Autism Myths and Misconceptions

Autism Myths and Misconceptions

One in one hundred and ten children will be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Each of these children will experience the disorder differently and face a complex set of struggles and challenges. While many advocacy groups have shed new, positive light on the individuals who suffer from this disorder, there are, unfortunately, still many myths and misconceptions about autism that exist today.

One of the more common myths is that people with autism do not want to have any friends or engage with their peers.  This is actually untrue. Individuals with autism may often seem detached or unfriendly. They may also be incredibly shy. The reason for this is not coldness, but the fact that they may not know how to interact with peers depending on the severity of their disorder. They are not able to interact, communicate and develop relationships like the average person. It is suggested by experts to reach out to those with autism in a kind and gentle way. They are very possibly overwhelmed by the social situation, and speaking to them can help them focus.

Another misconception and myth about this disorder is that those who have it are emotionless; they cannot feel any emotion or express any emotion. Autistic people are definitely able to feel and express the same emotions that the average person can. The reason people believe they are not able to is the fact that they simply experience and communicate their emotions differently. Their facial expressions when experiencing something happy or sad, for example, may not be the same as someone who has not been diagnosed with autism. They perceive things differently and therefore react to them differently and express them differently.

Similarly, it is often assumed that autistic people cannot understand other people’s emotions. The exact opposite is actually true. People with autism are able to empathize with others as well as feel compassion for them. The issue is that the emotions experienced need to be communicated in very clear way. For example, if someone is being sarcastic, people with autism will probably not be able to pick up the sarcastic tone to be able to gauge what that person is feeling. It is also difficult for them to recognize emotions through the body language of others. All that it takes for them to be empathetic and recognize what someone is experiencing, is to be clear and state exactly what it is that is happening. Clarity is extremely helpful for autistic people.

Many people think that autistic people are just like Dustin Hoffman’s character, an autistic adult male, in the popular movie Rain Man. People think that all people with this disorder have savant skills, and that is not the case. Just like any human being, their skills differ from one person to the other. While some do have savant skills, they are not found in every autistic person. Experts in this field state that it is extremely important to debunk these myths and misconceptions about autism, as they can be damaging to the individuals who suffer from this disorder.

By: Rebecca Savastio


Autism Speaks