Movies like Rain Man can color perceptions of what it means to be autistic, says author Stefanie Preissner

When Stefanie Preissner first came to terms with being diagnosed with autism at the age of 34 last year, the author received a “mixed reaction” to the news.

Though no one in her inner circle was in any way shocked, the comedy-drama creator Can’t finish, won’t finish said some people questioned the diagnosis.

“They think you can’t be autistic because I can make eye contact or because I’m bad at math. In general, people have been very positive and interested in learning more,” she said.

Others have criticized their use of language, labeling themselves “autistic” as opposed to a “person with autism.” “When I revealed I was autistic, people texted me, ‘Hi, I’m an SNA and I want you to know that you’re not autistic, you have autism, and I just want you to know that it autism is not who you are’.

“God grant me the confidence to look into someone’s DMs and tell them how to identify someone.

“Language matters. We are autistic, just like some people are Jewish or gay.

“You can’t separate autism from me, and being (over)reinforced that you’re ‘someone with autism’ is an underlying assumption that autism is bad and shouldn’t define you.”

She spoke at the launch of AsIAm’s Same Chance campaign ahead of World Autism Month, which begins tomorrow.

Ireland’s national autism charity also released new research highlighting the challenges faced by people with the condition, which affects around one in 65 residents in Ireland.

It found that 55 per cent of autistic people feel Irish workplaces are not inclusive, while 71 per cent believe the government is not taking a coordinated approach to autism.

Additionally, 60 percent of Irish people have negative connotations of autism and only 40 percent say they have a ‘good’ understanding of the developmental status.

“Some of the report’s key findings show that only four out of ten people claim to have a good understanding of what autism is,” said Ms. Preissner.

“It shows that myths and public perceptions can be informed by things like rainman or We need to talk about Kevin. It shows that the public does not have a good understanding of what autism actually is, which has wider implications.”

In addition to appealing for donations from the public, AsIAm CEO Adam Harris is calling on government and policymakers to implement a National Autism Strategy to address some of the many challenges autistic adults and children face.

“Unfortunately, too often, people with autism encounter barriers that others in society don’t have,” said Mr. Harris.

“We call on government, policymakers, employers, educators and healthcare professionals to give people with autism an equal opportunity and work with us to create a roadmap for progress over the next two years,” he said, adding, The report’s findings show that people with autism still face “clear challenges” on a regular basis.

This Saturday is World Autism Day. Movies like Rain Man can color perceptions of what it means to be autistic, says author Stefanie Preissner

Fry Electronics Team

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