Rain Man, I Hate You.
When you look at statistics showing how much of the population has some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder you’d expect to notice more autistic people out and about….but you don’t….I suppose they don’t seem to get out as much as other folks….so maybe it’s no surprise that having seen Rain Man seems to be the extent of many people’s education about autism.
I don’t really hate Rain Man…well…not as much as I hate John Steinbeck. I just don’t like people making narrow assumptions based on a Hollywood movie. It’s called Autism Spectrum Disorder, not routine-bound mathematic savant disorder.
I’d say that 3 out of every 5 times somebody learns my son is autistic, they ask me if he’s a math wizard. At that point I get a little scared that I’m going to be reinforcing the math savant misconception because it happens to be that my son is very good at math, as in honour roll good, but he’s not a savant.
Yes, autistic people generally have a narrower range of interests than neurotypical people and that focus tends to make them really good at whatever interests them, but it’s not necessarily savantism. Autistic folks might seem less well rounded than the rest of us, but I’ll bet you don’t look as well rounded to other people as you know you are; try giving the benefit of the doubt.
Here’s how you can make it through an introduction to my son without embarrassing yourself: Keep an open mind, and don’t ask if he’s a math wizard.