Animals usually like people with autism

Disability - Autistic people are the more honest people - and therefore often lonely

Autistic people are the more honest people - and therefore often lonely

Autism is mostly a handicap. But those affected are thoroughly honest. It is no coincidence that 16-year-old Greta Thunberg is stubbornly fighting for the climate and has Asperger's.

The teenager was wearing a T-shirt with a curse word on it. He thought that was cool. His autistic colleague thought that was just stupid, and he told him that too. Because you don't use swear words.
The fact that being naughty and not doing what you should can contribute to a good reputation among teenagers often does not make sense to people with autism spectrum disorder.

This developmental disorder of the brain includes the fact that those affected have difficulty interpreting interpersonal rules and are quickly overwhelmed in unfamiliar situations. Asperger's is one of them. It is a mild form of autism and what the now world-famous climate fighter Greta Thunberg has.

Fabienne Serna recently witnessed the situation with the T-shirt curse. She works for the autism counseling center in Germany. "At that moment, the boy never thought for a second that it would have a negative social consequence if he gave his opinion straightforward," says Serna. Autistic people have to laboriously learn such mechanisms by heart, which is difficult: you should and should you tell your parents about personal things, but not to strangers? This doesn't make sense for people with autism. With the directness of a small child, you can also tell a smoker that what he is doing is stupid because it is unhealthy.

Honesty makes them lonely

This sheer honesty and inability to decode social rules isolates many people with autism - especially teenagers, who usually put a lot of emphasis on the opinion of their peer group. Greta Thunberg, however, is not committed to the climate because it is hip and she is surfing the eco-wave. But because that's their concern. This is also a characteristic of autism: those affected often specialize in certain areas. Because that gives them more security than constantly treading new fields.

These people can sometimes shine in their specialist areas - at least if they are not so limited by their disorder that they cannot speak or if they also have intellectual deficits. Autistic people also suffer from social deficits: "Loneliness is a sad and common side effect of autism," says Fabienne Serna.

A study published today, however, shows another positive aspect: Autistic children are less persuasive. They hold on to their opinion even when someone tries to influence them. The British neuroscientist Kristine Krug and her colleagues investigated this in an experiment: 125 normal and 30 autistic children aged 6 to 14 played a computer game in which they had to navigate a spaceship around black holes. Sometimes they got advice from adults or their peers that they should steer more to the right or left.

The smaller autistic children were easily influenced by (wrong) advice, but between the ages of 12 and 14 this was hardly the case. It is quite different with the neurologically normal 12 to 14 year olds: They let their decisions be influenced particularly strongly.

Extraordinary people

The study authors write that this finding fits in with previous research findings that autistic people place less weight on social information. They are also less sensitive to their reputation and less susceptible to flattery. Together with the persistence of autism, these characteristics repeatedly produce exceptional personalities. Not just Greta Thunberg.

The autistic American animal scientist Temple Grandin has developed methods and machines to carry out the slaughter of farm animals as gently as possible. This is because they react as sensitively as animals to stressful elements. However, her autism also helped her to empathize with the animals regardless of the emotional, bloody topic and thus to develop calming methods.

American actress and environmental activist Daryl Hannah, who is also autistic, has a similar quality to Temple Grandin. The film star of the eighties ("Blade Runner") has always stood out in the past for her steadfastness. When she tried to prevent a farm from being demolished, for example, she chained herself to a tree - another time she was arrested for protesting against coal mining in the mountains in front of the White House and only stopped when the police took her away in handcuffs. The American is a role model when it comes to consistency: unlike her fellow actors, she did not allow herself to be seduced by the lavish Hollywood lifestyle. She lives in a solar power house, drives a biodiesel car and is completely vegan.

Consistency and black-and-white thinking are also part of autism. Fabienne Serna says that she knows some autistic people who have consistently followed a healthy diet: “If you know that sugar is unhealthy, then you do without cake, no matter how small the piece is. It doesn't matter whether everyone else eats it, ”says Serna.

Persistence can sometimes push autistic people beyond their own limits. "Greta Thunberg must have been exhausted after her trip to the WEF," says Serna, "but when it comes to her specialties, people with autism spectrum disorder are often willing to accept difficulties."