Popular Autism Myths
With autism being diagnosed in 1 in every 166 children, autism awareness is on the rise. Unfortunately, there are still some myths associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The field of autism has been developing since the turn of the 20th century. Throughout those many years a lot of misinformation developed and some of those myths are still around today.
In the book, Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Complete Guide to Understanding Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and Other ASDs, Chantal Sicile-Kira discusses several myths regarding autism.
Myth #1: Anyone with ASD has some incredible talent or is a genius.
Many people have taken their knowledge of autism thanks to the movie Rainman in part about an autistic savant. It is believed that Thomas Jefferson, Einstein, Beethoven & Isaac Newton were all probably somewhere on the autistic spectrum, but for the largest part, people with ASD are like the rest of the population. In other words, they are just like the preponderance of us “normal” people.
Myth #2: Everyone who has autism is mentally disabled.
Due to the signs of autism, it is often difficult to ascertain the cognitive level of somebody on the spectrum. Many on the spectrum report sensory overload and poor motor planning. For example, they think about wanting to move their lips to talk but are unable to do so. Their mind could be very astute, but their body is uncooperative. Today there are a few blood tests done to check for chromosomal abnormalities that test for mental retardation. In the absence of proper medical tests, one should never assume that just because an autistic person is unable to communicate or seems aloof that they are developmentally disabled. In Sicile-Kira’s book, she says, “The reality is that the population of people with ASDs is much like the global population: some of us have unique talents, some of us are intellectuals, and some of us are retarded. But most of us are just average earthlings.”
Myth #3: If someone has an ASD symptom then that means that they have autism.
If an individual has a couple of symptoms, it does not make them autistic. It is the number and severity of behaviors that start alarm bells. These symptoms are discussed in further detail in my previous article, Autism Symptoms.
Myth #4: No one can be cured or recover from autism.
This is an exciting myth because it sparks a little bit of controversy in the autism community. Some people with autism are offended by terms such as “healthy” or “cure.” For understandable reasons, they do not like the suggestion that they are “abnormal” & need to be “fixed.” I think that it is better to say that they can “overcome” symptoms enough to be able to reach their potential and be successful in society.
Myth #5: People with autism are incapable of feeling emotions or developing personal attachments.
Just because someone is unable to express their feelings does not mean that they are incapable of having emotion. Parents & loved ones of children with ASD must learn to show affection on the child’s terms. Many individuals with ASD get married & have families. They may not be able to express their feelings very well, but they do feel them.
Through my own experiences, I know that this list merely touches on some of the misconceptions of autism. The key to remember is to educate yourself and in turn educate others. With autism affecting 1 in 166 children a year, autism awareness will increase, and people’s perceptions and knowledge will become more accurate.