In recent years, we have seen an increase in the number of television and movie characters who supposedly are on the autism spectrum. Similarly, celebrities have come together to raise awareness of the disorder.
As it has steadily become a more open topic for discussion, there come myths about autism. Believing in these tales can be a dangerous deal, as it may lead to stigma, misunderstanding and even damages to the well-being of those on the spectrum. Now, let’s debunk some of these common misconceptions.
Vaccines Cause Autism
This is a common myth that has been perpetuated by British doctor Andrew Wakefield in 1998. It has since been backed and supported by many celebrities, leading to a considerable following.
However, this 1998 paper was even withdrawn by the publishing journal. After this, Wakefield had his medical license revoked. Additionally, all other researches that have yielded similar conclusions have likewise been retracted. Several studies have also been conducted to debunk these claims, showing that there is no correlation between the two.
Every Case Is The Same
There’s a reason why it’s called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Not every case will be just like the other. Those with autism are said to be “on the spectrum.” This means that each person experiences the condition differently than the other. It will manifest differently in each case, with different symptoms and signs.
Every Person With Autism Has A Special Skill
There are some who believe that those on the autism spectrum have a special skill such as showcased in Rain Man. However, this is not the case. Savant syndrome is a condition in which a person with cognitive or mental disabilities exhibits exemplary skills in a specific area. Some may show great skills in mathematics, science, art or even music.
Oksana Hagerty, Ph.D. supports this by saying, “Society’s strong emphasis on social and emotional ability may be part of the reason people hang on to this myth. The ability to understand emotions and feelings is almost a must-have of any social expansion.”
That being said, not everybody with autism will also have savant syndrome. Statistics state that only 1 in 10 to 200 of those with autism have shown signs of savant syndrome to any degree.
It Is Caused By Bad Parenting
Back in the 1940s, it was believed that lousy parenting such a “lack of maternal warmth” would cause autism. This was further backed by the refrigerator mother theory in the 1950s. They claimed that there was an observed correlation between children with autism and parents who were cold and aloof, especially mothers.
This has since been debunked by several other types of research that show genetic factors to be the actual cause of autism, and not external or environmental factors. The refrigerator mother theory was a harmful belief that discredited many parents who are devoted to their children who are on the spectrum.
However, Tom Hays, Ph.D. warns those who are dubbed as ‘helicopter parents.’ “If there’s one thing I could communicate to parents, it’s that you want to make your child as independent as possible, and what that means is that your child is going to experience some discomfort. I cannot say that enough. And I understand that it’s not easy to do, but in the long run, you will be glad you did it,” he said.
It Is A Childhood Condition
Some believe that autism can be outgrown, as it is only a childhood condition. This is very much false. Autism can carry into adulthood, as there is no known cure. However, it is possible for people to be able to manage signs and symptoms that they no longer appear to be as much of a problem. This can be achieved by receiving appropriate intervention or therapy with a psychiatrist.
“Traditionally, intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has focused upon reducing interfering behavior and teaching language, academic and self-help skills. More recently there has been a greater emphasis upon social skills awareness and skills to independently navigate the social world.” – Marlene Driscoll, MA, LMFT.