Three common prejudices about autism, refuted

Alongside drama going on around Elon Musk’s Twitter purchase, some autism related questions have surfaced. People ask, how much autism explains a person’s bad or incomprehensible behavior. Short answer: no more than a neurotypical person’s neurotypicality explains and justfies their behaviors. Claiming otherwise is nentism.

The nentistic prejudics I discuss today are particularly disgusting, because they are so incredibly common and so incredibly harmful to autistic people. It’s not Musk’s fault, that these prejudices surface now -no one can fully control what others say or think about them. Nentistic thoughts crawling now into daylight are very common -they are just prejudices that usually stay hidden, at least from general public, even if autistic people encounter them in different variations all the time.

Prejudice #1 Autism explains bad behavior of autistic people.

 No, it doesn’t. Most autists have normal or above average intelligence, which means that we are fully capable of learning basic manners and consider others. Should we need some slight accommodating, we can ask for it- no need to presume inability where none exists. To presume autists to be less than full moral agents is pure nentism -and one that is very common in working life. Many autistic people with expert level qualifications have great difficulties with securing positions that match their skills. Many of us are well educated and qualified for expert or leadership level positions. But how could one hire an autist to such a position of responsibility when everyone “knows” that no matter what the person’s CV says, they are autistic and as such somehow less capable of bearing responsibility than Andy the Average.

Prejudice #2: Autistic behaviors are incomprehensible to normal people.

Truth? Sometimes people do not intuitively understand our behavior. But the reason for that is everyday, mundane ignorance, not some mysterious, existential-level weirdness. Most autists could ease prejudice and prevent misunderstandings before they become real problems with little effort, if only we were given a chance to explain ourselves any time our behavior raises questions. We could easily tell about backgrounds, motives and goals behind our behavior. But we do not get such a chance, because nobody asks us. And nobody asks us, because they already “know” that strange autistic behaviors are and always will be mysteries to non-autistic people.

Prejudice #3: Autists are unpleasant and difficult personalities

No, we are not, but due to this prejudice, we are expected to be and treated accordingly before we have had a chance to do anything at all. In reality many (most?) autists are deeply traumatized because of this prejudice and find it difficult to establish personal boundaries and tell about our needs. We easily submit to mistreatment, exploitation and abuse because we want so desperately to refute this prejudice with our own behavior. We have learned to fear being seen as world class douchebags and thus, break ourselves trying to please people. This prejudice serves as a whip that the world does not hesitate to use to drive us towards such unhealthy behaviors that often cost us our wellbeing, health and happiness. That is simply wrong.

Prejudice runs deep and often noticing one’s own prejudice is difficult from majority position. Kaiao offers support and consultation for DEI work with neurominority. Contact us and we’ll talk more!