Autism Myths and Facts

Here are a few common myths about autism and the facts that dispel them:

Autism Myths and Facts

Autism is a mental health condition

Autism isn’t a mental health condition. It actually is a cognitive difference between an individual with autism and an individual without autism. It’s not something that should be viewed as flawed or problematic or wrong or something that needs treatment. It’s just a unique perspective of viewing the world.

Autistic individuals are all the same

Autism is a broad spectrum and no two autistic individuals share the exact same traits. It’s important to dispel this stereotype that the media portrays. Each autistic individual has their own set of challenges and strengths. Some are more capable of functioning independently than others.

All autistic people have a learning disability.

This is a total myth. Many autistic individuals have learning differences. Some might require a little bit extra support, but what they need most of all are patience and understanding.

All autistic individuals have special skills

This isn’t true either. A small percentage of all autistic people have a high level of knowledge and skills, which means they have mathematical skills beyond compare or can produce incredible artwork. However, most are regular folk.

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You can tell someone is autistic by looking at them

It’s a myth that you can tell if someone is autistic simply by looking at them. Well, that’s not true, there are autistic people from all walks of life, in different professions, and of different ages, genders and religions. Autism doesn’t have a look nor does it always have visible identifying characteristics. And when it does they do not apply to all autistic people.

Autistic people like to be on their own, they are anti-social.

Autistic people can find socialising more tiring than non-autistic people. Children who don’t socialise are feared to have autism. One factor is that many children face stranger anxiety at a young age, however, it’s always better to get a proper diagnosis than ignore such symptoms.

 

This doesn’t mean that autistic people are anti-social. Autism comes in a variety where this myth sometimes proves to be true but not every time.

Autistic people can’t participate in teamwork

Many autistic people enjoy working as a part of a team or even leading a team. Prominent examples such as Richard Branson, Charles Schwab (dyslexic) or Elon Musk (autism spectrum) are explained away as rare exceptions.

An autistic child should be sent to school and they will gradually come out of autism

Lack of social milestones and autism are totally different. Simply sending the child to school is not going to help much for the autistic child. Many children feel the need for understanding and sound learning which cannot be provided by schools. Special therapies for autistic children are designed in a way to bring the child’s learning pace on track and help to bring them up with peers.

Many autistic individuals feel that autism wasn’t around as much when they were at school

No one just becomes autistic overnight. One can be detected with autism later in life as their autistic features didn’t bother them much in the early years of life. If it’s not detected in early life, that doesn’t mean that autism isn’t there. It simply means that one didn’t recognise that it was there. Doctors put much emphasis on diagnosis and treatment at a young age because it becomes easy to treat at that point in time. And it may also help out the child from facing upcoming difficulties which many autistic adults face in their life.

Autism can be cured

No, it can’t be cured but can be improved because it’s not an illness to be cured. The goal of treatment of autistic children is to maximize the child’s ability to function by reducing autism spectrum disorder symptoms and supporting development and learning. It’s part of brain differences and built-in genes. Every autistic individual is born different and is a beautiful creation.

There is no chance of having another child with autism if one child is diagnosed with it.

Parents who have a child with autism have a 2-18% chance of having a second child who is also affected. And the chance of the second child having autistic features increases and can go up to 25-30% also. Autism is caused by duplications and deletions of DNA in an individual. So, Genetic testing may help parents to recognize the chances of having autism for the second child they are planning for. It’s important for autistic child’s parents to be cautious regarding the same.

Giving sugar and sweet food causes autism

It’s not a myth for autistic children (already diagnosed with autism). But if a child is not diagnosed with autism, he/she can have age-appropriate food. Sugar is the simplest form of glucose which gives instant energy to the body. This is the reason to avoid sugary food for autistic children due to their hyperactive behaviour.

Autism gets cured on its own as the child grows

Officially, the Answer Is “No” as the research progresses, psychologists continue to emphasize that losing all autism symptoms on their own is rare and that even if symptoms disappear, these children may retain underlying brain differences that can present ongoing challenges. Treatment is a way which can help individuals to learn to cope with their learnings and to make situations under control. Therefore, treatment is better than going with the flow and facing difficulties later in life.

Autism is a result of bad parenting

There is clear evidence from research that autism is not caused by bad parenting but by a difference in the way the brain develops before the child is born.

Autistic people don’t make eye contact

When individuals on the autism spectrum feel relaxed and confident with their communication partners, eye contact can be quite spontaneous. Again, autism is a term with different definitions for each autistic individual. Hence, it’s never a good idea to force a person on the spectrum to have eye contact with you if they seem uninterested.

People with autism cannot talk.

Communication is more than talking. Some students on the autism spectrum will develop speech seemingly effortlessly but will require help to communicate appropriately with their peers. Others will require assistance to communicate their basic needs and wants, using a combination of words, gestures, and augmentative communication systems such as PECS. Thus, it’s not actually a myth as it can be applied to some autistic people.

