“People with Autism are like Rain Man”
“They don’t feel emotions like others”
“They don’t want to make friends”
These statements are common beliefs about people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Although making general statements about any group of people will never be completely accurate, it is even harder with ASD to pinpoint common traits. As the name suggests, the condition includes a wide range of behaviours and developmental levels, meaning that generalisations and assumptions that are formed are often not true.
In the wake of World Autism Awareness Day, we’ve decided to conquer some of these common misconceptions about ASD in our month-long campaign to raise awareness.
Here are 6 common myths about Autism:
1. People with Autism don’t want friends
This is often not the case. Most adults and children with ASD want to socialise and build friendships, but at times find it difficult to do so. Some social situations can make people on the spectrum feel anxious. This is because often the intricacies that ‘neurotypical’ people take for granted, such as tone of voice and non-verbal communication, are harder to pick up on by those with ASD. Being patient and continuing to practice will help both people with ASD and those without it communicate better with each other.
2. People with Autism don’t feel emotions like I do
Just because someone may have difficulty expressing emotions like others, it doesn’t mean they do not feel them. We all have it in us to feel happy, sad, jealous, angry and anxious. Some of us will feel more of these than others. People with ASD may find it hard to express what they are feeling. This difficulty may result in some unusual behaviour, but it’s important to keep in mind that they do feel what everyone else does, so we need to be kind and sensitive to
3. People with Autism can’t understand emotions of others
While it is true that often ASD can affect an individual’s ability to understand non-verbal communication, it is not the case that they don’t understand your emotions at all. Less overt social cues and body language may not be detected by people with ASD, but when emotions are expressed more directly, they will often feel compassion and empathy for others, just like anyone else.
4. People with Autism are like Rain Man
Just like everyone, people with ASD have a broad range of skills and capabilities. And just like everyone, some are extremely gifted in one or a few areas. However, it is simply not true that everyone with Autism can recite the phone book or tell you what day of the week you were born on.
5. Autism is caused by bad parenting
The causes of Autism are still not completely understood. However, it is not caused by bad parenting. Many parents may feel as though they are not achieving the same results as parents of a typically developing child, but this is to be completely expected. Parents of any child who treat their children with compassion, patience and love are doing a good job by us!
6. He/she/they are “Autistic”
People that have ASD are most commonly passionate, loving and compassionate people that happen to have a disorder. This disorder does not define them. Someone who happens to have depression isn’t referred to as “a depressed”, they are a person suffering from depression. So why should we label people with ASD in the same way? It may only be something small, but recognising the person behind the disability, rather than recognising them for their limitations will have a profound effect on how we all get along.