Myths About Autism
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The Autistic Spectrum

This list may be of some help for those relatives, school officials or friends who don't quite "get" what Autism is about.

Autism ~ It's probably not what you think!

Myth! Children with autism never make eye contact.
Many children with autism establish eye contact. It may be less than or different from the typical child, but they do look at people, smile, and express many other wonderful non-verbal communications.

Myth! Inside a child with autism is a genius.
The myth that a genius is hidden in a child with autism may exist because of the uneven nature of the skills that many children exhibit. Children with autism may have splendid physical skills, but no functional language. A child may remember the birthday of every child in his class at school, yet be unable to determine when to use the pronouns "you" or "me" appropriately. A child may read with perfect articulation and not understand the meaning of what he has read. Children with autism exhibit a full range of IQ scores. Most children with autism will exhibit significant delays in some areas of mental processing. A very small percentage exhibit above normal intelligence; an equally small percentage of children exhibit very low intellectual functioning.

Myth! Children with autism do not talk.
Many children with autism develop good functional language. Most other children can develop some communication skills, such as use of sign language, pictures, computers, or electronic devices.

Myth! Children with autism cannot show affection.
Probably one of the most devastating myths for families is the misconception that children with autism cannot give and receive affection and love. We know that sensory stimulation is processed differently by some children with autism, causing them to have difficulty expressing affection in conventional ways. Giving and receiving love from a child with autism may require a willingness to accept and give love on the child's terms. Sometimes the challenge for parents is waiting until the child can risk a greater connection. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends may not understand a child's aloofness, but can learn to appreciate and respect his/her capacity for connection with others.

More Myths and Misunderstandings about Autism

* Progress means that the child doesn't have autism.
* Behavior change from maladaptive to adaptive isn't autistic.
* Children with autism do not smile at you.
* Children with autism do not give or receive physical affection.
* People with autism do not notice others and don't pick up cues from peers/adults.
* People with autism do not want friends.
* Individuals with autism do not relate to peers/adults.
* People with autism could talk if they wanted to.
* When a child with autism does not respond to a question/direction to which he has previously given a correct response, he is being stubborn/non-compliant/obnoxious.
* Autism can be outgrown.
* Autism is an emotional disability.
* Children with autism cannot learn.
* Children with autism will show no imagination.
* Bad parenting causes autism.
* Autism is rare.

• Facts • Facts • Facts •
There are great differences among people with autism. The range of autistic characteristics exhibited will be different in each person affected. Some individuals may exhibit only mild language delays, while others may have no functional speech. Regardless of language skills, social interactions are typically a challenge for most individuals with autism. They may have average or above average verbal, memory, or spatial skills, yet find it difficult to be imaginative or join in a game of softball with their friends. Others more severely affected may need greater assistance in handling day to day activities like crossing the street or making a purchase. Contrary to common belief, many children and adults with autism will make eye contact, show affection, smile, laugh, and express a variety of other emotions, though perhaps in varying degrees. Like others, they respond to their environment in positive and negative ways. The autism may affect their range of responses and make it more difficult to control how their bodies and minds react. People with autism live normal life spans and some of the behaviors associated with autism may change or disappear over time.

The source for the above information is the South Carolina Autism Society. Please click on this text to go to their site.

Myths And Bad Information

There are many myths about autism that are inaccurate, based on outdated information or opinions of people based on what they see without really looking into what they see. These myths can pervade society even though there is no foundation or real research behind them.

Occasionally inaccurate information is spread by people who may appear to be knowledgable. The internet can tend to present things this way, therefore always look at the source and take into account who they are and what they present as evidence of their expertise.

This misinformation, as well as people's pre-conceptions is what helps people form false ideas of autism. Some inaccurate theories often heard by parents and autistics are that autistics do not have emotions, that their autism is caused by "refridgerator moms" or bad parenting, that their autism is a result of neglect, ad infinatum (into infinity)!

Please take the time to learn why these theories are wrong and the next time you hear someone say something like this speak up and teach someone else about the real Autism.

Autistic Tendancies And What They May Mean

Unusual Actions

Many autistics act unusual when compared to the typical population. They may not respond when spoken to or they may look away from the person asking the question. They may have other unusual behaviors that most people do not understand. Some behaviors are misinterpreted as being the result of poor discipline. Some appearances and behaviors lead people to believe the person may be without feelings or unable to comprehend what is being said. Some people come to this opinion based entirely on a brief observation, rather than really trying to look for further signs of understanding.