Individuals on the autism spectrum do not have feelings and thus are unable to show affection.

Individuals on the autism spectrum can and do give affection. However, due to differences in sensory processing and social understanding, the display of affection may appear different from typical people. Understanding and acceptance of these differences is the key.

Autism can be caused by Vaccines

This myth probably stemmed from a dubious research study published in the late 1990s that said there was a possible link between vaccines and Autism. However, the experiment conducted during this study was not up to the scientific standards and was later debunked as deceptive, non-replicable and non-indicative of the findings. Despite this fact, this myth is believed by many, and there is no proof for the same. In fact, a recent study looked at almost 660-thousand children over 11yrs and found no link between the vaccine and Autism.

Autism only affects the brain

Autism is often thought of as a neurological disorder. But the truth is that it can target several parts of the human body besides the brain. Children with Autism are more likely to develop Epilepsy, altered immune function, and gastrointestinal problems than the general population. It can also look different with each person, which means that while some might struggle with their sleep and diet, others might face more challenges with their cognitive functions.

 

In conclusion, people with Autism have every right to receive patience, understanding and support from their own families, the healthcare sector and society at large.

There is an autism epidemic.

The prevalence of those diagnosed with Autism has gone up about tenfold since the mid-1980s, but it is important to note the increase is largely associated with changes in the diagnostic criteria and a greater awareness in the medical community of how autism presents at different ages. There may be many factor responsible to increase namely nuclear families, less of interaction because of single child. Both parents working, more of screen time etc

Only boys can have autism.

The sex ratio in Autism is roughly four boys to every girl. So it is certainly true that girls can have Autism, but they tend to be more severely affected than boys. However, this may be because girls with Autism are not as readily recognized. In fact, some evidence suggests we should be using different diagnostic criteria for girls than for boys to take account of these variations.

Autism gives people savant or genius abilities.

The use of the word “savant” comes from older research suggesting that although there are some people with autism who are non-verbal or have a severe cognitive disability, they nevertheless have a fantastic memory, a capacity for drawing, an ability to do elaborate calculations and can read much better than expected. We all have strengths and weaknesses and autistic people are no different. Being autistic doesn’t necessarily make you the next Einstein. Research suggests that around 28% of autistic people have special talents but the reason is still unknown.

Autistic children should only attend separate special needs programs.

Children with Autism benefit from interactions with typical children because it improves their social and communication skills and decreases their repetitive play. So the treatment recommendation now is to keep children in the educational mainstream and only withdraw them under exceptional circumstances, for short periods of time. All children with Autism require a special education plan that takes their lagging areas into account.

You should try to stop an autistic child’s repetitive behaviour.

The important issue here is to understand the function of that repetitive behaviour. Sometimes children engage in repetitive behaviour because they are bored, stressed or playing. The key treatment here is to try and modify that repetitive behaviour so that it becomes more developmentally appropriate and more like typical play. In other words, we need to understand why a child engages in repetitive play and then deal with the underlying cause instead of focusing on the behaviour itself.

Children with autism cannot become independent adults.

The range of outcome possibilities for autistic children is quite remarkable. Many autistic children grow up to be independent adults, who work, develop close friendships and spend life like no autistic individuals. It is likely that most adults with ASD(Autism Spectrum Disorder) will always require some kind of support, but this can sometimes be done at a distance. It is also true that there are many individuals with ASD who require full-time, specialized services as adults and those appropriate supports are available through community services.

Autistic people do not like to be touched

This can be true for some people who have high sensory sensitivities but many individuals with autism enjoy hugs, light massage, and other forms of touch.

Autistic people are dangerous and aggressive in nature

Though there have been news stories relating autism to violence, aggressive acts from autistic individuals usually arise from sensory overload or emotional distress, and it is unusual for individuals with autism to act violently out of malice or pose any danger to society. Many individuals actually prefer to limit their exposure and interactions with other people because social situations can feel confusing and anxiety-provoking.

Autism is caused solely by environmental factors.

Due to the progress of autism in recent decades, a wide range of studies has been done to identify the etiological factors of autism. It has been found that genetic and environmental factors can both be involved in autism pathogenesis. Genes have been identified as one of the causes of autism. Parents whose first child has autism are more likely than the general population to have a second child with autism. However, environmental factors can contribute to symptom severity for many autistic individuals but not for all.

People with autism are cold and lack empathetic feelings.

Individuals with autism feel as much, if not more, empathy as others, but they may express it in ways that are harder to recognize. Some individuals with autism may seem “cold or uncaring” if they are very anxious or if they are expected to show care or empathy in a more “typical” way.

