National Autism Awareness Month

Time To Get The Facts Straight: Here Are 7 Myths About Autism, Debunked

It's so important we stay educated.

April is National Autism Awareness Month. To celebrate and bring awareness throughout the month, we will be highlighting positive stories we love about people with autism, as well as the stories of their friends and families.

Today, there are about one in 68 children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Though the developmental disorder — which is four and a half times more common in boys than girls — is so recognizable, there is still stigma and misunderstandings associated with it. To put some of this to rest, we are debunking seven myths about autism. 

1. Autism is a disease.

 Dubova / Shutterstock
 Dubova / Shutterstock

According to AutismSpeaks.org, "autism is a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences." Autism is not a disease. 

2. People with autism are emotionless.

While it is true many individuals with ASD have trouble identifying and describing their own emotions, let alone everyone else's, this does not mean they don't experience the full range of human emotion themselves.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health published a report saying, "It is widely accepted that autism is associated with disordered emotion processing and, in particular, with deficits of emotional reciprocity such as impaired emotion recognition and reduced empathy."  This means people with autism simply process their feelings differently, not that they don't have them. 

3. People with autism are anti-social.

 PhotoUG / Shutterstock 
 PhotoUG / Shutterstock 

The challenges with social skills people with autism face can sometimes be interpreted as anti-social, but many may want very much to be your friend and find it extremely difficult to express that desire. Be patient. You may just find a friend for life.

4. People with autism are intellectually stunted.

Just like anyone else, people with autism have varying levels of intelligence. People with autism who are nonverbal, however, especially fall victim to the belief that they are intellectually stunted. Sometimes they just need alternative methods of communication. For example, one boy uses Google Street View to give him a voice. Another woman, who is nonverbal, uses a computer to communicate, and even interview celebrities such as Channing Tatum. 

In some other cases, people with a high-functioning autism diagnosis or Asperger Syndrome, have IQs that fall in the normal or even superior range

5. Autism is caused by bad parenting.

 Nataliya Sdobnikova / Shutterstock
 Nataliya Sdobnikova / Shutterstock

In the 1940s the term "refrigerator mother" was born. It indicated that mothers and parents with a lack of warmth caused their children to be autistic or schizophrenic. Psychiatrist Leo Kanner first coined the phrase in 1943 and later described parents of children with autism as "just happening to defrost enough to produce a child." The refrigerator parent theory of autism was largely abandoned during the 1970s.

6. Everyone with autism experiences it in the same way.

Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning it varies across a large spectrum caused by different genetic combinations and environmental factors. Because it is a spectrum, people experience it in very different ways. For some, expressing emotion may be difficult. Others might be very sensitive to any kind of stimulation, another person may have trouble making eye contact, while another person may be nonverbal. Someone may experience all of the above. The point is, ASD manifests differently for every individual. 

7. Autism is curable.

 asife / Shutterstock
 asife / Shutterstock

There is no cure for autism. People with autistic are not sick — they may struggle with communication and social skills. Therefore, autism intervention plans are tailored to address specific needs on a case-by-case basis. In fact, many people with autism suffer from additional medical conditions like sleep disturbance, seizures and gastrointestinal (GI) distress, which is also taken into account when creating unique intervention plans.

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