These are the things people with Asperger’s syndrome are sick of hearing
We’re still human you know
There’s a reason that I don’t tell people I have Asperger’s Syndrome unless we’re close.
Although awareness is being spread about the condition, there are still misconceptions whenever I tell someone about it. This is why I usually stay quiet.
Almost one in 100 people are somewhere on the spectrum, and it’s not something we can just ignore. But with that in mind, you can’t just assume we don’t have feelings or ask if we’re like a character from The Big Bang Theory.
People who have Asperger’s are still people.
Firstly – don’t be. Why should you be? Ultimately this comes from the social stigma that Asperger’s and people with it have been given by society. Of course, there’s no denying that Asperger’s can be a severely debilitating condition for some, however not everyone with the condition should be judged by the most intense cases.
For me, Asperger’s has been both a curse and a blessing. It caused me to struggle a lot with certain tasks, particularly when I was younger, but at the same time I’m glad to have it.
When you apologise, it feels like you’re saying that I deserve pity. That I’m somehow ‘lesser’, which I feel is completely the wrong approach to take. I’d definitely be offended if people were to look down on me because of my Asperger’s. I don’t feel disabled, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“So you’re basically that guy from Community/The Big Bang Theory/[insert TV show here]!”
Thankfully I don’t get this too much. But I do know that for a lot of people, Abed from Community and Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory (let’s not get into how Sheldon’s not actually on the spectrum) are their only points of reference.
However, the point still stands. We’re not all overly sarcastic, wise-cracking science geeks. There are aspects of characters with a Hollywood portrayal of autism which are popular tropes, but unfortunately they get it wrong a lot of the time.
Sometimes I feel like the film industry is almost trying to create a stereotype of how people on the spectrum are supposed to act, which doesn’t really feel liberating at all. If anything, it’s deliberately destructive.
“Do you have weird interests then?”
Taken from a direct quote that someone’s said to me. I feel like it’s another way that people make you feel outcast or patronised due to having Asperger’s.
Yes, one of the main symptoms of the condition is having almost an obsession with one particular interest or topic. I was lucky enough to have gained an interest in music, which I’m now studying as a degree and planning to pursue a career in.
A lot of others on the spectrum aren’t so lucky. And the manner in which this question is often used can unintentionally try and reinforce certain harmful stereotypes.
“So do you, like, not feel emotions or?”
Unfortunately, this is one of the most misguided things someone can believe about Asperger’s Syndrome – and also one of the most harmful things you can say to someone on the spectrum.
The prevalence of this belief that people with the condition can’t feel emotions, or lack empathy is also way too prominent for comfort.
The problem is that for much of the past few decades, the subject of empathy and feeling amongst people with Asperger’s has been misunderstood. It’s not that people on the spectrum don’t feel a sense of empathy, rather, we feel too much of it.
Much of the problem that comes to me isn’t that I can’t sense how other people are feeling, but rather it all happens too intensely for me to process correctly. It’s a reason that I try and avoid conflict, even if I’m not an active participant.
It’s like everything is magnified up to eleven, Spinal Tap-style. And then when everything gets too overwhelming, I’ll tend to pull back and restrain myself to control how intense I feel, which sometimes could be seen as either uncaring or distant.
For me, it’s not just empathy either. It’s almost all emotions I feel. I’ve been told I’m a very intense person, possibly for this reason. So to be told – or asked if – I don’t feel any emotions is probably one of the most frustrating things to experience.
“You don’t look/sound autistic”
This is the one I hear the most. There seems to be a mould in people’s ideas of what Asperger’s is that a lot of people don’t seem to fit, particularly the ones who can more easily blend in with society.
I’ve had a lot of people – even close friends – say this when they first found out I had Asperger’s. One girl even denied that I even had it outright to my face.
There’s a famous quote. “Mild autism doesn’t mean I experience my autism mildly. Mild autism means that you experience my autism mildly.”
I understand that people claiming I don’t seem autistic is probably supposed to be complimentary, but it comes across as more of an insult. If anything, all it means is that we’re good at hiding our symptoms and that we can pass as what society sees as normal. However, I always feel as if that’s denying the amount of work I had to put in to understand how to fit into the mould of society.
A lot of people with Asperger’s struggle with fitting into society. I know I used to. There is a reason that suicidal thoughts are 10 times more prevalent in those with autism spectrum conditions. If you’re affected by anything I’ve said in this article, then I implore you to talk to someone, be it online, real life or wherever.
You can reach the National Autistic Society helpline on 0207 903 3539.