I keep reading and hearing about the surprise felt about someone autistic being affectionate as a child.
Autism is a neurological disorder that affects the way one processes information. Because one is greatly lacking in filters between parts of the brain and from their senses, things are so overwhelming they often pull back into their own world to protect themselves.
In what way does this mean a child would not be affectionate?
My mother, when I told her I was HFA, looked confused and said "but you were so affectionate as a child"... as though that solved that. My father, on the other hand, said "that explains it. All you kids were different, but you were more different than your sibling". *laughs*
As an adult, I am better capable of dealing with things and have learned to articulate. Now only people who spend substantial amounts of time with me, or know autistics, realize that I am. Funny that everyone who has lived with, worked with, or seriously studied autism can pick me out in a matter of minutes though!
And I am, without any doubt, affectionate. If I like someone, I pet them, snuggle into them, stand very close to them, sit practically in (or actually in) their lap... I find it very difficult to be near anyone I like without touching them.
My faerie godson, Max, is a low functioning autistic (or PDDNOS) and he is quite affectionate. Most of my friends who are autistic are affectionate...
I think this stems from when "autism" only meant the extremely low functioning cases where the nerves are so sensitive the child couldn't be touched. But they still snuggled into things of their choosing and banged into walls to get touch. So even then, it was more a lack of insight than a lack of affection.
However, if you assume a child can't be affectionate, are you going to be as likely to give affection? Or to recognize their attempts at affection? I worry that this concpt keeps autistics from learning about affection or getting their needs met.
The broadening of the autistic spectrum has had interesting ramifications for everyone involved. I would not have counted as autistic when I was going to school. Possibly not even a decade ago. However, my brain certainly works in the same filter-free fashion, so it's good that they are learning more.
I have high hopes that "affectionate" won't be considered anti-autistic for much longer. It's a misconception that can be a self fulfilling prophecy!