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There are many misconceptions about autism, as many people may only know about it from movies and tv shows…but what is it really? Is everyone autistic good at chess, have supernatural savant abilities or are they all non-verbal? Hopefully, this post will help dispells some common myths and misconceptions about autism.
Myth #1: Autism is like how that movie or TV show portrayed autism is for everyone!
When I say the word Autism, what immediately comes to mind? Is it Raymond the autistic savant in Rain man? Or the equally autistic savant surgeon Dr Shaun Murphy in the Good doctor? Or perhaps it is Sheldon from the Big Bang theory who displays autistic traits?
If TV shows and movies are not your thing… Maybe you have experienced a personal encounter with autism in your childhood. Perhaps, you remember that “special kid” in your class that had trouble communicating with the rest of the class or was often disruptive and non-verbal.
Those with autism are often labelled as strange, weird or quirky and often feel ostracised and often become the victims of bullying at school and also in the workplace.
Myth #2: Only boys get autism! Girls don’t!
It was believed previously that there is that there is a 3:1 ratio of diagnosis of autism in boys in comparison to girls. But, current research and efforts to improve the sensitivity of diagnostic testing for autism has revealed that the number of girls is actually higher than they initially thought. The ratio is most likely to be closer to 2:1 ratio autism in boys to girls.
Why is this the case?
This could be from a multitude of factors, but one particular factor is the difference in the way boys and girls tend to act and also the greater understanding of the different signs and symptoms of autism.
In my opinion, girls tend to live a more sheltered life with a lot of them having their behaviour modified at a young age by their mother or father. Girls tend to be better at mimicking and almost like a chameleon trying to blend in with other girls their age. They may have also grown up with ‘neurotypical’ females around them who they copy, either a sister or a close friend/relative, who then teach and mentor them to act like they are “supposed to”. Boy’s don’t tend to do that as much and hence autistic boys are more likely to be diagnosed at an earlier age and if at all in comparison to girls.
These boys are able to get the help they need to help modify their abnormal behaviours and mindsets at an earlier age. Many girls unfortunately who have pretended to be ‘normal’, seep through the cracks in getting diagnosed and thus grow up struggling to understand why they never seem to fit in with others.
Some questions they may ask themselves:
- Why do I never know what to say or do in certain social circumstances?
- How come everyone else knows naturally what to do or say?
- How can I know if this person is my friend or not? Do they like me or not?
- How does body language work and why does it matter?
- What does my tone of voice have to do with anything?
These are only some of the questions autistic people may ask themselves…
Myth# 3: You don’t look like you are autistic! You don’t have to look autistic, to be autistic
Often people misconceptions about people with autism may say, “You can’t be autistic, you don’t look like it!” This can make us who may have autistic feel upset, angry or guilty…are you accusing us of lying and fabricating our diagnosis? You haven’t ever lived in or walked in our shoes before.
Let me ask you, “Does someone have to look like they have high blood pressure to have it? Or does someone have to look like they have kidney cancer to have kidney cancer?”
Physical appearance and attributes are not the only diagnostic markers of people with diseases and if at all for autism.
It’s like judging a book by its cover, you can assume ANYTHING about the book, but unless you open it t and read it, you will not know what is inside.
Myth #4: All autistic people are the same
Autism manifests uniquely differently in each individual and one size does not fit all. Autism has actually been redefined as the ‘Autistic Spectrum Disorder’: It could mean you could be on the more severe ‘Low functioning’ side of the ‘spectrum’ here you may not be even able to speak or communicate with others. On the other hand, you could be ‘ High functioning’ side and live a relatively ‘normal life’, like holding down a steady job, get married and even have kids.
Does that mean that some suffer more than the other? Or does high functioning autistic people not count as having autism? No… they are still autistic and they deserve the help and support that anyone struggling with autism needs.
#Myth #5: Autistic can’t communicate at all and don’t understand other people
I’ve had friends say, when I disclosed my potential for having autism, “You communicate so well and I ‘ve known you so long, surely you can’t have autism”. As Myth number 4 says, autism manifests differently in everyone and everyone is at a different place in the spectrum. Some people on the spectrum are better at copying ‘social norms’ better than others and hence they are able to imitate how to act. This may fool others and maybe even themselves that they are ‘normal’.
Myth #6 You can only get autism as a kid and then you grow out of it
Unfortunately, this is not the case, autism is a lifelong condition. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder that happens from birth and at current, there is no known ‘cure’ for it, there is also evidence that it is a genetically passed on disorder from generation to generation, so it can run in families. The only treatment at the moment is behaviour modification from a young age and education for those who may know someone who is affected by autism to be more understanding. However, despite not having a cure for autism, you can still live quite a fulfilling and full life with the appropriate help and support from others.
Fact #7 People with Autism cannot be diagnosed as an adult
As I said, many people, especially females slip through the cracks and can go undiagnosed for many years by acting out their charade. However, when they get found out or if the charade goes wrong, it can lead to mental breakdowns, health problems or relationship breakdowns which may lead them to see a psychologist, doctor or psychiatrist about their mental issues…which they could eventually lead to a diagnosis of autism and this can be as an adult.
Myth #8: Autistic people do not have any emotions and they can never love anyone else or anything
Definitely not true! It’s just that autistic people may show their love and affection in different ways to the way ‘neurotypical’ people may perceive as normal. They definitely are able to love animals and pets, and pets for young kids with autism is a good way to teach them nurturing habits and pets also decrease anxiety in both adults and children. Autistic people can also get married and have kids, they may be at more risk of communication issues in their relationships, but with some work and help from others, they can make it work.
Myth #9 Autistic people can’t be successful or useful people in society
This definitely is the biggest myth of all in my opinion! There are many people in history who are suspected to have had autism or have displayed common autistic traits that may indicate they have autism. Famous people such as Mozart, Albert Einstein, and Isaac Newton have all demonstrated autistic-like traits. Well, known people of today that are suspected to be on the spectrum, (but not officially confirmed) are Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Burton. Some well-known people who have come out as saying they are on the autism spectrum is the singer and winner of Britain’s Got Talent; Susan Boyle, the creator of Pokemon, Satoshi Tajiri and Temple Grandit, a famous animal behaviour expert.
Myth #10 People with autism either have intellectual disabilities or have savant Abilities
As you should be well aware by now, not everyone has a special ability such as a photographic memory, and everyone with autism doesn’t have a learning disorder. Autistic Savants are actually quite rare and please do not assume all autistic people have difficulty learning, yes they may have some difficulties understanding abstract concepts and some learning methods, but their IQ is often normal or above average. In saying that, it is possible for someone with autism to also concurrently have learning disabilities.
I hope this post has been helpful in dispelling some of the myths in regards to autism! If you noticed anything incorrect or you want to add something, feel free to leave a comment below! Like always, follow, subscribe and like if you enjoyed or found this post useful! As this is an important issue for me-I am going to post a video with the same information too…
See you next week!