The first thing we should address is that autism is not a childhood condition, nor is it a disease. It is a different brain modality, and for the lack of a better phrase, different thinking that occurs from earliest childhood through full maturity. There is no age limit and no adult onset.
A person with autism has the same quantity of brain matter as you or anyone else, and the same quality, however, the brain simply thinks differently. The individual’s senses may be wired differently than yours, causing either decreased or greatly increased sensitivity.
Meltdowns are not the only signs of stressful circumstances. Repetitive speaking, called ‘echolalia‘ is another, and one of many different signs. Bending at the waist, self-abusing behaviors, vomiting, uncontrollable crying, hand-flapping, shaking of limbs, and others—all are indicative of some kind of problem. Whatever the behavior, it is not a good idea to attempt to control it. It is better to determine the cause of the condition and cure that cause.
Some have said that persons on the autism spectrum lack empathy. That’s because when an autistic individual’s response to a situation is not exactly what others expect it to be, they make such assumptions. It’s simply not true.
Usually, we’ve found, the individual’s emotional experience is so high, including empathy, that their system simply blocks or limits additional emotions, causing others to perceive a lack of feeling. By shutting down or preventing an emotional overload, the person is protecting themselves automatically, from harm. This is particularly concerning in situations where law enforcement is involved.
If an individual shuts down and perhaps goes silent when questioned by police, or engages in some comforting behavior that seems unusual to others unfamiliar with them, bad things can happen, including a presumption of guilt, even if the person is wholly and completely innocent.
In one instance, a young man was body-slammed because an officer did not understand that his actions were to calm himself in an obviously stressful situation. The man’s skull was fractured resulting in death.
We have to start thinking differently about the different thinking of those on the spectrum. Many of the unusual behaviors others observe in the autistic are simply nothing more than neurotypical normal behaviors amplified, extended, or taken out of context. Most of all, let’s just remember that having a different brain modality, a different way of thinking, is not necessarily bad, it’s just different.