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Society’s Boxes: How stereotypes create barricades for people with Autism

A painting of a figure confined in a box

By Lani Jacobs

This article is part of My Plan Manager’s guest blogger series.

Why is it that people want others to fit so neatly into little boxes? Cubes. Categories. Why is it that every disability or ‘difference’ needs to have a level or degree?

Are the Levels of Autism really a true reflection of the struggles people have with ASD? Autism is a spectrum, yes, but it is not linear. It is a curvy line. People with ASD are referred to as ‘High Functioning’ or ‘Low Functioning’. Mostly that refers to a person’s ability to speak and behave according to society’s norms. However, people can be very ‘High Functioning’ in one aspect of their lives and very ‘Low Functioning’ in another.

One of the main characteristics of adults and especially women on the Spectrum, is masking. The ability to observe, mimic and hide their struggles. Somehow it has become acceptable for kids to have a diagnosis of ASD, but adults with ASD seem to be almost non-existent or at least invisible and not acknowledged. After all, they are grown-ups and should just cope, shouldn’t they? Admitting to having a diagnosis of ASD as an adult is like admitting to a mortal sin. In some workplaces that would exclude you from some opportunities and promotions and would make other people underestimate your ability and intelligence.

Isn’t it time that we realise that HUMANITY is a spectrum? We come in all shapes, sizes, colours, abilities, talents, strengths, and weaknesses. Do any of those things really matter? Do we need to make people fit in boxes in order to accept and accommodate them? Let us make kindness and compassion a spectrum. Let us NOT squash those into little boxes but make them essential criteria for being human.


My young son has opened my eyes to how cruel the world can be and how amazing people with disabilities can be. I love the Lateral nature of their (our) thinking. I love being involved in ventures like this blog, because I believe many people and kids are just uneducated. They simply do not know what to do with ‘different’ and so many people with disabilities feel so very alone. It will help to know there are others who struggle with the same things. I want to be a voice for those who feel they cannot speak.

A profile photo of Lani Jacobs

Lani Jacobs is a late diagnosis adult with ASD and ADHD. She is a trained High School Teacher but works as a Teacher’s Aide (Learning Support Officer), where she supports kids with all sorts of disabilities and challenges. In her free time she also works as an Artist. She has a passion for people with invisible and visible disabilities and thinks a lot of the social difficulties faced by the Disabled Community are the result of the ignorance and lack of education of the broader community.




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1 Comment
  1. Jessy Larwood

    Hi Lani, When I think of how the Autistic ‘Spectrum’ might look – I definitely don’t conceptualise it as a straight line – definitely agree with you there … But, I also don’t really conceptualise it as a curvy line either … I think of it more as a 3 dimensional ‘cube’ if you like … And there’s every colour there BUT there’s also EVERY variation – hue, shade etc … so instead of just ‘Red’ there’s Brick Red and Pillar box red and maroon and hot pink and pale pink etc etc and every conceivable variation in between … then Apricot, Peach, Sunset Orange, Bright Orange, Rust colour etc etc … in my mind this allows a better way of representing how different Autistic people can be from each other in different facets of our lives.

My Plan Manager: NDIS Plan Management