The Beauty of Autism
By Ulrike Zimmermann
When it comes to the topic autism, there are numerous prejudices. Society barely has an idea what this “disability” really means. There exists a vague and blurred picture of how autistic people behave and what it actually implies for the person concerned. Society has drawn a picture, where all autistic people have a savant syndrome (which is far away from actual statistics), that autistics don’t interact with people at all and that they always flail, as soon as some situation doesn’t work out, they want they want it to. This affects the behaviour of non-autistic people; they feel insecure about how to connect to autistic people, because of this predetermined opinion, that has been built in people’s heads. But, if one knows the key information and follows some basic rules, the encounter can be thriving.
So in some cases autism is obvious, because it comes with other conditions, but in other cases the “disability” is not apparent, which can make life even harder. From the first impression, it might look like the autistic person lacks interest in getting to know another person, which appears arrogant. The truth is, they don’t think other people are boring (in most cases) and would really enjoy having a conversation, but they simply don’t know how to start one. So starting the encounter lies in the hands of the non-autistic person, but after overcoming that barrier, there is a lot of space for flourishing conversations and surprisingly deep insights. To get to that stage, the non-autistic person has to school oneself in indulgency, because autistic people often lack a sense for empathy. They cannot read facial expressions very well, which is why they might not search for eye contact. Humour might also be something that has to be explored together.
Often they don’t have any sense for irony at all, which is why they might not laugh at jokes, non-autistic people find really funny, or they are over-sarcastic, which can lead to hurt feelings. If this happens, one has to know, that the autistic person normally does not want to insult them. The person concerned has to tell the autistic-person straight, that what they have said or done was not ok. Getting to know an autistic person and how they react differently to non-autistic people might take more time and effort, but that is the only way to grow a healthy, pleasant relationship.
Another key issues for many autistic-people is physical contact, they are often very sensitive to it. One has to be really careful and especially thoughtful and slow. Touching an autistic person without a warning and their permission can lead to a panic attack or even a trauma. If they don’t want to be touched, one has to accept it and stop being pushy. If they happen to allow and like being touched by one though, it is an invitation into their private space, which is often limited to just a few people in their entire life. A noble point in autistic people is, that they accept and appreciate people as they are. There are no games included and no hiding or wearing a mask. This is something extraordinary and astonishingly beautiful in the masquerade of nowadays society.