Beyond the stereotype

As can be seen in the picture below, I loved playing with dolls as a little girl. This is completely contrary to the stereotype that autistic children don’t like doll play. In fact, my favourite toys were dolls, and they took the role of imaginary friends and comforters. I took on the role of a mother who looked after and cared for the dolls – they were like an extended family. Doll play had to be on my terms though, and, apart from an occasional animal and doll tea party  with my younger brother, I mainly played with the dolls on my own.
Me, right, with a doll. I loved dolls!
I have never been interested in the workings of computers or electrical gadgets, and I am actually very interested in people.  I study people and try to learn what makes them tick .  However, I like to learn about people at a distance, mainly by reading books and watching films. I also like to gather facts about people, especially what they like to eat! I think I am so interested in people because humans are mysterious , and I lack the social x factor.  It is well known that mystery and otherness tends to excite our curiosity, and I think my interest/obsession with people is an example of this phenomenon. However, many people believe (wrongly) that autistic people are, by nature, uninterested in people. This is not true, and I am living proof of this. I think people tend to mistake social difficulties  with disinterest, when they are not necessarily synonymous.
Another mistake is to assume that all autistic people are good at puzzles and understanding numbers. However we are all different, with different personalities and skills. Personally I really struggle with maths, numeracy and visual-spatial skills. I have dyscalculia, which is a specific learning difficulty that literally means you can’t calculate. Dyscalculia also affects other skills as well. In my case it means that I struggle to understand spatial information, as well as following and remembering sequential information unless it is written down. Because I find it so hard to process numerical and spatial information, I tend to steer clear from activities that involve these skills. For example, you will never see me trying to take apart and assemble electronic gadgets!
Stereotypes can be discriminatory because they overlook the many people with autism who do not exhibit the particular attributes in question. It is important to keep an open mind and to avoid forming assumptions. Please avoid  coming out with  statements such as ”most people with  autism are good at maths”; ”people with autism prefer objects to people”; ”people with autism are good at block design”. Yes, many people with autism might display these traits, but there will always be a significant number of autistic people who do not fit these statements.  In order to be representative and inclusive, it is important to avoid sweeping generalisations.  

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