Autism and DiversityDiversity

Steven Shaw said “When you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” In other words: You haven’t met us all. We are not all the same. 

Autism is a hidden disability. It’s not something that is obvious. 

Many autistic adults do not fit the stereotype of a single loner, usually a man, with mental health problems who may have a learning disability, poor education and can’t keep a job or a relationship. In fact we are a very diverse group. 

Here are just some of our differences:

Gender

To start with there may be just as many autistic women as men despite the fact that there are five times as many men than women who get a formal diagnosis. Health professionals are now realising that there is a big issue with many females being missed in the diagnostic assessments. There are also a significant number of autistic people in the LGBTQ+ community.

Relationships

Not all autistic adults are single. Some have lasting relationships despite challenges in communications that might threaten a relationship. Many do struggle to form romantic relationships and again some would benefit support in doing so.

Not all of us are loners. Some are active at working on relationships and put effort into fitting in. Some enjoy socialising but find it difficult to make the first moves. Others can be quite self-absorbed and have little regard for social rules. This can appear strange to neurotypicals, and can lead to many people becoming very isolated. 70% say that they aren't getting the support they need and with the right support they would feel less isolated. 

Ability

Not all autistic people have a learning disability. Estimates vary widely but perhaps over half of autistic adults may have normal or high IQs. 

Not all autistic people struggle with education either. Of course many do struggle and leave education early or drop out of university due to its many pressures. At school many are picked on; 17% get suspended at least once and 4% get expelled. But some do extremely well at academic studies, especially if they get the right support.

Mental Health

Not all autistic people have a mental health condition. However living in a neurotypical world where they are not understood can lead to mental health problems. One in three autistic adults develop mental health problems which could be avoided through the right support. 

Employment

Not everyone on the spectrum is unemployed. 32% have a job and half of those work full-time. Others volunteer or like many people find they are homemakers or carers. A good number have fulfilling careers, even those working part-time. Of course there are many who underachieve or find it difficult to keep a job or find one in the first place. Many would appreciate some form of employment support to help them with their jobs and careers.  

As you can see there is a great variety of autistic people, many of whom lead successful and fulfilling lives. Some have managed without support, especially those who receive a very late diagnosis. But for many support groups and one-to-one help can be a big help in managing their life, relationships and career. 

Further Reading

Myths Facts and Stats from the national Autism Society