Why media is so hard for people with autism

The typical person’s brain has chemicals in it that naturally help that person filter out what content they want to be affected by, from the content they don’t want to be affected by.

MIT and Harvard University neuroscientists have found a link between a behavioral symptom of autism and reduced activity of a neurotransmitter whose job is to dampen neuron excitation.

Anne Trafton | MIT News Office
December 17, 2015

For example, most people can handle watching a TV show or movie that has some questionable content in it. The normal population can just let those questionable things go and remember the good parts of the show.

People with autism aren’t able to easily filter out content that is disturbing, so even the littlest bit of less-than-good content can cause psychological torment for someone with autism.

But watching TV and movies is a big part of what people in the US do to build relationships with one another. So, having a relationship with others often involves subjecting ourselves to very difficult situations.

So the next time your autistic friend says that they aren’t comfortable with a particular show or movie, be kind. They aren’t trying to be a baby. They have an actual medical condition that makes seeing traumatic images or hearing off-color language more damaging to them than to the typical person.

Thank them for requiring you to find more gentle forms of entertainment when you are spending time with them. Just think of the PTSD they are saving you!


Published by

Heather Holbrook

I found out that I have Autism upon having a son with the same "disorder." Ironically, I was voted, "Most Likely to Succeed," by my high school classmates. But had I been born now, instead of 40+ years ago, I would have been considered a different sort of special. This site was started to encourage other Autistics and the people who love them .

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