While people on the autism spectrum may share similar characteristics, such as repetitive behaviors and difficulties with social interaction, each individual is unique and the experience of autism varies from person to person. A new book is seeking to dispel to harmful myths and stereotypes surrounding autism by presenting research from leading experts in autism and cognitive science.
“This research gives new insights into the autistic mind and what it's like to have autism,” the book’s authors, Ruth Byrne and Kinga Morsanyi, wrote in an article this month on MedicalXpress.com. “[The book] dispels common assumptions about the developmental disorder.”
In their book, Byrne and Morsanyi note that people with autism take longer than non-autistic people when it comes to making smaller decisions, such as what clothes to wear or what to eat. This may be due to relying less on their feelings and intuition than the average person. When it comes to making larger, more important life decisions, however, those with autism do so in the same way as a typical person.
Byrne and Morsanyi also dispute the perception that people with autism are lacking in imagination, although the development of rational imagination skills might be delayed in children with autism, compared to their non-autistic peers. In contrast to the stereotype that people with autism are extremely literal-minded, Byrne and Morsani explain that autistic individuals are just as capable of understanding the real meaning of metaphors as non-autistic people.
“These new discoveries contradict some current stereotypes of autism, revealing that the thought processes of people with autism are not entirely different from the average person's,” the authors write. “They also show how these differences can be advantageous in some situations. For example, careful decision-making is useful when deciding who to vote for, or what investment to make. But it can be a drawback in a situation that calls for a rapid response, such as when a person needs to think on their feet in a job interview.”
The authors believe the research presented in their book will help provide a deeper understanding of the autistic mind, although they acknowledge that the reasons for many autistic behaviors and traits remains unknown.
“The contribution of people with autism themselves, discussing their experiences with autism, helps dispel persistent misconceptions about this developmental disorder,” they concluded.