Has anyone ever said this about your child? When I consult for parents one of the typical things they said they receive often is unsolicited comment about “Oh, your child is on the spectrum? But he seems so smart!”
When I was growing up with autism I was seen exactly like this because of my ability to do my homework twice as fast compared to other peers in my classes. Today I get the same thing when I go out to speak. You won’t believe how many times during a Q&A about questions about how I’ve “grown out of having autism” and how I “seem so smart now.”
Whenever I heard a comment like this I cringe but it’s also an opportunity to educate our community. Many people with autism have unique interests and also unique learning styles. Like any of us they will often pay attention more intently when they are doing something that interest them versus something they don’t like. That motivation plays a huge part when this comment gets thrown out there. Because of our key interests, many of us can become experts in our fields if we have a passion behind them.
Temple Grandin, one of our leading advocates in the autism community says, “Half of Silicon Valley is probably somewhere on the autism spectrum.” Many of those in Silicon Valley are the smartest people in the world because many of them have been able to turn their interests in technology into a career.
My earliest memory about this was when I was in 4th grade in mathematics. I would get A+’s often on tests and homework assignments while the rest of my classes were merely average. When my parents would tell people about my grades though they would often ask how someone who can have straight A’s be on the spectrum.
Bottom line is the next time you hear a comment like this I want you to be reassured that our children are brighter than what the general public’s perception is who most of the time have a personal connection to the cause often think. We are a small knit community but we have a loud voice when it comes to having our stories to tell.
Ignorance, like I share anytime I speak, is truly a lack of awareness and the more barriers we can break down to avoid these comments the better our community will be.