Myths surrounding Autism

Myths surrounding Autism

There’s an elephant in the room but nobody seems to be talking about it! People (especially in our culture) avoid talking about Neurodiversity. They don’t like to speak openly about Autism, it makes them nervous and that’s at times frustrating. There are many myths and misconceptions related to spectrum disorder, there are many associated stigmas like shame, embarrassment, concerns about inadequate parenting. People are ignorant about Autism and they are afraid of variety. When I received Autism diagnosis for my Buttercup, I was scared too and exactly for the same two reasons. But I knew from that very moment that I was my child’s advocate, I would need to speak on her behalf. Over time I’ve realised that being her advocate is not enough I had to bring about a ‘change of heart’ in the society. I need to change how the world sees Autism, I need to challenge the misleading stereotypes and I need to connect with people and educate them … so the next autistic individual they encounter is better understood.

Autism is a mystery to most of us because it’s a complex disorder and it impacts each and every neuro-diverse person so differently. Autism is like a fingerprint, no two autistic people in the world would have the same. So if you believe that all individuals on Spectrum are Dustin Hoffman from Rain Man or Shahrukh Khan from My name is Khan then you are mistaken. When it comes to Autism, one size doesn’t fit all and that’s why it is said that “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve literally met just one person with autism.”

There are certain myths about Autism that are far-fetched & need a reality check

  1. Myth: ‘They use Autism as an excuse’

People can be judgy sometimes (actually most of the times), they may think that our kids are spoiled and need to be disciplined. They think children with autism are badly behaved, obnoxious, loud. But it’s only because they are hiding beneath a brittle shell of anxiety and fear. They act out because they get scared, feel out of control or overwhelmed. So next time when you meet an autistic kid and you notice him stimming or not responding to your greetings please don’t think they are ill mannered. Try to understand, be patient, be encouraging and be persistent. And most importantly, refrain from those stares, comments or unsolicited advice to the parents.

  1. Myth: ‘Autism only affects children and it can be cured’

Due to the advances in professional and popular understanding of autism over last few decades, it is now generally accepted that it is not an “illness,” Autism cannot be operated on or taken out of a person.  ASD is a permanent neurological condition that cannot be removed or cured, Therapies and diligent efforts can reduce the severity of symptoms & help these kids develop adaptive skills for daily living, behaviour regulation & social engagements. However, when these kids grow up, they would still have their autistic traits.

  1. Myth: ‘Children with Autism can’t learn’

They absolutely can, and therapies improve their learning ability and ability to focus by reducing stimming and attention deficit challenges. However, their learning styles may vary person to person like some are visual learners, some are aural learners, some are physical, and some are logical learners.

  1. Myth: ‘Individual’s with Autism are rude and don’t feel Empathy’

People often think they are blunt because they don’t know how to play with words & to modulate their voice. The common belief that autistics lack empathy and do not desire relationships is just not true, in fact, autistic people are far more connected to their surroundings than anyone else.  The problems with socialization do not stem from a lack of desire, but rather from the impairments that come from the different neural wiring that is autism.

  1. Myth: ‘They don’t look Autistic’

I’m tired of this one! I often hear this for my Buttercup and let me clarify, Autism does not have ‘a look’. So, my kid may appear normal from outside, but she’s wired differently and her brain processes information differently …. in a way that makes social skills and conversational speech extremely difficult for her. It is not a compliment for an autistic person when you tell him/ her that they don’t look Autistic, it rather means that you have stereotypes in your mind about what certain disabilities look like and the person does not confirm to it. For some autistic individuals it requires tremendous amount of energy & focus and hours of therapy every day to appear and act normal in order to avoid judgements and cope with neurotypicals. They have to hide it so the rest of us feel good. ‘Masking’ is painful.

  1. Myth: ‘A person with Autism is either non-verbal or a Genius’

Some statistics may help explain this one …… 40 percent of autistic kids are non-verbal; 30 percent have intellectual disability and 10 percent are savants/ genius. Which means only 1 in 10 people with autism have savant skills, skills that are considered profound and outside the realm of what is considered ‘normal’. These savant abilities are typically found in math, music, memory or art. Also, some autistic people have splinter skills that are well above their overall functioning in other areas, but that does not make them a savant.

  1. Myth: ‘You shouldn’t expect much from an autistic person’

Desires and potential of an Autistic person are no different than a neurotypical. People with autism can achieve great things if they’re supported by people who believe in their potential. They are in fact, often the creative innovators amongst us, given their ability to see the world through a different lens. Autism just means “Different“ not “Less“

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