Several myths have been circling autism for decades. These misconceptions make it challenging for autistic people to get a decent job, to have a supportive social network and to lead the life they want. All the societal misunderstandings toward autism have caused them feeling isolated, depressed and helpless.
When we type 'Autism' in the google search bar, we can find much information about its diagnosis and symptoms. But, it is important to make sure what we're reading are truths. To help expand awareness about autism, here are 5 big myths we should know about.
Myth 1: Autism is a disease and can be cured.
For many many years, autism has been treated as a disease. In fact, even in some medical websites today, we can still see it being categorised as a form of developmental disease. But, that's just a myth.
The truth is, Autism is NOT a disease. Autism is not a disease that can be cured through medication or clinical trials, unlike cancer or heart disease. Individuals with ASD in Asia are often perceived to be "mentally unwell." Hence, influencing the society to treat autistic people as being sick. We see doctors prescribing medications and recommending intensive behavioural treatment methods with the hopes to CURE autism.
It doesn't work that way because autism is not a disease, to begin with. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that reflects differences in the ability to how autistic people communicate and interact with others. But that's what makes them who they are. Despite being a disorder, with proper guidance and intervention, individuals with autism are capable of leading a productive and independent life.
To autistic individuals, autism is an identity. It is what makes them unique and different. And being different shouldn't be perceived as unwell or sick. We want to celebrate and embrace autism as part of human diversity, instead of eliminating and cure them to become neurotypicals.
Myth 2: Individuals with Autism have special talents.
People with autism are often being perceived as someone who is a genius and have savant abilities - "Oh, you're autistic? You must be good at something."
That's just a myth. While there is a higher percentage of savant abilities among those with autism, no autistic individual is ever the same. Many autistic people do have a very good visual memory, but not all possessed unique skills or talents.
Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means autistic characteristics differ from one person to another. Each autistic individual has their own strengths and limitations, just like neurotypicals. Thus, autism cannot be generalised.
Myth 3: Individuals with Autism lack empathy and do not want to make friends.
Being autistic does not make one heartless. In fact, autistic people are very emotional and are highly sensitive toward other's feelings. But, with the struggle and difficulties in identifying and understanding social cues (body language, tone of voice and facial expression), autistic people are often being misunderstood as someone who has no emotions and no intention in making friends.
That's simply not true. Many children and adults on the spectrum do want to make friends and connect. One thing that's making it difficult for them is that they do not know how to navigate in social settings. Autistic people understand emotions at their own pace and style. Often, they may come out as rude and crude, but they simply don't mean it the bad way.
It is stressful for them, as social interactions can be very complex and complicated. But with practice and effective guidance from families, they too can learn and improve their ability in understanding how emotions and the social world works.
Myth 4: Autism is caused by vaccination or bad parenting.
There has been circulation about vaccination causes autism. But, that's just a myth. There is no concrete scientific evidence that links vaccines to autism. Researchers believe that environmental and genetic factors may play a role in ASD. Until today, there is no known cause yet.
What about bad parenting? That's not true too. Bad parenting will not cause autism. Most parents with children on the spectrum self-blame themselves for their children's condition, but they shouldn't. With patience and proper supervision from consultants, they too can become best parents and guides to their children.
Check out Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) to learn more about being an effective guide to your children and promote dynamic skills in them.
Myth 5: Individuals with Autism can't learn.
Due to the plasticity of our brain, any child or adult with autism, can learn and progress well in life. Many children on the spectrum can learn academic information (numbers, letters, math, science, etc.) through therapies. While some progress can be static and slow, with effective parent-based interventions like RDI, children can learn to think dynamically, improve problem-solving skills, creating healthier relationships with others, and navigate life independently too.
Individuals with autism can lead a productive and comfortable life, so long as family are persistent and are using an effective method of guiding. Let's change our perception of autism. Let's support and promote neurodiversity together.