Culture is a very important part of life and a very important part of the development of people all across the world, especially people with autism.
One of the major influencing factors about autism is that as a young person, you don’t learn from observing people that you spend a lot of time with in the same way that a person without autism does. The reason for this is that a big part of autism is not having very solid social connections, of course, some people may have better social skills than others.
Typically, I don’t focus on the same things as a neurotypical person. I might look at different things that are happening around me and perceive them differently. A typical example is that someone with autism might tend to avoid making eye contact, and that’s because, to an autistic person, often the eyes aren’t as important as maybe the mouth or other parts of the face when someone is speaking. Even though a neurotypical person gains a lot of information from the eyes, someone with autism may gain more information from a different part of the face.
When you’re watching people around you, you’re learning different things, especially as you start to grow up and your mind develops. One of the big things we pass on to our children is our culture. We pass on to them how we interact with people, what values we hold, what is most important to us, what is not important to us, and how we think you should treat other people. People who are autistic often grow up with a different culture than the one of their own family. It’s not a specific culture, there’s no single, individual autistic culture. It just means that they have different reactions to the world and the people around them.
One thing I learned as my family moved around a lot and from living overseas is that there are so many differences in culture that every country, and every group of people, has their own culture. That is sort of what it’s like to be autistic. It’s almost as if you’re living with a group of people that grew up with a different set of values – a different culture from what you understand. You don’t know how they originated, where they came from, and you don’t really understand it.
You’ll often see that in support groups for people with autism that people understand each other a little better than they understand neurotypical people. You would think that if autism is simply an issue with having social interactions, then there would be challenges with everyone in these support groups. But when you put a group of autistic people, or at least higher functioning autistic people, together often they’ll understand each other in ways that they would never understand neurotypical people. It’s partly because they just have a different underlying sense of what they’re looking at and how they have experienced and are currently experiencing the world.