5 Common Myths About Autism

Most people have heard the term autism. However, this disorder is still largely shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding. 

The confusion surrounding autism could be due to the fact that it’s a neurological condition, so it can look different from person to person. Or, perhaps, it’s because autism isn’t a single disorder but a cluster of conditions that can cause social, communication, and behavioral challenges. 

We also have mainstream media to thank for creating so many popular autism stereotypes, such as with the movie “Rain Man.” Though their efforts to raise awareness around this disorder may have been well-intentioned, the characters in these works have become the only conception of autism many people have, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

At Scottsdale Children’s Institute, in Scottsdale, Arizona, our providers are experts in the science of teaching and learning. While all children can benefit from our expertise, we specialize in helping kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) succeed in life. And we also have a passion for giving helpful tools to the adults in their lives. 

If you have a child with autism, you’ve probably heard a lot of things already. Here are five common myths that aren’t true.

1. Autism is a new problem

While autism may seem like a recent development, this condition has been recognized for centuries. In the scientific world, it was first documented by Leo Kranner in 1943, but the earliest written descriptions of children with autism date back to 1799.

In the United States in 1975, an estimated 1 in 1,500 individuals had autism. However, ongoing research over the years and better testing have significantly improved diagnostic abilities. Now, in 2020, studies estimated that 1 in 54 children and 1 in 45 adults have autism.

2. All autistic people are savants

Books, movies, and television may have introduced more people to autism spectrum disorder, but they also created a common myth: the savant with extraordinary talents. These skills can vary from playing musical instruments to memorizing entire books to completing complex puzzles. 

Sure, these extraordinary talents may make for a good story, but savant abilities only occur in about 10% of those with autism. And, even if these skills exist, not all individuals with autism can use their skills for practical purposes

3. You can’t touch someone with autism

One of the most common misconceptions with autism has to do with touch. While it’s certainly true that some people on the autism spectrum can have high sensory sensitivities, many people with ASD still enjoy forms of touch, including hugs and light massage.

4. People with autism don’t want friends

It’s definitely true that ASD can make social interactions difficult. These challenges can also make a person with autism seem shy or unfriendly. But, that doesn’t mean people with autism don’t want — or can’t make — friends. In fact, many people with ASD form strong and solid relationships with others, from members of their family to romantic partners. For many, these friendships form through shared interests and passions. 

5. People with autism can’t feel emotion

This myth can be one of the most troubling to someone who knows and loves a person with ASD. And it couldn’t be further from the truth. Autism spectrum disorder can certainly lead to problems with social, emotional, and communication skills, but that just means they have different ways of learning, processing, and reacting. 

As a result, people with ASD may express their feelings in different or less obvious ways and may even seem cold or uncaring. But that doesn't mean they aren't capable of feeling. It just means they communicate and perceive emotions in different ways.

Life with ASD

In most cases, the signs of ASD start during childhood, but they last for a lifetime. If you think your child has ASD, the best way to set them up for success is through early intervention. For the best results, we often recommend early intensive behavioral intervention for children ages 2-6.

Our team can help by performing a comprehensive evaluation to identify any developmental disorders. Based on this information, we can outline a personalized treatment strategy to ensure both you and your child gain the tools needed to succeed at home, school, and beyond.

To learn more about the myths surrounding autism, book an appointment online or over the phone with Scottsdale Children’s Institute today.

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