“Come As You Are” (Kurt Cobain)

What the world needs to know about people with ASD:

*This refers to level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)*

It’s a myth that people with ASD don’t have empathy. Many people on the spectrum experience strong emotional empathy for others. Some even feel other’s feelings as if they are their own, which can be overwhelming. Some researchers have proposed that people with ASD lack “theory of mind,” or cognitive empathy, the ability to put themselves in another person’s perspective. However, people on the spectrum with average or above average intelligence usually pass theory of mind tests because they can learn to do this.

Not everyone is neurotypical like the majority of the population, therefore not everyone is motivated by the same things that you are motivated by. It’s helpful to approach everyone from a neurodiverse mindset and have an open mind about why someone might be communicating or relating to you in an atypical way.

People with ASD may not reciprocate the way a neurotypical would expect or want in a relationship. This goes for friendships, family, dating, etc. Love languages are important to understand, not just if you know someone with ASD, but for everyone in your life. (I’m referring to love in a universal way, not just romantic love. Love in the sense of connection between friends, family, even coworkers, not just partners). People express affection differently. Someone might show they care about you by making things for you, looking up things that might help you, sharing something you are interested in, spending time with you, telling you with words, etc. People’s love languages may be very different which can cause a disconnect, and it’s important to explore this in any relationship.

It’s difficult for people with ASD to anticipate or determine what someone they care about needs. It’s much easier for both people to just be clear and straightforward. People with ASD are very honest, loyal, and don’t play games. They don’t see the point of lying, even for the sake of sparing someone’s feelings, and will often tell it like it is in an honest and straightforward way. If you need something from them, be polite and clear about what it is. You can’t just expect someone with ASD to intuitively know what you need because their brain works differently.

People with ASD have a difficult time understanding people’s intentions. An example of this is they may not notice that you are flirting with them. What might seem obvious to a neurotypical in body language and even verbally, may not be obvious to someone on the spectrum. This can lead to confusion, frustration, and disappointment on both sides. If you’re interested in someone with ASD, be straightforward with them, it’s the only way. This goes back to the benefit of everyone learning to communicate more honestly and effectively, regardless of neurotype.

They hold jobs, and do very well in the workplace, but some need accommodations to meet their full potential. (Examples of this might be allowing them more time for certain tasks, allowing them to set up their desk where they feel more comfortable or in a way they prefer, keeping the workplace quieter or allowing them to wear headphones, etc.). A lot of people with ASD prefer employment that requires less social interaction, and many excel in science, technical, or creative jobs.

People with ASD do have friendships, relationships, and become parents. They can feel love, often very deeply and passionately. They might not always express it in the way you want them to, but they can feel emotions intensely. This is why it’s good to learn each other’s love languages.

They often like to spend time alone, and they need this alone time to recharge in order to interact with people in the future. Social interactions are overwhelming, overstimulating, and stressful for people on the spectrum. They often experience social anxiety and don’t do well in group settings where lots of people are talking. If you want to make plans with someone with ASD, it’s best to plan things ahead to give them time to anticipate and adjust. It helps when they know what’s going to happen. It also helps to understand that they rely on consistency and routines to reduce their anxiety.

If someone you care about has ASD and spends a lot of time on their own, it doesn’t mean they don’t care about you. They are wired differently. Although they often like to spend time learning about their interests, and embrace their alone time, they are still human beings and feel strong connections to others. Their brains are just not as motivated as neurotypicals to seek frequent social interactions. For example, don’t expect someone with ASD to text you multiple times a day. If you are dating someone and want a text from them daily, let them know. They will make an effort to show you they care, but they need you to be straightforward. If you expect someone to just know what you need, don’t date someone with ASD. The same goes for if you struggle to ask for what you need. As always, communication is key in relationships.

There’s nothing “wrong” with someone who has ASD. They may struggle with certain social skills, reciprocity, rigid adherence to routines, and eye contact, but they are just wired differently. They often process sensory information differently too. They will take in more detail and have to process it. Sometimes they process what you are saying more slowly, so give them time to think and respond. They will also be more likely to remember something if it’s written down rather than you telling them. Although social interactions may be more difficult for them, they also have many strengths. They’re more likely to notice patterns and details than a neurotypical, for example. Many are extremely skilled in certain areas.

People with level 1 ASD, or a milder form of autism, don’t usually like the term “high functioning autism.” This is because although their symptoms are not as severe as some on the spectrum who lack verbal ability or display more serious symptoms, they still struggle with daily life. Living in a neurotypical world can be challenging for people with ASD. It’s not always possible to plan everything or always have everything the same. Shopping and making phone calls can be very difficult. People expect those with ASD to relate in the same way, then become angry or disappointed in them if they don’t. This can cause them to experience anxiety and depression. Often people on the spectrum will learn to “mask” their symptoms to get by in social interactions, but this is exhausting.

The neurotypical world is also sensory overload. Many with ASD experience it as too loud, too bright, too overwhelming. Uncertainty is scary and difficult. They can learn what is expected of them, but they run on intelligence not intuition. Neurotypicals have an intuitive sense of how to interact, whereas people with ASD have to analyze and learn social interactions. There are many highly intelligent people with ASD who can learn and anticipate what is expected of them, but they can’t anticipate everything or adjust intuitively, which causes them anxiety and stress. It can also lead to them shutting down in social situations.

People with level 1 ASD often learn to “mask” their symptoms. This is often true in females on the spectrum. Females in general are biologically geared to be more social than males. Due to this, many females with ASD will be more motivated than males to “fit in” and interact with peers, or at least go unnoticed and fly under the radar. They will learn to mask the symptoms that alienate them from their neurotypical peers and mimic what they think is socially acceptable. Girls are often labeled as just “shy and quiet.” This is part of the reason why females are less likely to be diagnosed than males, because they become skilled at doing this. However, masking can cause them to experience low self esteem and sometimes a loss of a sense of who they truly are.

People with ASD experience extremely distressing levels of generalized anxiety and worrying. They are also often likely to experience severe depression which can be harder to treat. People with ASD are more likely to commit suicide than neurotypical people. They’re also more likely to be bullied, assaulted, and date raped. This is often because they can’t read people’s nonverbal signals like neurotypical people can. Depression and isolation in this population is common because they feel very different from their peers. The neurotypical world doesn’t always make sense to them. For example, they might not be motivated by popularity or social status. They often don’t understand why people would lie to each other, nor do they understand the need for small talk. The neurotypical world often seems hypocritical, harsh, superficial, unpredictable, and deceiving to them.

Finally, media such as movies and tv shows often do not portray people with ASD correctly. They often show exaggerated, stereotypical, or stigmatizing behaviours and characters that hurt this community and people’s understanding of those on the spectrum.

“Come As You Are”

Come as you are, as you were
As I want you to be
As a friend, as a friend
As an old enemy
Take your time, hurry up
Choice is yours, don’t be late
Take a rest as a friend
As an old
Memoria, memoria
Memoria, memoria
Come doused in mud, soaked in bleach
As I want you to be
As a trend, as a friend
As an old
Memoria, memoria
Memoria, memoria
And I swear that I don’t have a gun
No, I don’t have a gun
No, I don’t have a gun
Memoria, memoria
Memoria, memoria
(No I don’t have a gun)
And I swear that I don’t have a gun
No I don’t have a gun
No I don’t have a gun
No I don’t have a gun
No I don’t have a gun
Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Kurt Cobain

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