still hold the belief that autism is something that people suffer from, and regard it almost as a disease that needs to be eradicated, and cured. And while autism does present people with many challenges, needless to say, this is not the case.
In the past, when much less was known about autism, all that was talked about were the negatives: the communication difficulties, and the difficulties with emotions. Nobody thought that people with autism could achieve anything; be that in terms of getting a job, and being successful at that job, or having a relationship and starting a family. In more recent years it has become apparent that many people with autism can do all of these things. Not everybody with autism will be able to have a career, a relationship and a family, but many autistic people can, and do.
Autism has many positives such as creativity, and logical thinking. There are all sorts of benefits that these can bring to many professions: the ability to be calm and logical under pressure, and not be controlled by emotions can mean that a lot of high-pressure, difficult jobs can be done by people with autism very effectively. And creativity can also spark people to take up careers in writing or music.
Even if somebody isn’t able to get a good job, this doesn’t mean that being autistic is a terrible thing. For them personally, there might be a lot of benefits. What people tend to do is judge autistic people`s quality of life by what they value – they want to go out every day and see their friends, they want to be incredibly sociable at work or college, and if an autistic person doesn’t then they think that their life must be terrible. However, there are many benefits to having autism: imagination, empathy, creativity, logical thinking, problem-solving, and in some cases good memories or savant skills*. But even if there aren`t – if somebody is happy in themselves, and they feel they have a good quality of life – what right does somebody else have to come in and say that they don’t, and that there is something negative, and bad about them?
It would be silly to try to suggest that autism doesn’t have negatives, and every family will have days when they wish autism wasn’t a factor in their lives. But autism isn’t a disease, it`s not something that comes in to people`s lives and destroys them. It is simply a word that describes the state of a person`s brain. To suggest that there is nothing positive about people with autism, or autism itself is ridiculous.
Autistic people who are unable to speak, or communicate in the usual ways, have written that they find their autism to be positive as it has given them incredible intelligence and creativity, and an interesting way of viewing the world.. Outsiders might look at autistic individuals and say they have no quality of life, but in their own heads autistic people know that they know that they do, and that everything about autism isn’t negative.
*See Paddy-Joe’s series on The Positive Traits of Autism here.
Disclaimer: The first thing that needs to be said is that people, whether autistic or not, are all different. Whenever something in the articles refers to people with autism, it means many autistic people, and not all. Also, every positive trait in this series of articles has been put forward by multiple people with autism for inclusion. There is so much negative coverage of autism in the media that most autistic people want to see some representation of the positive aspects that it can bring to their lives.