If you have ever heard that your child “doesn’t look autistic” or “isn’t it amazing that he has such good eye contact, how could he possibly be autistic?”, then you are aware that there are many myths about autism. These are the most common myths about autism that I hear in my autism center and when I talk with people about my work with autism families.
Myths about autism
People with autism don’t want to make friends.
If you’re the parent of a child with autism then you know that this is not true. Your child wants to have friends and spend time with others but is most likely not aware of the social cues and codes necessary to come into contact with others and spend time playing with another child. Engaging your child in pretend play games and inviting another child into these games with your child (and guided by you) is one way to start helping your child make friends.
Related post : Pretend Play Ideas for Kids with Autism
Most people with autism are just like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman.
In the well known 80s film, Dustin Hoffman was what is referred to as an “autistic savant”, defined as having some kind of extraordinary skill (such as being able to count out the matches that fall on the ground in the film). Approximately 10% of the autistic population would be characterized as being an “autistic savant”.
Autistic people don’t feel emotions.
Individuals with autism have trouble expressing their emotions, particularly using verbal language. This doesn’t mean that they don’t feel emotion. They do and they need your help expressing their emotions. Difficulty in expressing emotions can result in meltdowns and other problematic behaviors.
Related post : 10 Calm Down Strategies for Kids with Autism
Individuals with autism have below average intelligence.
Many individuals with autism are highly intelligent. Those with autism are often acutely aware of details and notice things that others don’t which can be a benefit.
With time, difficult or adhd behaviors will change on their own as children with autism grow up.
Children with autism do not just grow out of difficult behaviors. They need specific help dealing with the challenges of autism, therapy to build speech and communication skills and support facing any particular challenges that come up at home, at school and in the outside world.
Autism is caused by distant, cold or absent mothers.
This is one of the myths about autism that is the worst of all, as so many mothers (and fathers and children) have suffered because of it. A myth made popular by Dr. Bruno Bettelheim in his book The Empty Fortress (1967), he blames so called “refrigerator mothers” for not bonding with their children at birth and therefore, causing autism. His theory has been discredited.
Children with autism can’t learn.
Sadly, there are still some countries where the general idea is that individuals with autism are incapable of learning. When I say what I do here in France, people often ask me if my students ever see any progress or if our time is wasted. People often don’t know what they’re getting into when they ask me these kinds of questions because I begin to list all of the profound progress I have experienced with my hundreds of students since beginning my work with individuals with autism 16 years ago! I am so proud of them and their progress and am always happy to be able to discredit the false belief that people with autism can’t progress. This blog is full of activities that will help your child progress.
Related post : Fabulous and Free Autism Resources
People with autism aren’t affectionate.
Sensory stimulation is processed differently in individuals with autism which can sometimes result in an aversion to being touched or close to others. However, they are affectionate. They just tend to give and receive affection differently and therefore, it is necessary to follow their rhythm, go at their specific pace and always respect their boundaries.
Related post : 21 Benefits of Sensory Play for Autism
Individuals with autism hate loud noises.
Again, this goes back to processing sensory stimulation in a different way than other people. Some people with autism are extremely aversive to loud noises whereas others are not bothered by them at all. It depends on the child/adolescent/adult (as with all individuals with autism).
Only boys can be autistic.
There are more autistic males than females at this time, although it seems that rates of autism in girls is on the rise. Currently, the ratio is 3:1 (boys/girls).
Individuals with autism cannot speak.
People with autism develop language differently. Typically developing babies typically learn to imitate sounds and behaviours naturally just after birth. Children with autism need additional help, first to learn to imitate and then to develop language step by step.
Related posts : Activities for building speech & language skills
Autism only affects children, who eventually “grow out of” their autism diagnosis.
Autism is considered to be a life-long diagnosis at this time. Although people with autism can make such tremendous progress through adapted therapies that they can “place off of the spectrum”. As an autism diagnosis is basically a behavior checklist, if someone no longer has the behaviours on the checklist, he or she could officially lose the diagnosis in some places (like the US). Here in France, there are no known cases of a child having their diagnosis officially removed, despite significant improvement and progress in their therapy programs, at this time.
People with autism hate to travel and must have the same routine day after day.
When I asked our Special Learning House community over on our Facebook page if their children liked to travel, I received a resounding NO!!! However, some parents added “well, actually she loves to take the bus”, “he loves to travel to new places”, “we have always traveled since birth and he is always excited about our next family adventure”… Again, this comes back to the idea that people with autism experience differently. For travel to go smoothly, it will most likely be necessary to adapt things for your child, use visual schedules and plan for potential sensitive points, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t travel as a family after an autism diagnosis. You can and you should! Adapt your travel like you adapt your life for your autistic child and the whole family will be happier as a result!
Related post : 8 Tips for Enjoying Travel with Your Autistic Child
Autism is a disease.
Autism is not a disease. Autism is a complex neurological disorder. Individuals with autism are different, not less. They are not sick.
Children with autism don’t have a sense of humor.
I wish I knew how many times the children I have worked with over the past 16 years have made me laugh over the years so that I could share a specific number with you here. Let’s just say A LOT! Autism can be difficult, it challenges us, it provokes challenges and difficulty learning and family challenges, but it is also sometimes really funny. My little learners say and do things sometimes in our sessions that make me and their parents laugh and laugh and laugh. And this is great. This is the beauty of connecting with other people and if you can learn to listen to your child, understand his or her sense of humor and connect over his or her quirky interests, you and your child will be happier as a result. I promise.
If I miss anything on my list of Autism myths and stereotypes, let me know in the comments below!
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