About 1 in 68 children have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), yet despite its prevalence this condition is still not well understood. Researchers are still working on determining what autism is and is not and even as we continue to learn more each day, many misconceptions still permeate our thinking. Here we give some common myths and corrected truths about autism.
Myth: Autism is a mental health disorder.
Fact: Autism is a neuro-biological disorder and developmental disability. Autism is a life-long disorder that manifests in early childhood.
Myth: There is an autism epidemic
Fact: There has been a significant surge in diagnoses throughout the years but it is unclear if this increase reflects a higher incidence of the disorder, or rather more public awareness of symptoms and better diagnostic tools. Also, the diagnosis of autism has expanded to include autism spectrum disorders, which encompass more symptoms and conditions, and therefore more cases.
Myth: All children with autism are geniuses.
Fact: While some children with autism may exhibit savant abilities such as being exceptional with numbers or memorization, the vast majority don’t. Some children have what are referred to as “splinter skills,” meaning skills in one or two areas that are above their overall performance abilities. Many children with autism also show an intense interest in particular subjects, and may accrue a great deal of information about it.
Myth: Autism can be cured.
Fact: There is no known cure for autism. It can be managed with treatment and therapy, helping to overcome some of the developmental delays and to help develop communication and social skills. However no drug, supplement, food or therapy can completely alleviate autism.
Myth: People with autism are unemotional or lack feelings.
Fact: People with autism do not lack feelings or emotions. They can love, become frustrated or angry. They may not have the skills involved in expressing and communicating those feelings in the same way others do and they may not have the ability to recognize feelings in others. People with autism can build skills in this area and learn to respond to other people more appropriately.
Myth: People with autism prefer to be alone.
Fact: People with autism often want to have social interaction but may lack the ability to spontaneously develop effective social interaction skills. They may find it hard to understand how they are supposed to behave around other people. As children get older they may stop seeking out social interaction not because they want to be alone but because they are failing to make connections. It also may be a source of deep anxiety and so they choose to avoid those situations.
Myth: Vaccines can cause autism, specifically childhood vaccines such as the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) immunization. Another theory blames the mercury that was formerly used in vaccinations.
Fact: There’s no scientific evidence to support this, and large-scale studies have failed to find any links between vaccinations and autism spectrum disorder.