From the perspective of an outsider, it is very difficult to understand what it is to have autism. This misunderstanding, unfortunately, can result in a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes about people with autism. Below are certain misconceptions, which people usually have in individuals with autism spectrum disorder.
Common Misconceptions About Autism
1. Individuals with autism are still quite normal.
This is the first question that people would have in mind when they come across other people with autism and find them doing normal kind of work. One should remember that autism is a neurological condition and people with autism usually share different general characteristics similar to all other individuals.
No individual with autism is the same. Thus, two people with autism would be different when compared to each other. Autism should not be judged as a determinant of a person's character or path through life. The brain of a person with autism is wired in a different way or one can say that it has a different neurology when compared to people without autism.
2. Children with autism are unable to speak.
Although there are certain cases of children with autism who have delayed speech or communication difficulties, there are many who have well-developed speech.
In certain cases, there are some children who speak earlier than their normal peers. However, in such instances, they would have an unusual way or style of communicating such as having a strong preference to talk about a particular topic or an overly formal speech. When it comes to speech, children with autism have a wide range of abilities and skills.
3. Individuals with autism share the same skill sets and face similar difficulties.
Although people with autism share certain difficulties in the core areas of communication, sensory processing, and behavior, each person is different and unique in their own way. Each of them has different interests and abilities. One can also find multiple positive characteristics in people with autism such as having the ability to intently focus on the details and also showing interest in learning new topics.
4. "High-functioning" or "low-functioning" are preferred terms in autism.
The labels such as “high” or “low” functioning can be unhelpful and uptight at times. These functioning labels seem like a lifelong tag, which can be very misleading and inaccurate.
It is better to avoid these terms since people with autism who may be regarded as “high-functioning” may be dealing with certain problems that are not obvious. It is also true for those who are “low-functioning”, wherein they possess skills that may be difficult to recognize.
5. People with autism have an awesome savant skill.
People with autism would have an uneven developmental profile. It would mean that their level of ability would differ across various skills. All of those who have autism have certain strengths, and in certain cases, a person may be gifted with a particular skill set or an area that can be described as an expert skill. Few of such skill sets would include quick computing of complex mathematical equations or a superb photographic memory.
However, everyone is unique and different, and not all people who have autism have outstanding skill sets or abilities. To assume that all people with autism are very intelligent would be quite unhelpful since intellect is not a measure of someone’s value.
6. People with autism cannot raise children.
As with other disabilities, there has been a lot of prejudice around the notion about people with autism raising children. However, this is only a misconception since there are a lot of parents on the autism spectrum doing well in their parenting skills.
A parent with an autism spectrum disorder better understands the needs of their autistic child on a deeper level. They also have varied strengths and weaknesses just as any other neurotypical parent would possess. Autism should not exclude someone from its parenting abilities or for being a good or bad parent.
7. People with autism do not have a normal sex life or romantic relationships.
Not all people with autism are inclined to dating or having romantic relationships, which is a personal choice that should be respected. However, those who claim that people on the spectrum are unable to have normal sex or build romantic relationships are completely wrong.
8. All people with autism have an intellectual disability.
There are some people with autism who have intellectual disabilities, but there are also other people with autism whose IQ is mostly within the normal range or at times higher than normal.
During the initial autism assessment process, an IQ assessment is carried out. In the case of children with autism, it becomes difficult to measure the exact IQ, so an accurate measurement would not be possible for them.
Although not always the case, individuals with autism who do not speak or use nonverbal gestures usually have a co-existing intellectual disability. Many nonverbal autistic individuals are intelligent. Most of them use a communication device to express their thoughts.
9. People with autism are usually rude.
People with autism have a different method of interpreting the world as compared to non-autistic ones. Since there are different styles of communication, people with autism can often be misinterpreted. Thus, they can be viewed as rude or careless toward others. Most of the time, such encounters are just a simple case of misunderstanding.
10. Children with autism are very aggressive.
As with other peers or children, a child with autism may loudly shout or hit something when he or she is distressed. However, this would not be the case for all children with autism. When such instances occur, this kind of challenging behavior is often related to a lack of alternative skills to cope with the sensory environment, proper communication, or at times, difficulty in controlling their emotions.
In certain cases, a child with autism may show interest in the reactions of people who are either upset or hurt. However, the downside is that the child would not be able to understand the meaning of such emotions. A challenging behavior is often regarded as the last resort of communication. There are very rare instances wherein a child with autism intentionally harms other people.
11. People with autism cannot work.
There is certainly a percentage of truth that some autistic people cannot work at all. In terms of welfare or unemployment statistics, people with autism are mostly overrepresented.
There have been a lot of difficulties or hurdles that surround people with autism when it comes to their career and work. There can be an obvious hesitation or unwillingness on the part of the employers to hire people with autism. However, there are also many cases wherein people with autism are highly skilled in their work.
12. Individuals with autism do not want friends.
Most people with autism want a group of friends, but they often find it difficult when it comes to communicating, socializing, or expressing themselves like other people do.
People with autism can be specially taught about social skills, which are needed when forming friendships. One of the keys to developing friendships is to plan certain activities, which surround shared interests.
13. Autism is due to parenting styles.
Autism is no way linked to parenting styles. The exact cause of autism is yet to be determined by researchers. However, research studies in this area do not support the view that autism can be due to parenting styles.
There are several causes or reasons that could be linked to autism such as heredity and brain development. Due to difficulties of communication and sensory processing, some children with autism tend to negatively respond to usual parenting behavior such as cuddling and hugging and require clear communication to understand other people.
When parents try to adapt and respond to the needs of their child, then they are often judged since it would appear quite unusual to others. But whatever the case may be, it is not right to just assume that parenting styles cause all of the child’s pain and struggles.
14. Autism is a childhood problem that can be cured or outgrown.
There is still no known cure for autism. However, with proper intervention, children with autism can acquire a lot of skills needed to lead a successful life ahead. Remember that autism arises from biological conditions that tend to affect an individual's brain development, which can be a lifelong condition for many.