Autism Misconceptions: Laughing at Canva Graphics
I talk about a lot of autism misconceptions on this blog. I think it’s important because it helps other people with autism feel less alone and broadens people’s understanding of autism spectrum disorders. There are so many autism misconceptions that I could probably write entire posts on each one. Maybe I will at some point but today, I want to do something lighter.
Let’s laugh about autism misconceptions by making fun of autism graphics available on Canva. Why you ask? Because I feel like it. Between this blog and the Etsy store, I spend a lot of time on Canva. Considering the subject of this blog, I’m sure you can guess the frequency in which I find myself looking through autism, ADHD, and neurodivergent graphics or stock images on Canva. Which is exactly why I can tell you how ridiculous some of them are. I’m generally not a great sharer but I just needed to share this bout of Neurospicy Nonsense. Partially because I genuinely want to bring this laughter to others and partially because I can’t keep laughing about them to myself in my home office.
Canva Graphics: Autism Edition
- Big Brain Problems
Did you know one of the lesser-talked-about symptoms of autism is it makes our brains big and heavy? Yeah, all that extra neurological activity really weighs things down. I’m joking, kind of. There have been studies that found 90% of 2-4-year-old autistic boys had larger brain volumes than normal. However, this doesn’t mean all autistic people are walking around with giant brains in our giant heads. Whereas neurotypical brains grow into adolescence, autistic brains have reached maximal weight (aka adult-sized brains) by 3-5 years old.
So yes, while there is a kernel of truth in this image, it still makes me laugh. Maybe it’s the facial expression and intense focus on massaging that big ol’ brain. I, too, feel like I have to hold my giant brain in from time to time.
- Autism Frequency Network
It’s us. We are the 5G.
- Simple Handdrawn Flat Girl with Autism
That’s the actual title of this image on Canva. Here we, again, see the big head stereotypes but also she’s whimsical and has drawings on her face for…some reason. I get that it’s a simple drawing but they also seemed to put more detail in her hair than facial features. But autistic people don’t make facial expressions anyway so why should the artist bother drawing human facial features?
Honestly Asking: What’s With the Handprints
Can someone please explain to me where the handprints thing came from? I’m seriously asking. I know I’m supposed to be a resource with a bunch of random information about neurodiversity but I have no answers here. I have Googled it and read through several other blogs with posts about autism symbols and came up with nothing. It seems to have started as an art project for autism awareness month. (I think?) A spin on the classic fingerpaint handprint, kids make a handprint with rainbow-colored fingers to represent autism. A fun art project and I like that schools are doing things like that with students these days, but that has somehow turned into the handprint being used as an autism symbol? I don’t know. It’s all very confusing to me.
- The Autistic Love of…Hands
Many of us struggle with physical touch or ranging severities of germophobia so how HANDS somehow symbolizes us is so confusing to me. Maybe it’s because we’re sensory seekers who tend to touch everything? But then that means they’re again symbolizing us with something we do that’s annoying to neurotypicals…am I overthinking this? Someone please help me understand.
- Handprints From Hell
Now we have handprints with facial expressions also? Why do I feel like these will be used against an autistic child at some point when they can’t accurately identify these facialpalm expressions?
- Not so Happy Hands
This is not what we mean when we talk about happy hands. I continue to be perplexed. Somewhere, someone is searching for autism images to make classroom materials or informational pamphlets and ultimately using this one. I get it, it’s cute. It’s colorful. The hands are happy. But if I saw this anywhere other than images labeled as autism on Canva, I’d have no idea it had anything to do with autism. Because it doesn’t.
- Nothing says neurodiversity like…rainbow hands (I guess?)
I don’t even have anything sassy to say. I’m too perplexed. Is this a painting guide for the autism awareness hand turkeys? Autistic reflexology? A stimming de-coding guide?
- The Au-some Autism Mom
Because no autism image search is complete without autism moms centering themselves, here is this less than au-some, equally as baffling handprint for autism awareness month that…makes things about the mom complete with hyper-positivity around autism being au-some. Maybe I’m wrong and totally misread this. Maybe it’s an autistic mom saying autistic moms can be great moms too. While I very much agree with the sentiment, I somehow doubt that’s the case.
Autism Misconceptions: Made by a Neurotypical Edition
- Autism is My Superpower
I don’t know a single autistic person who would say autism is their superpower. Do we joke about having autistic superpowers related to our pattern recognition, special interests, and endless random factoids? Sure. But do we feel like our autism is a superpower? Fuck no. It’s a disability and it’s exhausting.
- This Neurotypical Nonsense
You know how I know this was made by a neurotypical? Because autistic people hate this scale. It doesn’t make logical sense to us. We struggle to express the pain we’re feeling and quantify it in a way that lines up with increasingly squiggly facial expressions so this scale often feels confusing and overwhelming to us. I always feel like I’m short-circuiting a bit when presented with it because what I’m experiencing doesn’t seem to fit right in any of the options so I don’t know how to answer.
- What is Love?
Nothing like spreading slightly dehumanizing misperceptions through cartoon images! There are many parents of autistic kids who feel rejected by their children. Overwhelmed by sensory input, autistic kids may not be affectionate the way their parents hoped they would be. Parents of nonverbal kids may go years before ever hearing their child say they love them. This has led to many stereotypes that autistic people are never affectionate or don’t crave love and close relationships the way neurotypicals do. This simply isn’t true. Many of us just show love in different ways or need affection in ways that work with our sensory needs.
This image portraying an autistic kid as confused by and resisting love is just more centering of how the parent feels than the importance of meeting an autistic child at their level. Many autistic kids also struggle to trust adults because they can’t handle our big autistic emotions or have teachers who label them as bad kids for behavior they can’t help. If anything, this image shows that common distrust but people looking at this image won’t see that, they’ll just pathologize the child.
- People with Autism: Waiting to be Pieced Together
The puzzle piece. Another symbol slapped on us autistics by the neurotypical. I actually love puzzles so admittedly, part of me is fine with the symbol. But in the grand scheme of things, I resent the concept that we’re mysteries that other people need to piece together rather than just…communicating and working with us. Also, who thought it was a good idea to make all the pieces different colors? Clearly, they’re not even from the same puzzle but they’re just slapping the pieces together anyway. Truly symbolic of how neurotypicals treat neurodivergents more than anything representing people with autism.
Autism Misconceptions in Canva Images: WTF Edition
- Bolts for Brains
I’m truly at a loss for this one. Is it implying we’re robotic…? That’s really the only connection I can make here. If it’s not a bolt, what does a hexagon have to do with autism? Is it just rotating around in there, as implied by the lines around the edge? Seriously, I would love to hear your interpretations.
- Puzzle Piece String Along
If the puzzle piece is supposed to represent autism, why are they carrying it on a string? Not worth figuring out how they fit together so we’ll just constrain them instead? Again, more symbolic of neurotypicals than neurodivergents.
- Something About a Fish
This one is so deeply baffling it lives below sea level. I promise I did not just take random images out of context and claim they were labeled as autism. This image is indeed titled and tagged with autism. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.
Fighting Autism Misconceptions
I had a lot of fun writing this post and I think it’s important to be able to laugh about stupid shit. That being said, I hope this post is also at least a little informative as to why some of these images are problematic and harmful. Many of them are based on stereotypes that dehumanize and mischaracterize autistic people. The continued spread of such autism misconceptions makes it harder for people with low support needs to get diagnosed and adds to the amount of trauma people with autism are subjected to. Many of these images are from Canva Pro, which means people are profiting from their spread of autism misconceptions. Only by openly talking about why they’re problematic can we hope they learn to do better.