5 Autism Myths I Wish You Knew
Do you know about these autism myths? As a woman who wasn’t diagnosed with Autism until I was nearly thirty, I was shocked by how many myths about Autism there are. Here are 5 of the biggest myths about Autism busted!
Autism Myth 1. We can’t make eye contact
So I get why this one is confusing. SOME people with Autism will struggle with eye contact, it’s true.
Some people WON’T struggle to make eye contact. There are those who can make good eye contact, or appear to make eye contact, as well. Current research suggests that early intervention with social skills can have a big impact. Constant prompting, social stories and practise can teach children how to make eye contact.
To assume we can’t make eye contact is a myth!
My main problem with this myth is that it makes people question whether someone actually is autistic! Believe me, if someone tells you they are autistic then they probably are. Eye contact or no eye contact!
Autism Myth 2. That people ‘look’ autistic
To me, this a very confusing autism myth.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder. This means it affects the brain, the way people think and, in particular, communicate.
It doesn’t affect the way somebody looks!
You will never be able to tell that somebody is autistic just by looking at them.
You might realise they have problems with communicating when you have a conversation with them. This may mean you suspect somebody might be autistic.
But honestly? You probably walk past people with autism all the time without realising.
Autism Myth 3. We are all like Rain Man
This is a HUGE Autism myth. Not only that but it makes people feel inadequate when they’re asked ‘What is your special gift?’
Rain Man is a 1988 film about a man with autism called Raymond who also happens to be a savant. A savant is a person who has a particular gift above and beyond what would be considered normal and often occurs in people with neurodevelopmental difficulties. In Raymond’s case he has the ability to count hundreds of objects at once. His brother in the film, played by Tom Cruise, takes him to a casino where they play blackjack. Thanks to his ability, Raymond wins enough money to pay off his brothers debts, before being kicked out by the casino bosses.
However, not all people with Autism are savants. I’m certainly not! But this is a myth often associated with Autism. People assume if you have Autism, then you are also a savant and have a special gift.
In fact, only 10% of people with Autism are savants. This I much higher than the 1% of people who are savants in those without autism, but it still doesn’t mean if you have autism you will be a savant.
This myth definitely needs busting!
Autism Myth 4. All people with Autism prefer to be alone
Okay so this isn’t the only reason why people with autism may want to be alone but it’s definitely a factor!
This autism myth can lead to people avoiding people with autism which is definitely NOT what people should do!
First things first. Autism affects the way people communicate. This means that it is MUCH harder for people on the autistic spectrum to hold ‘normal’ conversations. This could be because they don’t understand social niceties and so might appear rude. It could be because they find it difficult to talk about something that they don’t have an interest in. Or it could be that they just need longer to process what they hear and then they fall behind in the conversation.
Whatever the reason, most people with autism will agree that communicating can be difficult. So.
Imagine you were asked to practice a skill you found extremely difficult. It could be a sport or craft or learning another language. You practice and practice and may get better over time but at the end of the session you’re pretty exhausted and ready to stop. Most people can recognise this feeling.
But now imagine that that difficult skill is talking to people. It’s non-stop all day. From family to friends to colleagues, all want or need to talk to you.
Is it any surprise that those of us with autism like to be alone at some point during the day?
Autism Myth 5. Only boys can be autistic
As a female with autism, this is one of the most frustrating autism myths!
Whilst research in the past has shown that 4/5 people diagnosed with autism are boys, this is now thought not to be the case. More and more women and girls are now being diagnosed with autism.
The main difficulty is that the behaviours you see in boys with autism, aren’t always the behaviours you see in girls. Girls are more likely to watch and observe their friends and mimic how to behave appropriately. This means they are often not diagnosed until much older when it’s no longer possible to cope by copying their friends.
They are also less likely to act out if they are upset and more likely to present as anxious and stressed. Often women who are diagnosed with autism in later life, have already received diagnoses of anxiety and depression.
I’m certain that there are lot of other autism myths but these are 5 of the biggest. Do you have any autism myths that you wish were busted?
Comment below and let me know.