From: Dr. Chun Wong
Sometimes, it feels like autism is only in the news when an autistic person has committed a criminal act or an act of violence, or when Jenny McCarthy is on Oprah or Larry King talking about her latest book or vaccines, or it is announced that we’re in the middle of an autism epidemic.
No wonder people have such warped views on autism and don’t understand what it is. I even read a blog the other day written by a blogger who’d met a woman who was scared to get pregnant in case she had an autistic child! Sad!
Let’s have a look at some of the top 10 autism myths and views that surround the world of autism:
1. Autism is a Mental Illness Similar to Schizophrenia
No, autism has nothing to do with schizophrenia. Autism is a neurobiological and developmental disorder which commonly affects a person’s ability to communicate, socialize and empathize.
2. You Can Tell an Autistic Person by Looking at Them
No, autism is an “invisible” condition.
3. Autism is caused by the MMR Vaccine
That’s such a sweeping statement! Although many people feel that there is a link between vaccines and autism, there are actually many potential causes or triggers of autism.
4. Autism is Caused by a Lack of Bonding Between Mother and Child
This theory is known as “The Refrigerator Mother Theory” and was put forward by Dr. Bruno Bettelheim in the 1950s and 60s. Autism is now seen as a biological condition, rather than a psychiatric one, and is nothing to do with bad parenting or lack of affection.
5. All Autistic People are Savants
The film “Rainman” has got much to answer for! Not all autistic children and adults are savants like Dustin Hoffman’s character in the film, this is actually very rare.
6. Autistic People are Violent
This myth is fueled by news reports of autistic people becoming violent. What about the majority of violent acts that are committed by people without autism? Autistic children and teenagers can lash out in frustration but their autism does not mean that they are going to grow up to be violent and aggressive.
7. Autism Cannot be Cured
This is a controversial one and many people get rather angry and upset about this debate. I believe that autism can be treated and cured, in that a person can recover from it. If an autistic child has treatment, their symptoms disappear and they are taken off the spectrum, then I believe that they are cured.
8. Autism is One Disorder
No, the autism spectrum is made up of five different disorders – Rett Syndrome, Asperger Syndrome, PDD-NOS, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Kanner’s Autism (SLD Autism or Classic Autism). Each disorder has its own particular characteristics and symptoms.
9. An Autistic Child Cannot be Treated or Educated and Parents just have to Accept that
Not true. There are all kinds of treatments available for autism. I believe that biomedical treatments, that work on the trigger of autism symptoms, are the most effective. An autistic child can reach their full potential with a program of treatment and support.
10. Autism is Rare
Unfortunately not, the Center for Disease Control figures state that autism affects 1 in 150 children in the US alone.
I’m not sure that we’re ever going to live in a world free of discrimination, hatred and stereotypes, and where people don’t look disapprovingly at you when your child throws a tantrum in public, but we can help educate others and do our bit to raise autism awareness.