Myths Regarding Autism
April is autism awareness month and therefore we wanted to do a post on autism awareness. We want to discuss aspects that people may not know about autism. There continues to be a lot of misconceptions and false beliefs regarding autism as well as the individuals on the spectrum. So today we would like to discuss some of these things as it is important to us that we move away from offensive stereotypes towards a more inclusive and accepting space.
We aim to raise this awareness so that we can work towards a more understanding and stigma free society in terms of autism. Over the month we will be "myth busting" as well on our social media pages. If you are interested in following this please go to our Facebook or Instagram pages:
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Myths revolving around Autism:
1. All individuals on the Autism Spectrum are like the character from the movie Rain Man
I decided to start with this one as this is a common misconception. Firstly, this is false and offensive! Secondly, just like neuro-typical people, neuro-divergent people are all different. If you have met one person on the spectrum you have met one person on the spectrum. We need to stop boxing people in and assuming that they are all the same!
2. Individuals on the Autism Spectrum are mentally or intellectually disabled
This too is false: neuro-divergent people are not mentally or intellectually disabled. Neuro-divergent means different not less. Think of a neuro-divergent brain as having different wiring or a different operating system. There is nothing wrong with autistic/neuro-divergent people. It is time that we start to celebrate neuro-diversity and not judge it.
I have often been asked, is there a cure or can you fix it? These types of questions are infuriating and also very offensive to individuals on the spectrum. Firstly, clinically speaking autism is defined as a neuro-developmental disorder characterized by challenges in social interaction and communication as well as restricted or repetitive patterns of thought and behavior.
I understand why there is this definition in place however I do not like the use of the word "disorder". I hope that we eventually move away from terms like this as it is a spectrum and in my opinion we are on a spectrum: it is the human spectrum.
Different neurological wiring calls for different needs. If we lived in a society that catered for these different needs then there would not be this view that there is something "wrong" with individuals on the spectrum or that they are abnormal is some way.
I will say that there many individuals across the globe that are working towards that in different spheres: whether it is a hairdresser that caters to the needs of autistic children or a restaurant that is autism friendly for parents and children or an airport lounge that has sensory room. These types of movements are becoming more prevalent and are imperative to working towards such a society.
Is there a cure?
Furthermore there is no cure as there is no need for a cure: autism is not a disease or sickness that needs curing! We need to stop looking at individuals on the spectrum as if they need one. When you try to understand how their brain is wired you then start to understand why certain aspects of their behavior may seem different. This is why information and awareness is so important. People do not know enough and that is what leads to these misconceptions.
Thus there is no cure however there are ways to support and assist individuals on the spectrum who need it in order to cope with challenges they may come across in a world that does not fully cater to their needs. These type of support structures depend on the individual and their family. They range from different types of therapy to other forms of support (groups, therapy dogs and so on).
3. Autistic people do not feel and experience emotions:
This is another myth that is very common and is 100% incorrect! Children and adults most definitely experience and feel emotions. The difference is they may not express them in the same way as neuro-typical people. Due to this, a false opinion has emerged that they do not have feeling or emotions.
They feel every emotion just like everyone else sometimes even more so. The challenges may arise with expressing them or verbalizing their understanding of other's emotions. This is once again why awareness is necessary in order to exercise patience understanding and acceptance.
4. Autism is caused by vaccines
Another misconception is that autism is caused by vaccines, this is not true. Research regarding the causation of autism has come a long way over the years since the period of Leo Kanner and the "refrigerator mother theory" to where we are today. Research has demonstrated that there is not one cause. Current research shows that genetic factors play the biggest role in the explanation of its development as well as other factors such as a possible predisposition or genetic vulnerability.
5. Parents are responsible for autism
This one is also an important myth to discuss as this is absolutely not true and is quite harmful to parents. It is hard enough being a parent, never mind a parent of a child who has special needs. As mentioned above our society is not exist in a way that makes life easier for individuals with different needs. So being a parent in this environment brings a whole new bundle of challenges.
It is a fact that parents are not to blame. So it is important that this is known as the parents themselves have enough on their plate and they do not need the false blame on top of it. The out dated 'refrigerator theory" (mentioned above) was very detrimental to mothers as it claimed that "cold mothers" were responsible for autism. This again is not true and research has disproved it. So we wanted to make this clear.
6. Autism is a childhood disorder
This is the final myth we want to discuss in this article. Some people are under the impression that it is a childhood disorder and that children will grow out of it one day. This is not true: children who are on the autism spectrum will grow up to be adults on the autism spectrum.That is why understanding and acceptance is so important.
If society as a whole can work together towards acceptance we can then hopefully exist in a world that caters for neuro-typical and neuro-divergent individuals. Until that time we will continue to try and raise awareness and if you would like to read about other myths, we will be discussing more on our social media pages throughout the month.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. We hope it was valuable in some way. We would like to re-iterate that if you want to contribute to the content of the related topics or read more please contact us or follow our social media pages. We hope you are all safe and well during this time!