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Classmates of AS Adult

I am a college student. There is an autistic man in my biology class. What can I expect?

My Opinion:
It appears to me that you have never been exposed to persons with autism, so you are confused and perhaps even afraid of this person, probably because he may say or do strange things in the classroom which you do not understand. Please understand that many times the things "normal" people say and do in the classroom will be just as confusing to him as his mannerisms are to you.

The only way this person can "cause any problem" for you, is if you treat him as a lesser human being, which he is not. You should treat him with respect, just as you would treat any other person in your class. If he says or does something which you do not understand, simply ask him what he meant when he said/did what he said/did. I cannot speak for him, but if it was me, I would be glad someone would speak to me as the intelligent adult that I am, and not judge me simply because I was different.

All autistic individuals are different, so I will speak only for myself. This person in your class is probably different than I am, but I hope my examples here will help you. I am a very literal thinker, I cannot understand abstract concepts. So if you tell a joke, or use a metaphor, or use sarcasm, or say something that sounds one way but you really mean it another way, I will understand it literally and I will not understand any underlying meaning.

Also, I have very poor social skills. I do not understand the importance you place on eye contact, I will not look you in the eyes when we are speaking to each other, I cannot understand very well the different nuances of tone of voice. I sometimes do strange things with my hands, called stims. Many times I will say something that will sound strange to the person I am speaking with, but I will not understand why the other person did not understand it the way I meant it. I do not mean to sound obnoxious or offensive or angry or rude or whatever, I just do not understand social contexts.

If these two examples sound like this person in your class, then perhaps you can just understand that he is not TRYING to be different and difficult, he just does not understand certain things that other people are able to understand.

You also mention that he is the best student in your class. I was also a "curve wrecker" all thru my school years, but only in subjects with concrete and logical rules, such as biology. Anything like finding abstract metaphors in literature, I would appear stupid. So this person might be very good with logical concrete concepts, but not good with other concepts. This does not make this person stupid, just different than other people.

I will include an excellent website for you, if you would like to learn more about autism. It includes the diagnostic criteria for autism, so you can see how this person might be different than you are, and might have difficulties in certain areas, but he might also be far advanced in other areas. I hope this information and this website help you to understand this person in your class, so you can not be afraid of him, and you might actually become his first real friend, because you might be able to accept him for who he is, including his differences, and you will no longer be afraid of who he might be.


Persons with autism may be different than you are, but they are not lesser than you are, and they deserve your respect. Thank you for asking. I hope I was helpful to you.

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