Autistic People Have Feelings, Too

There is a common misconception that autistic people are robots, psychopaths, Vulcans, lawyers, or whatever other cold, emotionless creature that operates purely out of self-interest and logic with little to no regard for emotion. That is just so, so, so, so fucking wrong. Autistic people have emotions, and from my experience around other autistic people, most of us seem to disregard logical thought in favor of raw emotion. Granted, they usually forget about other’s emotions, but they still have emotions.

This is actually one of the weirder misconceptions I’ve come across, because it makes no sense at all. Somehow, people are able to believe that autistic people throw constant tantrums and also don’t feel emotion. Those two things cannot exist together, you need emotion to throw a tantrum, and you can’t throw tantrums without emotion. (Sidenote: the tantrum-throwing stereotype is often true. I threw many, many violent tantrums when I was a child, and at my autistic high school there was always somebody throwing a tantrum somewhere)

This false belief may have been started by how some high-functioning autistic people act in public. Some of us will hide our emotions, because we’ve learned that it is inappropriate to always express how you’re feeling, and so they overcompensate by not showing their emotions at all. This has the unfortunate effect of making us seem cold and distant, or aloof and uncaring. In either case, people perceive us as emotionless.

I remember that in high school I got bad grades for a class I was taking. My mother yelled at me to do better, and while I was curled up on the floor in the fetal position, she told me I was a complete failure with no chance for the future. The next day when I went to school, I just walked over to the stairwell and sat in a nook at the bottom, crying. When the counselor came by and took me to her office, I told her what my mother told me last night. She was clearly sympathetic, but she didn’t seem to fully believe me until my mother had to come by and pick me up and she said “I did say that, but I didn’t think he would take it so hard.”

People don’t see autistic people as thinking, feeling equals. They think of us simply as strange burdens to society that you can harass and insult with impunity, because we don’t feel anything. Then, when we act out, they act surprised because they thought we don’t have emotions. Well, we do. That’s the whole reason there’s the other stereotype of us throwing tantrums. If people would just stop and think for a second of how their words impact other people, including autistic people, things would be much better.

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