Alex Lowery speaks about autism

Are people with autism unsociable?

Written on 29th Jan 2016 by Alex Lowery

Today I am going to be tackling the question, “Are people with autism unsociable?” I think this is a rather important subject to write about.

Alex relaxing after a long day

Alex relaxing after a long day

I frequently hear from the general public that autistic people are simply “unsociable” people. Before I answer this particular question I’d like to mention something else people say. I’ve heard people say (even relatives of mine) that those with autism don’t like talking to people and they don’t want to have friends. They just like being alone. This for one is incorrect. There are a lot of autistic people who struggle to socialise and have very few friends, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want friends. Autistic people often lack the skills required for social interactions, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want friends. Most people on the spectrum (obviously, it very much depends on the person) do have a desire for relationships with their peers.

Lets get back to the original question, “Are people with autism unsociable?” It is true that a person on the spectrum will likely have some degree of difficulty with Social interaction and communication (although how good their social skills are and how well they can mask their issues will depend on the person). Because it’s always said that autistics have social difficulties, people often seem to think this automatically makes an autistic person unsociable, shy and introverted. While this is true for many people with autism…. It isn’t the case for every single autistic person out there. This is very much another autism stereotype. I have now met many autistic people in my lifetime, and how sociable they are very much depends on the person. Believe it or not…. I have met some extremely sociable and outgoing people who still have an autism diagnoses. I have met some autistics (mostly females, but it depends) that actually can’t stand having time alone, and just love being around people to talk to. I’ve even met people on the spectrum who are more sociable than your average neurotypical person. I have also met autistic people are extremely unsociable, and not very talkative. I have even met people who are sociable with certain people and in certain settings, but not in others.

Now, don’t misunderstand me… People with autism in general will have some degree of social difficulties, but how those difficulties affect a person will depend. If there’s a sociable person with autism, their difficulty may not be in ‘talking to people’, but in simply understanding the social rules of conversation (i.e. what’s appropriate, or inappropriate, etc.). I also think it’s a mistake to believe that the sociable autistic people are better off than the unsociable ones. Sometimes, the sociable autistics can talk so much that they just annoy everyone (not intentionally of course) which can lead them to have just as much difficulty in making friends as the unsociable ones. I’m autistic and I’m more on the ‘unsociable’ side of the spectrum. If there’s a group of people talking, I sometimes (not always, I often do want ‘me’ time) feel like I want to join in, but I don’t know how. If it’s a one-to-one conversation then I’m often a lot better, but the conversation has to be about something of interest. I’m awful with small talk. However, I do find that whenever I’ve had a successful conversation with someone (the kind most would take for granted) I always feel really chuffed with myself. I feel as though I had passed my driving test or something, as opposed to just having a conversation. This goes to show you that even an unsociable autistic like me can get pleasure out of talking to people.

So to answer the opening question, autistic people can be sociable, they can be unsociable or they can sociable in certain settings but not in others. There was a time when I thought no sociable person could be autistic, but I am now seeing just how wrong this is. It is extremely easy to become stereotypical with autism just because of how wide and how varied the spectrum is. Everyone is so unique. As I said before, I have met so many autistic people now, but I have never met anyone who’s at the exact same level of autism as me or has the same traits as I have. That’s just how individual the spectrum is.

 

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Organisations Alex has worked with

  • Autism Cymru
  • Chester University
  • Glyndwr University
  • National Autistic Society
  • St John's Ambulance
  • Welsh Government

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