Autism is a childhood condition

Autism is lifelong. Autistic adults have been overlooked in research as it put more emphasis on autistic children. Autism can be improved much more efficiently with treatment at an early age. Research suggests that outcomes can change for people over time if they get the right support, for example with language and communication and anxiety. This can help individuals to lead a better life with fewer difficulties.

Autistic people have learning difficulties

With the right support and a suitable environment, many autistic people are very able and independent. Around 1 in 4 autistic people speak few or no words, but they can find other ways to communicate. Some autistic people take longer to process information, but it doesn’t mean they don’t understand. Many autistic people also have strengths over those without autism. For example, strong attention to detail and a special ability for seeing patterns in data can bring many advantages.

Autistic individuals have an intellectual disability and difficulty speaking

The truth is that some people with autism do also have an accompanying intellectual disability and some people don’t. Remember that autism is not an intellectual disability. Some autistic people can speak and communicate verbally, while others can’t. Some autistic people have higher IQs than other people and some have IQ levels within the average range. Not only is there a complete range in all of these areas, but even those autistic individuals with late-developing speech also develop at different rates and to different levels. There is a wide, wide range of skills, abilities, and communication levels among people on the autism spectrum.

Autism spectrum disorders get worse as children get older.

Autism spectrum disorders are not degenerative. Children and adults with autism should continuously improve. They are most likely to improve with specialized, individualized services and opportunities for supported inclusion. If they are not improving, make changes in service delivery.

People with autism are best suited for jobs that entail repetitive tasks.

Since autism is a spectrum disorder, there is no specific type of job that will be appropriate for all individuals with ASD. While many adults with ASD may enjoy repetitive tasks, it is incorrect to assume a job is a good match solely based on a disability label. Individuals with ASD have many diverse strengths, talents, and skills that would benefit their growth.

People with autism cannot form relationships.

Although social interaction is impaired in autistic people, this does not mean they cannot form relationships with others. Individuals with ASD can and do have fulfilling relationships with family, friends, spouses, and children. In contrast to the previously dominant idea that they prefer social isolation, recent studies have demonstrated that most people with ASD want to form relationships with others. Despite such desire, it is still difficult for people with ASD to navigate social relationships and understand social cues. In addition, it is important for those without ASD to understand the perspective of their friends on the spectrum. As long as individuals without ASD are sensitive to such differences, genuine and long-lasting social relationships are possible between individuals with and without ASD.

Everyone is a little bit autistic

No, there is no such thing as being a little autistic. Many people may show some characteristics of autism from time to time. This may include avoiding bright lights and noises, preferring to be alone and being rigid about rules. There may be certain traits and features which an ASD person can have, but they are not sufficient to label anyone as having sutism.

Autism can be seen only in children

Not only children can have autism. In fact, ASD is a lifelong neurological disability impact. The neurological fission of the brain occurs from the time an individual is implanted in the mother’s womb. It first gets diagnosed in childhood and then the required treatment is provided to reduce the symptoms or to cope with it.

Autism is nothing, it’s just naughty behaviour

People dismiss this condition of ASD just because they think that one is trying to be lazy or using autism-like terms as an excuse to just have a misbehaving kid when it’s not really misbehaving. Autism is something that is inherent and is a part of an autistic individual. It’s not an excuse or naughty behaviour.

Autistic people can’t be good at sports

We all are different and many autistic people excel at athletics. There are plenty of world-class athletes in different sports who are on the autistic spectrum. Jessica-Jane Applegate is a British swimmer with 24 gold medals in the Paralympics. She holds 11 British records and a world record for the 100-meter butterfly.

All ASD people are picky eaters

Autistic people can vary in terms of likes and dislikes. Some of them may/may not be picky eaters. Just like non-autistic people, they are not all the same.

Autism is a recent invention

You might think of autism as a new problem because it has become so much more prevalent in recent years. But it’s actually been in the books for more than 70 years–and our thinking about the condition has changed dramatically during that time. More people are realizing they are autistic because more information about autism has become available.

Autism is a fixed biological disorder based on a single genetic pattern

Current research suggests that there is no single cause of autism, but rather multiple causes working together in a cumulative way, and multiple paths leading to the disorder. While researchers have had evidence for years that altruistic behaviour is at least partly influenced by genetics, that evidence has come mainly from studies of twins reporting how altruistic they are, which have found that people with identical genetic material show similar patterns of altruism.

Autism is a mental illness or mental health condition

Autism isn’t a mental illness and neither is an illness. It’s a neurological condition, that is associated with brain and how one processes things whether it’s visually, hearing, interpreting, replying, etc. Autistic people process the world around them in a different way and this can’t be recognized as a mental illness.

All autistic people are the same

Bust this myth because, just like non-autistic people have different personalities and abilities, the same goes for autistic individuals too. There is a variety of autistic people all around the world and many can be similar too. Similarities in some traits and personalities are common for all kinds of people.

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