Autism Myths and Truths
"Autism is a developmental disability that is caused by differences in how the brain functions. People with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in different ways,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to this agency, one in 59 children have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Although autism may be common, there are some myths and misinformation.
Myth # 1: Autism is caused by vaccinations.
One of the common misconceptions about ASD is that childhood vaccinations, such as MMR, cause kids to develop autism. According to the CDC and the Institute of Medicine, there is no link between vaccines and autism.
Myth # 2: All people with autism are geniuses.
A common misconception is that all people with autism spectrum disorder are geniuses, can do difficult math problems in their heads or have a special gift. True, some people with ASD do have unique talents and gifts. However, extreme cases, like the one seen in the movie Rainman, are rare. As our culture progresses in understanding autism, we acknowledge that many people with autism have high intelligence, great attention to detail, and view the world in a different way that is valued in work environments. This opens a new set of opportunities in the workforce for people with autism.
Myth # 3: People with autism don’t want friends.
It is true that many people with ASD struggle to understand social norms, which may cause them to feel isolated or to value alone time more than group settings. The myth here is that people with autism do not want friends or value close relationships. They do. Everyone needs friends, attention, love and acceptance, and all people deserve it as well. People with ASD may need friends that are understanding and supportive of their social struggles and may benefit from support groups that help them build social skills.
Myth # 4: People with autism don’t experience emotions.
Those who have autism may find it hard to understand other people’s feelings and read body language, but that does not mean they do not have emotions themselves. They have feelings of joy, sadness, anger and frustration just like everyone else. They may have trouble expressing their emotions or show them differently than others, but they still experience normal highs and lows.
Myth # 5: Autism can be cured.
Over the years, as ASD diagnosis has become more common, there have been many ideas about how it can be cured. Some examples include removing gluten from the diet, taking vitamins, eliminating mercury from the diet and other fads. Parents typically turn to these ideas because they are concerned for their children and desperate for a cure. Studies have shown that none of these fads have worked, and autism cannot be cured. What is encouraging is the positive changes that can come from behavioral therapy that helps kids develop communication and social skills and gives people the tools to succeed in school and the workforce.
People with autism do respond differently to many situations, but as we learn more about ASD, we find that not all of the characteristics are negative, and people can be happy, successful and maintain healthy relationships with support and understanding from people around them.
Sarah Lyons is a freelance writer that lives in Olathe with her family.
As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.