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autism myths

Myths about Autism


PEOPLE WITH AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS CAN'T BE INTELLIGENT
There are certainly people with autism that have significant cognitive delays but many people on the autism spectrum are of average intelligence, while others are in the above average and even superior ranges.  People on the autism spectrum typically do not perform well in standardized tests and these are not an accurate measure of their intelligence.  There are a large number of people on the autism spectrum that excel in certain areas, for example their working memory may be exceptional while their problem solving abilities may be poor. It is fairly common for people with autism to have very scattered skills and many individuals, regardless of their cognitive intelligence, have difficulties with things that are relatively easy, if not instinctive, for the majority of people.  This includes academic academic subjects as well as “real-world” skills.  This greatly impacts the daily functioning of those affected.  However these skills can be taught with the correct services in place.

PEOPLE WITH AUTISM DON'T CARE ABOUT OTHERS
People on the autism spectrum care very deeply about others and form close bonds with the special people in their lives.  They are often unable to express empathy and social behavior in the manner we're accustomed to, hence the myth that they don't care.  Expressing affection in a typical manner can taught with effective therapy.

PEOPLE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM DON'T HAVE EMOTIONS
Nothing could be further from the truth.  People on the autism spectrums have the same emotions as everyone else.  It's true that people on the spectrum often become emotional about different things.  They also display their emotions differently which leads to misinterpretation and all too often, others jumping to conclusions regarding their attitude.  Many people with autism are very sensitive.  They might be feeling intense emotions, yet on the outside they may easily appear as emotionally flat.

PEOPLE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM PREFER TO BE ALONE
It's true that most people on the autism spectrum like to keep to themselves for part of the time.  This is for many reasons.  They are sensitive to sensory input and some alone time gives them a chance to recoup.  Many people with autism have special interests.  These interests are like a hobby.  They love doing them and usually don't have a need for someone to join in.  But they also like spending time with others, particularly if they find a companion that shares their interests.  People with autism have a need to interact with others, they're just not sure how to go about it.  This can be taught with therapy.

PEOPLE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM DO NOT HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR
What a ludicrous idea!  People on the autism spectrum do have a sense of humor.  It's true they often don't find conventional jokes funny.  Sometimes they don't "get" a joke but this is often because they don't understand where the punch line is, or don't get the social situation behind the joke.  That's probably how this myth was started.  We all have a unique sense of humor and people with autism are no exception.

PEOPLE WITH AUTISM CAN'T LEARN SOCIAL SKILLS
People with autism can learn social skills and they do so all the time.  Social skills are challenging for people with autism because they are unable to read between the lines and gage how others are feeling.  The more individualized the therapy program and the more help a person receives, the better chance the individual has of developing good social skills.  There are many products available to help gain these skills.

AUTISM IS A BEHAVIORAL/EMOTIONAL/MENTAL HEALTH DISORDER
Autism is not a mental disorder.  It's a neurobiological disorder that manifests in early childhood and is often diagnosed before the age of 5 years old.

AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS GET WORSE AS CHILDREN GET OLDER
Autism is not degenerative and does not get worse as children get older.  In fact the reverse is true.  With therapy, children with autism improve all the time.  As children get older, typical peers grow and mature at a fast rate.  Although children with autism are progressing too the gap between them and their peers may be wider than when they are in their younger years.

PEOPLE WITH AUTISM ARE ALIKE
This is completely untrue.  People with autism are all unique.  While they share some challenges like social skills, they are not all affected by autism in the same way.  They have very unique personalities, interests, ideas and sense of humors.

PEOPLE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM CAN'T LEAD INDEPENDENT AND SUCCESSFUL LIVES
The autism rainbow is a huge spectrum.  Those more severely affected might require group homes and additional support as they get older.  But there is a large number of people on the spectrum who are independent.  They work, contribute to society, get married and maintain close relationships with others.  Others might lead successful and productive lives with minimal support.  A good therapy program beginning in the early years helps make everything possible.

PEOPLE WITH AUTISM HAVE SAVANT SKILLS LIKE DUSTIN HOFFMAN IN RAIN MAN
Most people on the autism spectrum do not have savant skills.  Those with Aspergers are often passionate about their interests and have profound knowledge of these subjects.  Splinter skills are common where people with autism excel in one area such as reading but are poor in other areas such as math.

IF A CHILD WITH AUTISM DOESN'T TALK BY 5 YEARS OLD HE'LL NEVER TALK
This is totally unfounded.  Children with autism begin speaking at different ages.  Some develop speech early but don't have pragmatics.  Others are late talkers and need therapy to learn to speak.  Many children learn to speak after they are five years old.  The key is good, consistent therapy.  Contrary to popular belief, teaching a child to sign often develops language sooner.

PEOPLE WITH AUTISM ARE NOT INTERESTED IN SEX AND ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
People on the autism spectrum are just as interested in sex an relationships as everyone else.  Dating is a game that most people instinctively know how to play but this is a very challenging area for those on the autism spectrum who have trouble reading between the lines and guessing what others might be thinking or feeling.  People with autism need to be educated about their own sexuality, private boundaries and dealing with the opposite sex.  Just because you have autism doesn't mean you can't be married and have close relationships.

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