Tantrum Or Breakdown?

When a person unfamiliar with Autism sees a parent letting their child scream or hit or throwing a tantrum, they have no concept that the child has truly lost control for a valid reason. They tend to blame the parents for not disciplining the children and not teaching the children how to be sociable, respectful and how to act in public. They have no concept that what they are seeing may be the results of a sensory overload (too much noise, too much visual stimulation, too much body contact as in crowds).

They are so used to having the power to control what they take in of their environment they cannot conceive of how this childs brain just went into overload. Autistics, without training, often are not able to filter out all the other environmental happenings going on around them and isolate sensitivity issues such as bumping into people in crowds, or sorting out the visual stimulation that exists around them at once. Sorting out between different stimulii also maybe difficult.

All this that we take for granted, an autistic usually has to handle item by item and sometimes when young, they just can't take it, their brain just gets too confused from all the input, resulting in a "blow out" or "overload". It takes a lot of training and experience for them to gain skills necessary to overcome this, if that happens to be one of the autistic's traits.

Traditional Discipline Is Not The Answer For Non-Traditional Behavior

The observer who does not understand autism, does not understand that first the child needs to be calmed and what we are doing to calm the child may not fit in with their opinions on what should be done, we know best because we've lived with these children for all of their life. We've learned best how to help a child out of a blow out such as they may see. While the child may be acting up, the observer has no idea of how much that child has worked at being able to cope up to that point and that even during this blow out the child is trying hard to regain their composure. The observer never thinks that the kids don't like these act-outs any more than anyone else witnessing it does. They have never had their child tell them that sometimes their head goes crazy and they wish it wouldn't. However it does not mean that the parent just allow the child to act out till they wear themselves out either, but the unfamiliar observer may not realize the parent is using a different technique.

We Need To Teach People And This Is Why

We need to help people to understand. We all need to learn to live together in harmony, the earth is too small for all of it's inhabitants to continue to separate into groups, isolating one from another. We all need to accept differences and stop trying to make everyone change to our way. We need to foster acceptance of special needs people as they are, to stop making the ultimate goal to make them more like us. We have far more capability to accept them and allow them into our world than they do to conform to our ways. This doesn't mean that we stop trying to train them to make their life easier on them, but it means for us in the typical world to learn and understand a greater tolerance for those that are different. Most people seem to notice the difficulty these kids have, but they fail to see the effort that the child is making trying to conform to situations that are very difficult for them to act in.

Many of the kids try to fit into the world around them, but they may not know how to, so they often are anxious to know how, but it will still take them a longer time to remember. What I'm asking is for the typical world to recognize this part of it and be patient.

The No-Emotion Myth

The worst myth of all is that these kids are unloving, unemotional and have no emotional feelings. While they may not show them in the traditional way, I do not really know how anyone can say that they are sure they don't. And I ask people who think this way, what is the benefit and what if they are wrong. If you put yourself in the shoes of that Autistic person and see or hear people act as though you don't, and you say things that could be very upsetting to the person then what have you gained? You might have told some typical person something that you think they needed to know but couldn't that also have been done away from the autistic person? If the person is withdrawn and yet can hear and most of what they hear is how limited they are, then where is their motivation to try to come out of their shell?

To most parents and people who spend time with these children, they find the ways these most withdrawn autistics show emotions and love. It's not typical, but it takes looking at things from a different perspective and learning the different ways.

Autism and Retardation

Another thing that seems to be true of many disabilities including deafness, blind people as well as autistics and other developmental delays, is that many people seem to think these kids have a very limitied capability of learning.

I often feel the way retarded people are treated to be disturbing. Some people seem to act as though people with developmental delays either can't understand things (some of which can be insulting) or that they are only capable of so much. Some people seem to think that these people are immune to things like being ignored, such as talking to the parent about the child in front of them without acknowledging the child in any way.

Others seem to think that being mocked can't have damaging effects, that it's something that people just have to live with. Typical people can't always do this yet it seems these people expect special needs people to. While it may be common in some environs, there is really no reason why the disrespectfulness of this should not be addressed when this is witnessed.

The other one is when their capabilities are ignored, When they are always given tasks that are too simple and unchallenging. For some kids it may be ok, but for those who recognize that they are not being challenged it can bring out behavior issues.