Top 10 Autism Myths

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.


0 thoughts on “Top 10 Autism Myths

  • Autism, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Disorder are all potential pitfalls when a child doesn’t have proper child development. I think all families should be wary of this.

  • Anonymous

    Yayyyy! Thanks, Doc, for putting down a few myths! As for a cure, at least in popular sense, I’m not aware of any, but I can attest to the profound effectiveness of treatment. In my case (Asperger’s), simply learning and practicing certain skills has helped me study better in school, get along better with people, and I can even mitigate the some of the sensory chaos by wearing colored glasses to read and working on auditory exercises. It’s hard, and it takes a lot of time, but my A.S. has been treated to a point where it’s not so socially and academically crippling. I can even teach a dance class! Not for very long before it becomes too much, but I can do it now… and it would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago.

  • Bravo Dr Wong, now how do we convince the world? Although I am not sure you can “cure” autism as you can a disease. I do know you can treat the “disorder” with intensive and ongoing  training and support. We can teach a  person with autism needed strategies to manage or take the “dis” out of “disorder”  by teaching communication and social skills. This will enable the person with autism to manage in the world of those without autism. Then everyone is okay with it all, right!!! Yes, autism is not “visible” like many other disorders but the different behaviors are very visible and difficult for many to accept. By behaviors I don’t just mean “misbehaviors” I mean “a different way of acting” – different from “the norm” (whatever that is!)

    As we strive to teach persons with autism the skills and strategies they need to learn we have just as big a job to do teaching persons without autism what they need to know about autism and be more tolerant and accepting.

  • I think many of the myths have come about because of false and inaqurate diagnosis. In one of my college classes Perversity, Deviance, and Social Control autism came up because anything not normal is considered Deviant for academic studies. We learned that Aspergers is one of the most over diagnosised syndrom right behind ADD. So many parents hear the possible effects of it and want to label their children in order to help that they badger doctors and/or move from doctor to doctor until they get the diagosis they want.

    Before you say no parent would wish this diagnosis on their child, think again. I have seen this time and time again in NYC where parents are looking for something to blame if they think their child is not perfect. My ex-boyfriend claimed to have aspergers but he was completely capable of forming empathetic feelings towards others. He only brought up Aspergers when he decided to do something that would hurt someone and was caught doing it.

    I have met genuine Autistic children and the difference is mind blowing. I wish dr. would just not pay attention to so much money that some wave in their faces and focus on educating people about the actual syndrome and helping debunk myths.


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