According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010 approximately 1 out of 68 children were diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder, over twice as many diagnosis than were identified back in 2002. It is difficult to determine how much of this increase has to do with a rise in actual autism, and how much it is affected by overall awareness. Media portrayals, such as the movie Rainman, have given more people an opinion of what they believe autism is. With over 1% of kids affected, there are also more people who have friends or family with autism. But even with awareness up, there are still misconceptions. Some ideas incorrectly inflate abilities of people with autism, while others discredit them. Here are some of the misconceptions about autism.
Autistic People are All Alike
No two people are completely alike, not even identical twins, and certainly people who fall someplace on the autistic spectrum. The spectrum itself is relatively wide. One person might be nonverbal and hypersensitive to physical touch and may resort to various rhythmic movements as a way to cope with the world. Another person may talk a lot about their interests, but have trouble with social cues that indicate they should take turns, or even that the person they are talking to might not share their level of interest. One child might be fascinated by baseball or cars, while another might be engrossed in classical music. Regardless of their place, autistic people live with a sort of shell between themselves and the world, and it takes extra effort on their part as well as other people in their lives to communicate and recognize exactly who they are.
Autistic People All Have Savant Talents
Over the years, there have been several stories in the news about autistic children that hold prodigy level skill in one particular area such as music, math, or science. While there are many children with savant talents, this group represents a small number of people who are on the autistic spectrum.
Autistic People are Violent or Dangerous
When people see an autistic person moving or vocalizing in a way they are not used to seeing they might feel threatened, however in most cases there is no need for concern. Often, they are reacting to someone or something invading their personal space. They also may worry because many autistic people are quiet, and perhaps they’ve heard the phrase, “it’s always the quiet ones” one too many times. However, an autistic person is no more likely to have violent tendencies than anyone else.
Autism is a mental health disorder and/or a mental disability
Autism is a neurological disorder that occurs because of abnormalities in brain structure. It is not related to intellectual disabilities in any direct way. Because expressing themselves through language and mastering social skills is difficult, some people with autism might find a task difficult that is easy for the average person. The same person may have no problem with complex concepts and perform well academically.
Autistic people are unlikely to have meaningful relationships or a career.
Supposedly autistic characters in TV and movies are often depicted as incapable of feelings such as empathy or concern for others. Some autistic people have trouble expressing these feelings, or may do so in some nontraditional way, but they are far from unfeeling. While an autistic child may not be a social butterfly, meaningful social relationships are formed all the time. They develop close friendships with a smaller number of people, and will often fall in love, get married, and have a family of their own. Many also are able to have a successful career by pursuing options that interest them in an environment where they feel comfortable.