Even though societal awareness about autism is growing, both parents and professionals such as speech therapists, psychologists, or even physicians, still show certain stereotypes toward persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
On the one hand, autism is now a high-profile disability: actors play the role of high-functioning autistic adults, authors publish stories describing their experiences, and celebrities speak openly about knowing someone with autism.
Thirty years ago, you’d hardly ever hear about autism. Today, everyone has heard about it. However, as often is the case, popular “facts” turn out to be urban myths, and our beliefs about persons with ASD stay distorted and inaccurate
Myth 1: Autism can be cured
Currently, there are no scientifically proven methods for curing autism. There’s no antidote or magic pill. Parents and guardians should focus on providing therapy, which can significantly improve the functioning of children later in life. Persons with ASD respond well to early intervention and individualized education. Autism is a general developmental disorder that lasts throughout the whole life.
Myth 2: Persons with ASD are exceptionally talented
It is estimated that less than 10% of persons with ASD can display special abilities in such fields as memory, music, art, or mathematics. Most of such abilities are highly selective and accompanied by unusual interests or obsessions and compulsions. Savants are extremely rare in the population, with just 1 person in a million being one. Fifty-five percent of persons with ASD have intellectual disabilities of a varying degree.
Myth 3: Persons with ASD can’t talk
Communication is more than just speech. Some persons with ASD may develop speech correctly, but still require help to communicate effectively with their peers. Others may require help in communicating basic needs, often through a combination of words, gestures, and alternative systems of communication, such as PECS.
Myth 4: Vaccines cause autism
We know that autism isn’t caused by a single factor, nor is there any scientific evidence supporting the thesis that vaccines are associated with a later occurrence of autism in children. Thimerosal, a compound that used to be a popular component of vaccines, was believed to cause ASD in children. However, we still observe an increase in the prevalence of ASD even though Thimerosal is no longer used in vaccines. The American Academy of Padiatrics has conducted and published a number of studies indicating that there is no correlation between autism and vaccines.
While vaccines have no effect on the occurrence of autism, there are certain environmental and genetic factors that increase the risk of ASD by causing developmental changes in the brain. To date, scientists have discovered as many as 61 genetic mutations that may increase the risk of ASD. Environmental causes of ASD include late parenthood (after the age of 34), poor physical and mental health during pregnancy, use of medications during pregnancy, premature birth, complications during delivery, chemical factors affecting the embryo, low birth weight, and post-delivery infections (Karimi, Kamali, Mousavi, & Karahmadi 2016). Mumps, measles and rubella are among the infections and diseases that increase the risk of ASD, so MMR vaccines actually minimize the possibility that a child will develop ASD.
Myth 5: Persons with autism do not accept touching
While this may be true for many persons with autism, especially those with oversensitivity, this is not universal. Some persons with autism like to embrace, just like all of us, and accept being touched by their family members in everyday relationships.
Myth 6: Persons with autism do not know what love is and are unable to maintain serious social interactions
It’s true that many persons with autism have difficulties in relationships with others. Some, however, can maintain close relationships, fall in love, or even have children. Some persons with autism express their emotions in different, less obvious, ways – but that doesn’t mean they can’t experience love or give love to others.
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Amber Tanski is a Content Marketing Specialist for DrOmnibus, a company creating ABA DrOmnibus – Resources App – All in one tool with a direct focus on resources for therapy, including baseline assessment, in-built and personalized ABA programs, graphs and video modeling. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, Amber has worked with a diverse population through her job as a Line Therapist for young children with Autism, being a Personal Trainer for a girl with Asperger’s Syndrome and working as a Personal Care Assistant for a woman with Muscular Dystrophy. She currently develops content for DrOmnibus utilizing her unique experience.
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