Tuesday, May 22, 2012

5 Big Myths Of Autism

As a result of the increased awareness of autism spectrum disorders, there has also been an increase in myths associated with them too. They are myths for a reason – most are wildly untrue. It’s important to weed out these myths and help educate people about ASD so we can all live together in understanding.

Some of the myths often raised are:

1. Autistic people can’t show emotions: Autistic people have the same range of emotions including empathy, sympathy, compassion and love as anyone else but the main issue for other people is to identify, recognise and interpret when these emotions are being shown.

2. Autistic people cannot learn or continue to improve: Learning can occur in the same way and pace as for anyone else but the main issue is providing the correct type of support and intervention as early as possible. As with anyone else this can continue throughout their lives.

3. Autistic people have some special skill – the “savant syndrome”: In some cases autistic people can have unique and highly developed skills but that can lead to the overuse of the tag of savant or in extreme cases where these skills appear to be at the expense of other skills, “idiot savant”. This belief has been popularised by films such as “Rainman”. More often than not they are like any other person who is able to excel at something because they are simply good at it and have a strong interest and passion to achieve.

4. Autistic people can’t develop relationships: Autistic people are often portrayed as not able to maintain eye contact or look away when talking. In addition, they often like solitude and isolating themselves and when you add to this the difficulty they may have in reading body language and nonverbal signals, it leads to the perception that they can’t develop a relationship. While these are real issues they are not indicators or mean they don’t want to develop a relationship. As with anyone, autistic people often have the desire to develop the relationship and the people who they are trying to interact with need to have the patience and understanding to recognise this.

5. Autism is as a result of poor parenting: As autism is linked to development and learning issues, parents often blame themselves for the onset of autism. Autism is linked to genetic and biological issues and as such the parenting involvement plays no role.

In addition to these myths, there are countless others that can at times, and unfairly, paint an adverse and negative picture of people with ASD. Together, we can help raise awareness and understanding of the disorder and eliminate these myths.

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