6 Myths About Autism (and Why They Are False)

6 myths about Autism (and why they are false)

The experience of neurodivergences and psychological and emotional disorders has been stigmatized throughout history. After so long in the shadows, mental illnesses and conditions have been surrounded by ignorance and stigma. In short, the general population maintains false beliefs and myths around mental illness that promote these stigmas and make the social inclusion of these people more complex.

Autism has also been stigmatized, prejudged and underestimated, establishing different beliefs and myths in the collective social imagination about what this mental condition means and living with it. Maintaining these beliefs makes people with autism feel judged and socially isolated, making their normalization almost impossible and having to face daily stigmas that do not represent or identify them.

It is important to base the information we have and share with other people on scientific knowledge; even more urgently if we talk about issues related to health and psychological or neuronal conditions. In this article, we will focus on dismantling six myths related to autism, which have been fed for a long time and promoting lies and false beliefs about this condition.

What is autism?

Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a neurological condition that affects brain development and manifests itself in early childhood. It is characterized by difficulties in communication, social interaction, and repetitive or restrictive patterns of behavior. Importantly, autism is a spectrum, meaning there is wide variability in how it presents and the severity of symptoms among affected people.

The characteristics of autism can manifest in many different ways. Some autistic people have difficulty understanding and responding to social cues, which can lead to problems in non-verbal communication, such as eye contact and body language. Others may have repetitive interests or activities and show sensory sensitivity to stimuli such as sound, light, or touch.

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Despite these difficulties, autistic people also have many unique strengths and abilities. Some may have exceptional visual and creative thinking, while others have a detailed memory or an ability to focus intensely on specific areas of interest. It is important to recognize that autism does not define a person as a whole; It’s just a part of who they are.

Early diagnosis and appropriate support are essential for autistic people to realize their full potential and live full and meaningful lives. With understanding, acceptance, and access to appropriate resources and services, autistic people can achieve their goals and contribute valuable contributions to society.

6 myths about autism (and their realities)

Below and throughout the rest of this article, we will comment on different myths and false beliefs around autism, also proposing the truths and realities that dismantle them and generate knowledge derived from science and truth.

1. Autism is caused by vaccines

One of the most persistent and dangerous myths about autism is the belief that it is related to vaccines. This idea arose from a fraudulent study published in 1998, which was later retracted and discredited by the scientific community. Numerous comprehensive studies have consistently shown that there is no connection between vaccines and autism.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) have endorsed the safety and effectiveness of vaccines as a crucial measure to prevent serious diseases and protect public health. The perpetuation of this myth can have serious consequences, as it discourages vaccination, putting the health of not only autistic children, but the entire community at risk.

2. People with autism do not have empathy nor can they relate to others

This is a myth that arises from a misunderstanding of the social cues that some autistic people may present. It is important to understand that the ability to experience empathy and establish social relationships may manifest differently in autistic people. While some may have difficulty understanding conventional social cues, this does not mean they lack empathy or desire meaningful relationships with others.

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In fact, many autistic people have deep empathy and emotional connection with others, although they may express it differently. They may be sensitive to the emotions of others and have a genuine desire to help and support those around them. It is important to challenge this myth and recognize the richness and diversity of human experiences, including those of autistic people.

3. Autism is a disease that needs a cure

The roots of this myth arise from a misperception of autism as a disease that must be treated and “cured.” In reality, autism is a neurodivergent condition that is part of a person’s identity. It is not a disease that needs to be eradicated, but a natural variation in brain functioning. While it is true that some autistic people may face challenges in areas such as communication and social interaction, these difficulties do not invalidate their worth as individuals.

Instead of focusing on finding a “cure” for autism, it is more important to provide adequate support and resources to help autistic people develop skills, reach their full potential and live meaningful and fulfilling lives. We must promote acceptance and inclusion of neurodiversity rather than seeking a “cure” for a condition that is integral to who autistic people are.

4. All autistic people have extraordinary abilities

This false belief arises from the stereotypical representation of autism in the media, where the exceptional abilities of some autistic people, such as photographic memory or musical talent, are emphasized. However, it is important to recognize that autism is a spectrum and that each person is unique, with their own strengths and challenges.

While some autistic people may have exceptional abilities in specific areas, many others do not have outstanding abilities. Instead, They may have interests and talents similar to those of any neurotypical person. Focusing attention solely on the extraordinary abilities of some autistic people can perpetuate stereotypes and make it difficult to understand diversity within the autism spectrum. It is essential to recognize and value the abilities and contributions of all autistic people, regardless of whether they have exceptional abilities or not.

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5. Autistic people will never be able to have an independent or successful life

This myth is based on a limited and inaccurate view of the potential of autistic people. In reality, many autistic people lead independent and successful lives in a variety of fields and professions. With the right support and opportunities, autistic people can achieve their goals and contribute meaningfully to society.

It is important to recognize that success and independence can be defined differently for each person. For some autistic people, success may mean having a fulfilling job, living independently, building meaningful relationships, or simply being happy and healthy. Instead of limiting the expectations of autistic people, we must provide them with the support necessary to develop their skills, overcome obstacles and pursue their dreams, allowing them to live full and meaningful lives.

6. Autism is just a childhood disorder

These false beliefs center on the misconception that autism is a condition that only affects children and disappears as they grow older. In reality, autism is a condition that affects people throughout their lives. Although it is true that autism is usually diagnosed in childhood, characteristics and challenges associated with autism may persist into adolescence and adulthood.

The needs and challenges of an autistic person may evolve over time, but autism is an integral part of their identity and can influence their experiences throughout life. It is important to recognize and support autistic people at all stages of their development, providing them with the tools and resources necessary to thrive and reach their full potential at every stage of life.

Conclusions

In short, myths about autism can lead to misunderstanding and stigmatization. It is crucial to challenge these misconceptions and promote understanding and acceptance of neurodiversity. Autism is not a disease that needs to be cured, but rather an integral part of a person’s identity.

Each autistic individual is unique, with their own strengths and challenges. By providing appropriate support and inclusive opportunities, we can help autistic people reach their full potential and contribute meaningfully to society. Acceptance and respect are essential to building a more inclusive and compassionate world.