Art by Hal Baer

“But autistic people don’t want relationships”

 By Alice Baer
April 15, 2021
May 3, 2021

This remark during a recent conversation, made me think about how much misunderstanding and misconceptions exist about autism. I have worked for a long time with autistic individuals and some members of my family are on the spectrum. Autism is part of my daily life and I can say for certain that I have relationships with all these individuals and they have feelings and emotions like all humans do. They are amazing individuals who are caring and loving just sometimes in different ways. It upsets me that often autistic people are described as having no feelings.

What is autism?

Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) is a life-long developmental disability which can affects individuals in how they communicate and understand the world around them. 1 in 100 people are diagnosed with ASC, but many especially adults have never been diagnosed. There are around 700,000 of autistic adults and children in the United Kingdom.

Autism and mental health

Sadly, 70 to 80% of autistic people experience mental health problems during their lives. Anxiety and depression are the most common.Considering that autistic individuals often find social communication and interaction problematic, it is not surprising that understanding and expressing feelings and relationships can be challenging.

It is stressful to try to fit into a world that doesn’t make sense, being bullied for being different, perceived as having something wrong with them and that they are not normal. Feeling ostracised from mainstream society and being pressured to fit into a neuro-typical world which is not only baffling but doesn’t cater for their needs. It can be more difficult to recognise mental ill-health for autistic individuals as well as finding the right support.

Not a disorder

In the past, autism was seen as a disorder, disfunction of the brain and disability, something that needed to be fixed and cured. In recent years, these views have started to shift with a greater understanding of neurological processes, but the stereotypes and stigma surrounding what is labelled as atypical and as a deficit still persist in society.

No empathy?

Autistic people can be perceived as lacking empathy. This does not mean that they don’t have emotions and empathy, but they can find it difficult to understand others and empathise with them as they experience and express their emotions and relationships differently.

Empathy and learning about each other is a two-way street between neuro-typical and neuro-divergent.

Celebrating autism

Celebrating autism in its neuro-diversity enriches us and our relationships. Seeing it as a strength and opportunity, by not putting the autistic person down but boosting their self-esteem, being curious and excited to seethe world through their eyes, learning to speak their language and helping them to understand and accept themselves, with that to live a rich and positive life.

Finding support

If you are struggling with your mental health and have been diagnosed or identify as being on the autistic spectrum, please reach out and find the courage to talk about your problems.

  1. Speak to someone you trust in your family, a friend or your GP to get the right support and treatment. Look after your health, physically, mentally and emotionally in having a good diet, exercise and connect with other people.
  2. Try to be open about your condition. There are many ways to let other know that you might find certain things difficult like the sunflower lanyard as sign of a hidden disability or visual card that explain what support you need.
  3. Don’t be afraid to say what you need and how others can help you.

Counselling can be a safe and confidential space for you to explore your issues and needs. A place you will be accepted and valued as the individual you are, where you can be yourself and feel good about who you are, celebrating your strengths and exploring your challenges and how to overcome them, rebuilding your self-esteem and your relationships.

Reach out and get in touch.