There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding autism. Some are just the result of simple ignorance; some are downright dangerous. But whatever the reason or cause of myths or misconceptions arising in the first place, they need to be addressed.
For example -- "children with autism rarely attend college," "individuals diagnosed with autism usually end up having to live in institutions," or "autism is an emotional disability," or even that "autism is rare" etc – are just a few of the totally incorrect myths connected to autism.
As a matter of interest, for those more analytical types, autism is the fastest growing disability in the United States – with over 1.5 million individuals being diagnosed. A little daunting?
Some of the more common myths would include:
1. All people with autism have special abilities, as displayed by Dustin Hoffman's character, Raymond Babbitt, in the movie Rainman.
2. Children with autism cannot speak.
3. Autistic children cannot learn in a normal school and need to be educated in a special program.
4. Children with autism cannot learn social skills and therefore cannot relate at all to others.
5. People with autism cannot be active contributing members of the community.
6. Autism can be cured utilizing special diets and supplements, as it is caused by allergies and or chemical imbalances.
7. People with autism just don't want to interact with others.
8. Schoolmates of an autistic child shouldn't be told about their classmate's disorder as they won't notice any difference anyway.
9. Programs of a behavioral nature can and will cure autism.
10. Females are more likely than males to be diagnosed with autism.
The reality is:
1. Only a minute number of people with ASDs have extremely high IQs and are able to do amazing things (sometimes referred to as ‘splinter skills'). By far, most autistic people have average, or in some cases, slightly less than average, skills.
2. Its accurate to say that some children with autism cannot speak, but when the condition is both recognized and dealt with early, some three quarters of those children are then able to communicate verbally.
3. To actually separate autistic children and place them in a separate program would, if anything, inhibit their ability to learn and severely limit their possible progress. One of the symptoms of ASDs is abnormal social interaction and surely one of the main goals of any educational program is to develop the children involved into contributing members of society. Therefore, to separate them would most likely inhibit their ability to learn the necessary social behaviors required of every normal human being. It's not only the autistic children that benefit from a normal school setting, it's also the other children in the class who can learn and benefit from mixing with others who are different.
4. The answer here again is to start early and for intervention programs to be developed around that specific individual's disorder and needs. Remember that autistic children don't have the ability (that normal children do) to develop social skills along the way unless actively taught how to develop them.
Autistic children can certainly have relationships with other children and with other people. The myth that autistic people cannot have relationships with others most probably stems from the fact that the majority of them do not like to be touched. This doesn't necessarily mean they cannot love someone, but that they simply don't like to be touched by others – and may even find touch painful.
5. Many, many people with autism go on to have very successful careers and meaningful lives within their communities.
6. Just the same as anyone else, autistic people may have allergies and intolerances to certain things that affect their health and behavior, but the assertions that dietary changes and/or supplements can provide a cure is totally wrong.
7. Simply not true! Both autistic children and adults want to interact with others. However, the disorder does make it very difficult for them to develop the normal social skills which allow them to build friendships and social relationships with others.
8. The honest truth is that autism is noticeable, some cases more than others naturally. Also, let's face it: children are much more perceptive than they are usually given credit for and certainly more perceptive than a lot of adults.
Children as young as three will notice differences in the people around them and if they are not provided with the correct background information about a classmates disorder, invariably they will draw their own conclusions, which is not always the best thing.
Naturally, before any classmate's situation (whether it be in reference to general health, a disability or anything else) is discussed in a classroom situation, the parents' permission must be sought and granted.
9. The people that claim that behavioral programs can cure autism are not only incorrect but downright dishonest -- to make a claim of this sort is reprehensible.
Behavioral programs will often help a person better able to handle autism, but they will definitely not cure it. Autism does not have a cure.
10. In fact, males are four (4) times more likely than females to be diagnosed with autism.
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