This month I had the opportunity and privilege to be featured in ASERT's June Newsletter. In
that article, I highlight some of the processes to become a Certifed Peer Specialist (CPS). I've
also written about becoming a CPS in a previous blog post for ASDNext. With all that said, I
want to discuss social stereotypes of those on the spectrum because so often I hear and have seen
misconceptions because the layman person only sees one facet of ASD. I think it's important to
highlight my community's strengths and abilities to showcase our multifaceted personas.
One social stereotype of autistics is that we cannot understand social graces and we're unable
to impart a valuable perspective on topics relating to interpersonal relationships. Granted, as
aspies, we can have some hurdles navigating our world, but I think our insight is essential and
valuable. I couldn't become a CPS if I didn't have a robust basis of emotional intelligence. When
I was young, I didn't talk a lot, and I never felt like I could join specific conversations. Now
that I'm older when I'm in an informal or professional setting, I always take note of who isn't
talking, and then I ask them a question to include them in the conversation. I have experience
with my voice being limited so I can see the signs when someone wants to join in but doesn't
know how to cross that conversation bridge. Besides, as a person who can be overwhelmed by
social conventions, I can read when someone doesn't want to engage in conversation and
wants out of it. Emotional intelligence, in part, is the ability to utilize your own experiences to
read the room. If I wasn't autistic, I don't know if I would be half as insightful and empathetic.
Another social stereotype is that autistics lack empathy. I think when that's said, some
individuals have an idea of what they assume empathic expression looks like and when they
don't see a typical portrayal of empathy they believe that a lack of a traditional emotional
response is adverse or uncaring. I'm someone who likes to consider what I'm going to say
before I say it. I've been in situations where, while thinking, a person can lead to an
assumption that I don't care because I don't respond right away. The phrase "don't judge a
book by its cover" is relevant here because you can't possibly infer the entire depth of a book
from its title. It's the same way for people, and you have to give people time to respond, and
you can't infer a person's opinion if they haven't said anything. It's vital to give people time to
think, whether they're on the spectrum or not.
To address these social stereotypes, it requires a willingness to accept neurodiversity.
Everyone has a different outlook on life, and everyone has a different pace. It's just a matter of
giving someone a chance to express themselves in a manner that is appropriate for them.
Autistics have a lot to offer. We're empathic, we're great observers, and we understand other's
emotions and have significant emotional depth ourselves. Sometimes we need a chance and a
bit of time to elaborate on things. Times are changing, aspies, have an opportunity to express
ourselves to showcase our full character. I can only hope that things continue to progress, and
social stereotypes surrounding autism continue to be dispelled.