Health & Well Being

Debunking Autism Myths

Autism is a disease.

MYTH: Autism is neither a disease, nor does it need to be “eradicated.” However, prominent autism advocacy organizations such as Autism Speaks often portray autism as something that needs to be cured, and in several ads has even claimed it is the “worst thing that could ever happen to a family.”

Instead of seeing autism as a burden, encourage those you know to see it as an opportunity. Instead of “curing” autism itself, we should focus on teaching kids with autism skills to help them in the world; likewise, we should teach those without autism to be accepting. My friend put it best: “Autistic people need acceptance, not awareness.”

 

Autism expresses the same symptoms in every person with autism.

MYTH: When Sesame Street aired its first autistic muppet, Julia, in May 2017, the worldwide autism community rejoiced at these lines of dialogue:

HELPER: Julia has autism. She likes it when people know that.

BIG BIRD: Autism? What’s autism?

HELPER: Well, for Julia, it means she might not answer you right away.

And just like that, the stars aligned. The stressing of the helper to understand that autistic people’s symptoms differ from each other when he says, “Well, for Julia, it means…” couldn’t be more true. When people think autism, they often think of certain cultural, stereotypical checkboxes one must have in order to be autistic: social incapability, hyperactivity, lack of empathy, being nonverbal. But autism expresses itself differently in everyone.

One of the reasons this can be so confusing is because, in the past ten years, doctors have become more aware of this and thus began to understand an “autism spectrum.” Additionally, the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome has been eliminated recently due to the blurriness between its symptoms and the symptoms of ASD.

As of 2014, 1 in 68 children was diagnosed with some form of autism spectrum disorder. This is up from 2005, where it was 1 in 132 children. This is most likely because of increased education on autism in recent years, as well as the expansion of ASD to cover other disorders.

“Autistic” is an appropriate way to describe someone’s behavior.

MYTH: This needs to stop. Phrases like these, as well as “Oh my gosh, I’m so OCD” (because the person’s highlighters were kept in order) and “wow, this weather is so bipolar” (when it was hot and cold in the same week; imagine that) are things very commonly heard used in high school classrooms and are drastically offensive. They not only isolate those with these disorders, but normalize them and can even prevent those actually with the disorders from getting the help they need.

Autistic people all love rubik’s cubes.

MYTH: Come on now. Everyone loves rubik’s cubes.

 

– Madelyn Peppard

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