Myths + misconceptions about autism
This lack of understanding can make it difficult for people on the autism spectrum to have their condition recognised and to access the support they need. Misconceptions can lead to some autistic people feeling isolated and alone. In extreme cases, it can also lead to abuse and bullying.
Autism spectrum disorder comes with a whole host of myths and misconceptions.
It is a disorder that has been very much misunderstood in the past, from the concept of ‘refrigerator mothers’ to the idea that everyone with autism is like ‘Rain Man’.
And many myths and misconceptions continue today.
Here are the top five myths as we see them, together with an explanation of the real truth!
Myth – Autism is caused by vaccination
There have been many large scale, gold standard scientific studies which have been done and there is simply no scientific evidence to support this.
If it were that simple, we’d know by now. Autism is complex and seems to be caused by many different combinations of genes and environmental influences. Many parents have been seduced by the promise of a quick and easy answer, and the promise of a sudden halt to autism or even a quick cure.
Sadly, life is not straightforward but rest assured that enormous efforts are being made to tease out the genes and the other factors with the aim of understanding autism better and treating its symptoms in a positive way.
Myth – Kids with autism don’t want to make friends
In most cases, simply not true. There are some children and adults who are very aloof and who choose to keep away from other people to a great extent. But the majority of children and adults on the spectrum do like to socialise.
The issue for our children is that they don’t know how to socialise, and they often make mistakes. Being social is like a dance with very complicated steps and often requires quick thinking. It can seem too hard. But slow the dance down and explain the steps and our children can learn.
Being social may make people on the spectrum feel very anxious, especially if they have had failures in the past. But the desire to connect is often there, and it’s up to family, teachers and therapists to help our loved ones to socialise successfully.
Myth – Children with autism can’t learn
They absolutely can, once the rest of us learn to teach them well. The vast majority of children will improve with therapy, but it had to be effective therapy that is tailored for that child.
There are some individuals for whom learning in difficult, and for whom progress will be very slow.
Still, things can change and lives can improve, slowly and steadily, so long as family and teachers are persistent and using an effective method of teaching.
Myth - Autism is caused by bad parenting
Sorry but it just isn’t. Bad parenting will not help any child but it will not cause autism.
Many of us parents feel that we are not great at being parents because our children are not responding to us as a typically developing child does. This is so clear if we have several children and only one is on the spectrum.
However we can become excellent parents to all of our children. And, the better we understand our children, the more they can flourish.
Myth - Just like Rain Man, people with autism have savant skills
Not all people can recite the phone book or tell anyone they meet on what day of the week they were born. Certainly some people can do some amazing memory feats, but this isn’t common.
Many children on the spectrum do share some strengths, such as being visual learners or having a good visual memory. These strengths can be used to help children navigate the world.