With 1 in 59 children in the United States being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, the knowledge surrounding autism needs to grow. However, there in an unfortunate amount of autism myths and misconceptions.
Today, we will be debunking misunderstandings and learning the real facts about autism.
First, where do these autism myths come from?
Some of the autism myths and misconceptions come from fear. Others are caused more by a lack of knowledge and how pop culture portrays autism in film. Just as any other myth, it is easily spread (even more so with social media!).
Autism Myths and Misconceptions
In the last twenty years, there have been huge strides in both the medical and parenting when it comes to autism. With all this change, there are still many that hold on to old and incorrect knowledge. So let’s get started on debunking these myths of autism!
1. Autism is cause by vaccines
“The widespread fear that vaccines increase risk of autism originated with a 1997 study published by Andrew Wakefield, a British surgeon. The article was published in The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal, suggesting that the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine was increasing autism in British children.” –publichealth.org
Unfortunately, fear is a powerful thing. Though experts have been debunking this information for over twenty year, it is still a common misconception. As we have learned from current events, one biased media source can cause a society to uproar based off misconceptions and lies.
2. Children who are autistic lack empathy and emotions.
Autism can make it very hard for a person to express certain emotions, but that does not mean they are nor loving or have normal feelings of happiness, sadness, anger and so on. Some do have more problems than others. My son is the most loving sweet boy ever, but only to “his people.” No I don’t always get hugs or kissing, but his smile is amazing and genuine!
3. “Autism means he’s super smart, right?” “Oh, that’s like down syndrome?”
For some reason, autism and iq seem to go hand in hand when it comes to myths. Every person that has an autism diagnosis is as unique a person as any other person in the world. There isn’t a set correlation between autism and intelligence.
Autism is a bio-neurological developmental disorder, not an intellectual disability. Some are diagnosed with a separate disorder that causes an impact on their IQ. Some are extremely smart, just like any other person with a high IQ without a diagnoses.
4. Autism is new, and over diagnosed.
The term “Autism” was first used in 1908, with the start of what is considered a diagnoses definition in 1943. Even though it is by no means new, gaining a diagnosis is only more recently happening at much early ages. Now, at your child’s 18 month check up, the pediatrician will do an initial screening for signs of autism. With an early diagnosis, children with autism have seen a large improvement in symptoms.
5. People with autism never make eye contact.
Making eye contact is hard for people diagnoses with autism, but it’s not impossible. My two-year old will make very solid eye contact with you, when he wants to. Like many others with a diagnosis, his capabilities of eye contact are inconsistent.
6. Children with autism are not affectionate.
Every one with Autism is just like every other human, we are all different. Some autistic children may be more withdrawn than other, but that does not equal not being affectionate. My son’s version of being affectionate is very different from my non-autistic children. Autism covers a wide array of diagnosis, so no two children diagnosed autistic show the exact same symptoms, or lack of symptoms.
7. People with autism like being alone
Most people diagnoses with autism want friends, but they may lack or struggle with the social skills to gain such relationships. Relationships are not impossible, but may be harder to obtain and keep.
8. It’s just a tantrum, they are just spoiled!
Though a melt down may mimic a tantrum, it is nowhere near the same. A tantrum is outburst of anger or frustration. A melt down from an autistic child is a result of having a sensory overload. This can vary from child to child, my son for example has issues with visual and noise stimuli.
These melt downs don’t end just by taking them out of the environment, or giving him something. He is completely unable to control or stop his response to the situation. This is why you will see some autistic people with noise canceling headphones, as it reduces the noise stimuli for them.
Debunking Autism Myths and Misconceptions
These are just a few of the common misconceptions of autism. A common saying around the autism community sums it up: “When you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” Take a look around our Autism section to learn more.