Hidden traits worth knowing




It is generally accepted that Autism is a spectrum. Sadly, this is invariably misunderstood. When someone hears this description, they will tend to assume that at one end there are people with 'severe' autism, with those with 'minor' autism at the other end. This is wrong.

The reason for this misunderstanding is that 'Autism' is not a 'thing'. It cannot be large or small, severe or light, or red or green. This is because it is not a 'thing' that some people suffer... it is a category for people with shared attributes. These people are Autistics... and not 'persons with autism'. So what does this mean? In short, if those of us who are aspies share common attributes, what are they and why do they matter?

Understanding Autistics as a group (ie understanding 'autism') is a huge mystery, yet in recent years it has become more understood. This has been because autistics themselves have been involved in the process of study. It may seem an obvious fact, yet until very recently no-one thought to ask an Aspie what it was like to be an Aspie. This is because no-one knows better what it is like than an Autistic. But because each Aspie has been left in a bubble, with only the family for support (if they are lucky), consensus isn't immediately obvious. Those obvious traits that manifest in public are quickly recognised and become the yardstick by which Autism is measured as discussed herein, but there is much more to being Autistic than is immediately obvious... and I am not talking about Savants, but the majority of us who are unaware ourselves... let alone anyone close to us. These are the Hidden Traits.

Discovering yourself

Before one can know themselves, we need to understand better what it means to be Autistic. This is becoming clearer today, but so many myths exist... some damaging, and others lethal. This all stems from the misunderstanding that 'autism' is a name given to a set of 'behaviours'. This is simply not true, and is one of the inner conflicts most young aspies suffer: they know it is not a 'thing' yet everyone tells them they are (effectively) an NT with behavioural problems. So what is the truth?

First, one is born an Aspie. It isn't something that one catches, nor is anyone to 'blame', nor is it behaviour that can be 'fixed'. To date the best understanding is that the Aspie brain is different from a non-autistic brain. This is usually referred to as a developmental 'problem'. However, rather than being a problem it is simply different. In the same way that left-handed and right-handed people have different brains... one is not a 'broken' version of the other, merely different. So a leftie will say "I am left-handed" and not "I have left-handedness and want to get better".

But then what is the 'spectrum' if Aspies are just born with an Aspie brain? It is better to see that because of the brain's configuration various traits are in-built. Some people might have heightened traits - such as Savants or 'seriously' Autistic - though all Aspies share them to various degrees. Now as the baby develops, (s)he looks to understand what's going on inside, by comparing it to others. So when hit by a strong smell that no-one else smells... or deafened by the hum of tube-lights where no-one else is, then the child learns of their 'differences' which either become overwhelming, or is learnt to cope with. But those traits which are not reflected, the hidden traits, are assumed to be shared with NTs. They are not, and this misunderstanding can lead to communication problems. Typical 'hidden' traits include:

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