Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a diverse group of conditions. One of the primary symptoms include difficulty in social communication and interactions.
Since the symptoms of ASD are so diverse it is easy to believe the misinformation and myths. Today, let’s explore the 15 common myths about ASD and learn the truth.
Myth #1: Autism is a disease
Many people ask whether autism is a disease.
Truth: Well, the truth is that autism is a developmental disorder. It is NOT a disease. Autism is a spectrum disorder that affects the cognitive, emotional, and social skills of an individual.
ASD may present itself as a combination of unique cognitive and behavioral traits in the individual.
Myth #2: Autism has a cure
Can autism be cured? Is there a perfect treatment available for this spectrum disorder? Its among the most frequently asked questions about ASD.
Truth: Since ASD is a developmental disorder, and not a disease, it has no cure. Speech therapy for autism, play therapy, and behavioral therapy can help an individual reduce the impact of the spectrum disorder on their life.
The individual can develop adaptive skills necessary for daily life. They may acquire skills for behavior and emotion regulation, as well as, social engagement.
Myth #3: Vaccines can cause autism
Can vaccines cause autism?
Truth: Research shows that autism is a result of genetic and non-genetic factors working together. Vaccines provide immunity against preventable diseases such as measles, tetanus, and rabies.
Several studies have tried & failed to establish a link between vaccination and autism.
There is no component in any vaccine that can alter the genetic makeup of a child or an adult. Vaccines can't cause autism.
Myth #4: Everyone with autism is a savant
Truth: Autism spectrum disorder has a wide range of symptoms. These symptoms vary in severity in each individual.
One common symptom of ASD is intense interest in a particular topic or niche. That can make a child or adult excellent in sketching, painting, photography, coding, or music. However, only around 10% of all individuals with autism have these savant skills.
Myth #5: Those with autism have intellectual disability
Truth: Children on the autism spectrum are unique. They have different "languages" of expressing their needs, desires, and emotions. It is not always possible for us to understand their unique ways of expression. However, they don’t always have an intellectual disability.
Traditional IQ tests are not suitable to measure the different types of intelligence in children with autism. If you have doubts about your child's intellectual abilities, you should speak to an SLP or an expert in autism.
Myth #6: Individuals with autism don’t feel emotions
Truth: Individuals with autism may feel the full range of emotions. Each individual (without autism) has different ways of expressing the same emotion. A person with a unique set of behavioral traits may express each emotion non-traditionally.
Individuals with ASD experience social communication disorder (SCD). Therefore, it is common for those with autism to have trouble recognizing and responding to the emotions of others. They may feel joy, sadness, anger, irritation, and shame just like anyone else. However, it is difficult for them to express these emotions conventionally.
Myth #7: Everyone with autism has learning disabilities
Truth: Each person has different ways of learning. Some learn by reading. Some learn by watching videos. While others may learn through listening.
A person with autism may have a unique way of learning that does not match the traditional style of education. Many children who receive an ASD diagnosis require special education. However, others may only require speech therapy, behavior therapy, and play therapy sessions before they begin to attend traditional school. If your child with ASD is facing trouble with learning, professional speech therapy can help.
Myth #8: Autism is a result of bad parenting
Truth: The 1940s saw the rise of the “refrigerator mother hypothesis.” It stated that coldness or lack of maternal warmth causes autism. However, Bernard Rimland, the founder and director of the Autism Research Institute, debunked this theory.
Bad parenting may put children at high risk of their own relationship problems, anxiety, aggression, and depression. However, it does not cause autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Myth #9: Children can “grow out” of autism
Truth: Since it is referred to as a "developmental disorder," many believe that children grow out of autism. Autism is a lifelong diagnosis. Children cannot "overcome" the symptoms of ASD on their own.
Early interventions are always necessary for reducing the symptoms and impact of ASD in a child. Some form of therapy is almost always necessary for children to counter the effect of social communication disorder (SCD).
Myth #10: Special diets can cure autism
Can some foods help cure autism?
Truth: Autism has no links to foods. No diets can cure autism.
Children with autism often show a preference for particular food items. They may express a strong aversion to foods of certain color and texture. They are often labeled as "picky eaters."
If your child shows preference or aversion to specific food items, talk to a nutritionist to create a completely balanced diet out of food items they like.
Myth #11: There has been an autism epidemic
Truth: Autism isn't new. It was always as prevalent as it is today. Now, we have better tools & methods for evaluating children for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The resources and awareness about ASD have increased over time.
The tools help us make a comprehensive diagnosis at an early stage. It has resulted in 1 in 68 children receiving an ASD diagnosis in the US. As a result, numerous children with ASD are receiving the care, support, and therapy they need at an early age.
Myth #12: Autism is only non-verbal
Truth: Several individuals with autism are high-functioning. People with autism can become researchers, professors, teachers, actors, singers, and composers.
When the autism spectrum disorder symptoms are severe, a child may be non-speaking. In such cases, speech therapy for non-verbal ASD can encourage the child to express themselves. Sometimes, a very young non-speaking child attending speech therapy can acquire some speech. In other cases, the speech therapist teaches the child to use augmentative and alternative forms of communication (AAC).
A child may use sign language, picture boards, and/or computer systems to "speak."
Myth #13: Individuals with autism are aggressive
Truth: Children on the autism spectrum may find it frustrating at times when they are unable to express themselves. They may also be hypersensitive to specific textures, sounds, and smells. Children with ASD also do not like changes in their daily routine and environment.
Exposure to environments they find “upsetting” can trigger outbursts. Parents and onlookers often mistake these for “temper tantrums.” However, it is how your child is trying to tell you that they are uncomfortable.
Talk to a behaviorist to find the right thing you can do during those moments. Typically, removing the factors causing the sensory overload or emotional distress can aid in calming the child.
Myth #14: Autism is a mental health problem
Truth: Autism is NOT a mental health disorder. It is neuro-developmental in nature. Several studies on individuals diagnosed with ASD have revealed anomalous brain structure and neurotransmitter activities.
However, anyone with autism is at high risk of developing a mental health issue later in life. The most common mental health problems among those with ASD include depression, anxiety, conduct disorder, and ADHD.
Myth #15: Individuals with autism are unwilling to form social relationships
Truth: Individuals with ASD have difficulty forming new social relationships. However, history shows that many individuals with ASD have close relationships, have romantic relationships, and go on to have their own families.
They may have their own ways to express love and affection. Nonetheless, it’s not proof that people on the spectrum are cold and unwilling to form relationships.