Myth busting misinterpretations of ASD behaviours

Many of the behaviours associated with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) are perceived as rude, unacceptable, or impolite in society. Thus, there are many misconceptions about what these behaviours mean. Sometimes, what you believe someone is thinking, and what they really are, are entirely different things. Anyone with ASD will tell you that, sometimes, reading people is hard. But it just goes to show you shouldn’t jump to conclusions about a situation.

A family friend of mine has a child with severe autism, who is non-verbal, and has the tic of reaching out and touching fabric. When he touched a scarf that was hanging from a fellow shopper’s trolley, she was furious and made this anger very much known. Whilst it might be frustrating for someone on the outside looking in, it’s definitely more annoying from the perspective of the person who is performing the behaviours. In hopes to try and help everyone understand a little better, here’s a list. We’re not quite the ghost-busters, but we promise, with our busting – exclusively the ‘myth’ variety – there will be far less slime.

Eye contact

Sometimes we make too much, sometimes we don’t make enough. It’s hard to judge.
Misconception:
Someone is aggressive or shy
Reality:
Most likely, it’s neither. We’re just trying to judge the amount of the eye contact to make, and looking at you/not looking is a way of concentrating on the conversation:

Routines and Rituals

Lots of people have things they like to do, and do the same. Maybe every week you go for a walk on Saturday morning, or always have a roast dinner at one o’clock every week on Sunday. People with ASD might have a few more of these routines, and stick to them very closely. Perhaps they eat the same thing every day, asking the same questions over and over and needing a specific answer, or not liking changes in furniture layout.
Misconception:
They’re pedantic, being ridiculous, or selfish for not being more adaptable.
Reality:
When you have a lot of different thoughts rushing around in your head all the time, it can make life easier to have things you can rely on and don’t have to think about. Even if it might be frustrating for family members when a child has a limited diet, it might simply be that it reduces the thoughts and choices they have to make. When there is already too much input into someone’s mind, having reliable routine might take some pressure off.

Headphones

A seemingly innocent word that is somehow equated with anti-sociability. Most people probably don’t even think twice about their headphones, but some ASD sufferers do.
Misconception:
Someone is antisocial or rude when they wear headphones when you’re trying to talk to them.
Reality:
They can probably still hear you. In fact, it might be helping them hear you. When you’re a person who receives an overload of sensory information, headphones are sometimes the most powerful tool that allow concentration. Or someone might just be more comfortable in headphones, and that’s cool too, and not a reflection of their sociability.

Fidgeting and fiddling 

 
Everyone fidgets sometimes. That’s okay. But sometimes, people with ASD fidget more, or fidget differently.
Misconception:
They’re distracted, not listening, or impatient.
Reality:
In fact, it’s probably helping them not be distracted and letting them listen to you more attentively. When you’re getting a lot of sensory input, sometimes having something to focus on to relieve stress like flapping hands or “stimming” with a fiddle toy is helpful.

 

There are just a few of the ASD-associated behaviours we’ve found can be misinterpreted. In all actuality though, this list barely breaks the surface. There are so many more, and you can let us know which we’ve missed in comments, or by tweeting us at @SafeCinemas on Twitter! We can’t wait to hear from you, and hopefully you can break down some of this stigma in your own life too. Sometimes, all a person needs is a little understanding or educating, and you could be the person to give them that!

Stay safe, friends. x

 

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