Autism: Myths and Facts
Autism is an often misunderstood disorder. To begin, autism encompasses several different neurological issues that range from mild to severe; that’s why you hear people referring to it as “Being on the spectrum.”
The spectrum refers to Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) and includes a wide array of symptoms including difficulty socializing, sensory disorders, and more. No two cases are exactly alike, and a child with autism has their own strengths and weaknesses, just like everyone else. The first step to understanding autism is busting common misconceptions. Many people who live with autism have happy, fulfilling lives, while others need a little extra help. Let’s get to busting!
Learn More: Autism Care
Myth: Autism Is A Mental Health Issue
When people discuss mental health disorders, autism often gets lumped into this category. However, autism is a neurological disorder.
Mental health disorders are things like: Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Bi-Polar Disorders, and Phobias. However, children with autism may struggle with any number of mental health issues as a result of frustration or misunderstanding while communicating with their family and friends, and navigating the world around them.
Children with autism generally have some form of developmental disability. In some cases, these symptoms can be treated with therapies and might improve over time.
Myth: Vaccines Cause Autism
This is probably one of the most rampant myths about autism. This myth stems from a study conducted in 1998 that said that vaccines increased the risk of autism. Thimerosal, a once common component of many vaccines, was the ingredient being called into question. However, as the use of thimerosal decreased, the number of ASD cases increased.
While there may be some genetic and specific environmental factors that contribute to the development of autism, getting your child vaccinated isn’t one of them.
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Myth: All Children With Autism Act The Same
As we’ve mentioned, autism isn’t an all-encompassing diagnosis. Autism Spectrum Disorders vary widely. If a child is living with Asperger’s Syndrome (an ASD), they may have difficulty making eye contact or have trouble with personal space. Some may become obsessed with one topic in particular but have a variety of sensory disabilities like sensitivity to light or touch. Children with autism all have their own personalities. Some will be quiet and withdrawn, some will be outgoing, and if you ask us that doesn’t sound too different from an averagely-abled person. Everyone has good and bad days, and that’s okay.
Myth: Children With Autism Can’t Make Friends
Autism usually comes with some sort of social impairment. If a child with autism seems standoffish or reluctant to engage, it may not be because they don’t want to socialize. Instead, it might be that they recognize that they have a difficult time interacting with others. Individuals with autism can be just as emotional and empathetic as the next person, although they might have trouble turning those thoughts and feelings into what most people perceive as “normal” behaviors. A little extra patience goes a long way!
Myth: Children With Autism Are Low Functioning
The portrayal of differently-abled people in the media isn’t always the greatest. While in recent years, some shows and movies have made a better effort at showing the varying levels of ASDs, we often only see movies like Rain Man or What’s Eating Gilbert Grape that showcase extreme ends of the spectrum. However, many people with some form of an autism spectrum disorder are of average intelligence and grow up to have normal everyday lives.
Myth: Children With Autism Are Violence-Prone
Imagine for a second that you’ve had a really bad day at work. On your way home, you have a car accident. When you finally make it to your house, you decide that you’re hungry, but the chicken you were going to cook has gone bad. Then, you decide to order food out, and it takes 2 hours to arrive. That sounds like a rough day for anyone, right? When our emotions and patience are tested, it’s understandable for anyone to become overwhelmed and feel like whatever happens next might be “the last straw.”
Now instead imagine if brushing your hair, seeing a particular color, or feeling the sun on your skin was the thing that sent you over the edge. People with autism are sometimes portrayed as violent in the media, but most of the time an outburst is often the result of an overstimulation of the senses. Individuals with autism are no more prone to violence than a normal person.
Myth: Children With Autism Don’t Feel or Understand Emotion
While it is true that children with autism may process emotion and show it differently, it doesn’t make them any less emotional or feeling. In fact, an individual with autism is arguably more empathic than most people. It’s also common for a person with autism to seem cold or detached, but it’s more likely that they’re just not sure how to respond or process those feelings.
Myth: Autism Can Be Cured
At this time, there are no cures for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Instead, some symptoms may lessen over time with the appropriate treatment. For disorders on the autism spectrum, knowing about and treating them early can give an individual the best chance at reducing the severity of their symptoms as they grow into adulthood. Behavioral and cognitive therapies over time are often the best plan of action.
Your Autism Spectrum Disorder Resource
Pediatrics East is proud to share our community and knowledge with all of our differently-abled patients and families! As is the case, we make it a point to be your go-to ASD resource. Our compassionate providers and staff have diagnosed and treated a wide variety of disorders over the years, and love watching our patients learn and grow. For more information about autism and the services we provide, make an appointment with your pediatrician today!
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