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Myths about Autism – Part Two

Myths about Autism – Part Two

In this blog, I’ll continue to debunk some common myths about autism.

Myth #7: Autism only happens to boys

I remember reading in 2004 that autism was more prevalent in males, and that if a female has autism that it has a tendency to be a more severe form of autism.

That is certainly not true today, and it possibly might not have been true in 2004. Autism does continue to occur more in males, but it is not just a male condition. Even though females are affected, scientists have yet to explain why it does seem like more males get diagnosed. They do feel that a nature vs. nurture issue might be the reason why females are less diagnosed than males. Females may simply show less symptoms early on than males.

Myth #8: Individuals with autism cannot display empathy

I believe it’s simply harder for an individual with autism to understand empathy and learn how to display it. They do feel it, but they don’t understand the feeling well, don’t know how to express their feelings, and take longer to process feelings that typical individuals.

They miss out on social cues, for example. My child smiles when he gets nervous, when he’s witnessing something that he doesn’t understand. If a peer is crying, my child may be standing nearby with a smile on his face. He can’t process as quickly as others that the peer is crying because they just got injured.

When he’s told this, he will eventually be able to react more appropriately. However, I believe that inside he does understand how it may feel to be in pain. He’s been injured before. He has the capacity for empathy. He just has learned more slowly than others how to display it. Plus, he has developed a social cue, a smile, that is sometimes not appropriate for the situation. Therefore, we have to work on that reaction, that social cue, with him so that he understands when to smile, and when not to smile.

Myth #9: Autism can be cured

I have asked friends at Autism Speaks about this one in the past. The answer I always get is no. With an asterisk. The asterisk is that less than 1% of those diagnosed on the autism spectrum do end up off of the autism spectrum. They get “cured.” It is believed that those individuals barely qualified for an ASD diagnosis in the first place, or were misdiagnosed.

Autism has no cure. Children like mine are taught ways to cope with their surroundings. Some “pick it up” quicker than others, but most find ways to become teenagers and adults. They find ways to exist in our society.

Higher functioning individuals often would not want a cure. I know several adults with autism, a few who were never diagnosed, and they say they’re fine with who they are as individuals.

Myth #10: All autistics are the same

Autism is a spectrum. No one child is like another child. Each child falls on the autism spectrum, but no two are exactly alike.

Myth #11: Autistic vs. autism

These two terms have been strongly debated recently. I believe the terms can and should be a choice. There’s no one way that has to be correct.

Here’s my argument. “People with autism” is a kinder way of describing an individual because it puts the person before the disorder. You don’t label someone with cancer that way, why would you do it with an person with autism?

However, I have read excerpts from adults with autism who say that autism is a part of them, they are not offended when called an “autistic.”

They are not being cured of a disease like cancer. It is a permanent part of them. They feel more secure being called “autistic” because that’s what they are and it puts their autism in front as their identity.

I say find out the individuals’ preference and use it. The people with that individual may be more hurt by a certain term than the individual, but do your best to keep the peace.

I don’t really understand why the semantics of this “myth” has become such a huge topic. It is simply a matter of listening and being as polite as possible in different situations. There doesn’t need to be hurt feelings at all. If this word choice is simply a sensitive topic for some, then remain a peace-maker.

In my next blog, I’ll continue debunking myths about autism.

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