You’ve probably heard lots of thoughts and ideas about autism, but we want to make sure you know what is true and what is false. Our Family Services and Science department put together 11 myths about autism to help put an end to any misconceptions. All of these are great for students to share with their classmates. If you’re in college, get involved with Autism Speaks U, a program that supports college students in their awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts.
1. Myth: People with autism don’t want friends.
Truth: If someone in your class has autism, they probably struggle with social skills, which may make it difficult to interact with peers. They might seem shy or unfriendly, but that’s just because he or she is unable communicate their desire for relationships the same way you do.
2. Myth: People with autism can’t feel or express any emotion—happy or sad.
Truth: Autism doesn’t make an individual unable to feel the emotions you feel, it just makes the person communicate emotions (and perceive your expressions) in different ways.
3. Myth: People with autism can’t understand the emotions of others.
Truth: Autism often affects an individual’s ability to understand unspoken interpersonal communication, so someone with autism might not detect sadness based solely on one’s body language or sarcasm in one’s tone of voice. But, when emotions are communicated more directly, people with autism are much more likely to feel empathy and compassion for others.
4. Myth: People with autism are intellectually disabled.
Truth: Often times, autism brings with it just as many exceptional abilities as limitations. Many people with autism have normal to high IQs and some may excel at math, music or another pursuit.
5. People with autism are just like Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man.
Truth: Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning its characteristics vary significantly from person to person. Knowing one person with autism means just that—knowing one person with autism. His or her capabilities and limitations are no indication of the capabilities and limitations of another person with autism.
6. Myth: People who display qualities that may be typical of a person with autism are just odd and will grow out of it.
Truth: Autism stems from biological conditions that affect brain development and, for many individuals, is a lifelong condition.
7. Myth: People with autism will have autism forever.
Truth: Recent research has shown that children with autism can make enough improvement after intensive early intervention to “test out” of the autism diagnosis. This is more evidence for the importance of addressing autism when the first signs appear.
8. Myth: Autism is just a brain disorder.
Truth: Research has shown that many people with autism also have gastro-intestinal disorders, food sensitivities, and many allergies.
9. Myth: Autism is caused by bad parenting.
Truth: In the 1950s, a theory called the “refrigerator mother hypothesis” arose suggesting that autism was caused by mothers who lacked emotional warmth. This has long been disproved.
10. Myth: The prevalence of autism has been steadily increasing for the last 40 years.
Truth: The rate of autism has increased by 600% in the last 20 years. In 1975, an estimated 1 in 1,500 had autism. In 2009, an estimated 1 in 110 had an autism spectrum disorder.
11. Myth: Therapies for people with autism are covered by insurance.
Truth: Most insurance companies exclude autism from the coverage plan and only half of the 50 states currently require coverage for treatments of autism spectrum disorders.
If you’re interested in raising awareness in college, visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.
This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a graduate student at Seton Hall University, and is actively involved with our college program. Autism Speaks U is an initiative designed to support college students in their awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts.
“My 5 year old son was just diagnosed with PDD-NOS and has no speech. Will he ever be able to speak?”
While the young mother stood before me in tears, I felt trapped; trapped because I couldn’t tell her that everything was going to be alright.
When I look back at my life, that 6 year old boy, going into first grade with so much anger, and so many emotions, it was almost too much. I knew back then I was mad. I was lashing out because I didn’t know how to communicate in an appropriate manner. That was almost 16 years ago. I was that 6 year old again. What would it take for her son to be able to speak one day? Would he be as lucky as me?
So, I surprised myself. I hugged her. I hugged this complete stranger for what probably ended up being 5 minutes. No words were said. I could only hear her sobbing and I almost joined her several times. I knew I couldn’t answer her question, but by telling her about my journey, I could give her hope.
I reflected back to the journey that I had had led me to where I am today. The therapies, the special need classrooms, the accommodations, the hate, the ignorance, the awareness, the drama, the acceptance, the struggle, the tears, the heartache, the strength, the friends, my mom, my dad, and above all else the love that has made my journey worth every second.After we hugged I told her my story. I told her about that 6 year old boy and how he became who I was today. 15 minutes later tears of uncertainty had become tears of hope for not only her but for her son.
This is why I speak. Each time I share my story I pray that I’m making an impact on a parent, a family, a friend, etc. for the future of the autism movement. I may not be a scientist, or an expert in the field, I just know what it’s like to grow up–and thrive with autism. So, if you have autism, especially those young adults out there who are trying to spread awareness at the college level or beyond, tell your story.
It’s time for all of us to listen.
*I shared this story with my friend Laura Shumaker on her official website here as well. Thanks Everyone!*
This is one of my Autism Speaks U related blog posts. If you would like to contact me directly about questions/comments related to this post I can be reached at email@example.com or through my Facebook Page here.