11 Myths About Autism

Myths about autism still abound in society, and we see these people as a homogeneous group. Nothing is further from reality. In this article we break down 11 myths associated with autism.
11 Myths About Autism
Laura Ruiz Mitjana

Written and verified by la psicóloga Laura Ruiz Mitjana.

Last update: 17 July, 2021

Myths about autism are widespread in society, unfortunately. For this reason, it’s important to highlight all these myths and state the reality.

Autism is a very heterogeneous disorder, which occurs very differently in each person. Using the knowledge of the uniqueness of each one of them, it’s possible to understand what the person needs and put aside the myths and stereotypes associated with this group.

In this article, we’ll look at 11 myths about autism and explain why they’re just myths. Don’t miss it!

11 myths about autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurobiological disorder that may or may not lead to intellectual disability. They’re people with a series of difficulties in the social and communicative area, with very restricted interests.

There’s a lot of talk about autism, but is everything that’s said true? Not at all. For this reason, it’s important to promote public understanding and awareness in order to favor the inclusion of people with ASD.

1. Autism is a disease

The myths about autism are many
It’s very common to think ASD is a disease, as it’s often seen as a “disability.” However, this condition goes much further.

Autism is not a disease, it is a disorder of neurobiological origin related to the development of the nervous system. Neither is it contagious nor can it be contracted at a certain point in life. So, a person with autism isn’t sick, but autism is a life condition that often leads to disability.

2. Autism has a cure

Autism has no cure. First and foremost because it isn’t a disease. And, secondly, because it’s such a complex condition with so many factors involved.

There’s treatment to improve these people’s quality of life so that they learn to communicate better and, ultimately, so that they enjoy as normal a life as possible. Psychotropic drugs can also help in this regard. But there’s no treatment to “cure” autism.

3. Vaccines can cause autism

Currently, the medical and scientific community around the world supports the conclusion that theres no evidence linking vaccination to the development of an autism spectrum disorder.

4. People with autism don’t communicate

Another myth about autism has to do with how these people communicate. It’s not at all true that individuals with ASD don’t communicate. In fact, all people with autism communicate, although each of them, due to their own particular difficulties, does so in one way or another.

Some people with ASD don’t have verbal language, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t communicate. They simply do it differently. For example, through alternative or augmentative communication systems (such as PECS, Picture Exchange Communication System).

5. People with ASD have special abilities

While it’s true that some people with autism have special abilities, the truth is that not all of them are like that. This group is very heterogeneous in every way, including this one.

A small portion of people with ASD do have “special abilities.” Quite often, these talents are related to the way their brain works, or to the specific and restricted interests they have because of their condition.

6. There are more men than women with ASD

Until now, it had been observed that there were many more men than women with ASD. However, in recent years experts have realised that certain factors make diagnosis difficult in girls or women.

There are also diagnostic biases and girls are considered to be underdiagnosed. In relation to this point, it has been hypothesized that this may be related to their greater social skills, which make them “camouflage” or “go unnoticed” more easily.

7. Lack of parental love can lead to autism

Myths about autism include some social problems
Although the difficulty for social interaction is a basic element of ASD, it’s expressed in very different ways in each person.

This is a very old theory that has been totally ruled out today. Although the exact cause of autism is not yet known (and in fact, a multifactorial origin is put forward), the truth is that the education received has nothing to do with its origin (as its origin is neurobiological).

We now know that autism has an important genetic component. In addition, as we said in a previous point, you can’t “catch” it – either the child is born with it or they aren’t.

8. People with autism avoid contact with others

Although it’s true that people with ASD have social difficulties, it isn’t true that each and every one of them prefers to be isolated and without any contact with others. We insist: autism is a very heterogeneous disorder, and people with autism are very different from each other, in many different ways.

People with autism can indeed have an interest in other people, but their disorder can make it difficult for them to handle social situations. T hese difficulties can cause them a lot of frustration, which is why they may be prone to avoiding social contact.

In addition, their sensory hypersensitivity (which doesn’t always appear) can make them uncomfortable in crowded places. However this isn’t so much because of the people, but rather because they find the social situation itself overwhelming.

9. Autism involves typical physical traits

There is no specific phenotype in autism, as there is, for example, in Down syndrome. Thus, people with autism aren’t characterized by being physically similar.

In fact, the manifestations of the disorder are essentially behavioral in nature. That’s why autism is diagnosed based on the condition (the symptoms that can be observed), and not based on physical features.

10. All people with autism have intellectual disabilities

Another myth about autism has to do with intellectual disability. Although it’s true that many of the people with autism have an associated degree of intellectual disability (which can be mild, moderate or severe), not all have this condition.

In fact, some people with ASD have above-average intelligence. In this sense, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), it’s estimated that 50% of people with ASD also suffer from an intellectual disability.

11. People with autism are aggressive

Aggression isn’t a characteristic associated with autism. Logically, there may be aggressive people with autism, but this has nothing to do with their condition.

It does have to do, for example, with the fact that when having certain social difficulties (for example, when they don’t understand certain situations), or due to their social anxiety, they can often manifest behavior disorders (especially in childhood), which include aggressiveness.

However, we can’t generalize, because the appearance of this behavior often arises due to their lack of adaptation to the environment or to situations that generate stress (which they could cope with better cope with the necessary support).

People with autism, not autistic people

We believe it’s important to highlight this. People with autism are associated with this condition, but they aren’t only this condition.

The diagnosis is part of their life, it’s true, but it shouldn’t define it. Beyond their autism, there’s a unique person who suffers, laughs, cries, has fun, and lives in their own way, just as people without autism do.

We’d like to encourage you to continue learning about this disorder because it’s the only way to dispel the myths about autism. We do this through information and, above all, with education and visibility.

“Disability doesn’t define you, it defines how you cope with the challenges that disability presents.”

-Jim Abbott-

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