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10 Common Myths About People With Autism

There are many misconceptions about autism, as many people may only know about it from movies and TV shows — but what is it really? Is everyone autistic good at chess, have supernatural savant abilities or are they all non-verbal? Hopefully, this post will help dispel some common myths and misconceptions about autism.

Myth #1: Autism is like that movie or TV show portrayed it to be.

When I say the word autism, what immediately comes to mind? Is it Raymond, the autistic savant in “Rain Man?” Or the equally autistic savant surgeon Dr. Shaun Murphy in “The Good Doctor?” Or perhaps it is Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory,” who displays autistic traits?

If TV shows and movies are not your thing, maybe you have experienced a personal encounter with autism in your childhood. Perhaps you remember that “special kid” in your class who had trouble communicating with the rest of the class, who was nonverbal or had unusual interests.

Those with autism are often labeled as strange, weird or quirky and often feel ostracized They often become the victims of bullying at school and in the workplace.

Myth #2: Only boys get autism. Girls don’t.

It was believed previously that there was a 3:1 ratio of diagnosis of autism in boys in comparison to girls. But, current research and efforts to improve the sensitivity of diagnostic testing for autism has revealed that the number of girls is actually higher than they initially thought. The ratio is likely to be closer to 2:1 ratio autism in boys to girls.

Why is this the case?

It could be a multitude of factors, but one is the difference in the way boys and girls are socialized, tend to act and also a growing understanding of the different signs and characteristics of autism.

In my opinion, girls tend to live a more sheltered life with a lot of them having their behavior modified at a young age by their mother or father. Girls tend to be better at mimicking and being like a chameleon, trying to blend in with other girls their age. They may have also grown up with “neurotypical” females around them whom they copy, either a sister or a close friend/relative, who then teach and mentor them to act like they are “supposed to.” Boys don’t tend to do that as much, and hence autistic boys are more likely to be diagnosed at an earlier age in comparison to girls.

These boys are able to get the help they need at an earlier age. Many girls who have pretended to be “normal” slip through the cracks in getting diagnosed, and thus grow up struggling to understand why they never seem to fit in with others.

Some questions they may ask themselves:

Why do I never know what to say or do in certain social circumstances?
How come everyone else knows naturally what to do or say?
How can I know if this person is my friend or not? Do they like me or not?
How does body language work and why does it matter?
What does my tone of voice have to do with anything?

Myth #3: You don’t look like you are autistic.

You don’t have to look autistic to be autistic.

Those with misconceptions about people with autism may say, “You can’t be autistic, you don’t look like it!” This can make us feel upset, angry or guilty. Are you accusing us of lying and fabricating our diagnosis? You haven’t lived in or walked in our shoes.

Let me ask you: does someone have to look like they have high blood pressure to have it? Or does someone have to look like they have kidney cancer to have kidney cancer?

Physical appearance and attributes are not the only diagnostic markers of people with conditions.

It’s like judging a book by its cover. You can assume anything about the book, but unless you open it and read it, you will not know what is inside.

Myth #4: All autistic people are the same.

Autism manifests differently in each individual and one size does not fit all. Autism has actually been redefined as “autism spectrum disorder.” It could mean you are not able to speak or communicate with others, or you could be able to hold down a steady job, get married and even have kids. Or anywhere in between, or with any combination of characteristics.

Regardless of whether someone’s autism appears from the outside to be “mild” or “severe,” they are still autistic and they deserve help and support.

Myth #5: Autistic people can’t communicate at all and don’t understand other people.

I’ve had friends say “You communicate so well and I’ve known you so long, surely you can’t have autism.” As myth number four says, autism manifests differently in everyone and everyone is at a different place on the spectrum. Some people on the spectrum are better at copying “social norms” than others. They may unintentionally fool others and maybe even themselves into believing they are “normal.”

Myth #6 You can only get autism as a kid, and then you grow out of it.

Autism is a lifelong condition. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder that happens from birth and there is no known “cure” for it. There is also evidence that it genetically passed from generation to generation, so it can run in families. The only treatment at the moment is behavior modification from a young age, and education for those who know someone who is affected by autism to be more understanding. You can live quite a fulfilling life with the appropriate help and support from others.

Myth #7 People with autism cannot be diagnosed as adults.

As I said, many people, especially females slip through the cracks and can go undiagnosed for many years by acting out their charade. However, if the charade goes wrong, it can lead to mental breakdowns, health problems or relationship breakdowns. This may lead them to see a psychologist, doctor or psychiatrist, which could eventually lead to an adult diagnosis of autism.

Myth #8: Autistic people do not have any emotions, and they can never love anyone else or anything.

Definitely not true! It’s just that autistic people may show their love and affection in different ways than neurotypical people may perceive as “normal.” They are able to love animals and pets, and pets are a good way to teach them nurturing habits. Pets can also decrease anxiety in both adults and children. Autistic people can also get married and have kids, they may be at more risk of communication issues in their relationships, but with some work and help from others, they can make it work.

Myth #9 Autistic people can’t be successful or useful people in society.

This is the biggest myth of all in my opinion! There are many people in history who are suspected to have had autism, or displayed common autistic traits. Famous people such as Mozart, Albert Einstein, and Isaac Newton all demonstrated autistic-like traits. Some well-known people of today who have come out as being on the autism spectrum include the singer and winner of “Britain’s Got Talent,” Susan Boyle, Pokemon creator Satoshi Tajiri, actor Anthony Hopkins and animal behavior expert Temple Grandin.

Myth #10 People with autism either have intellectual disabilities or savant abilities.

As you should be well aware by now, not everyone has a special ability such as a photographic memory, and everyone with autism doesn’t have a learning disorder. Autistic savants are actually quite rare, and please do not assume all autistic people have difficulty learning. Yes, they may have some difficulties understanding abstract concepts and some learning methods, but their IQ is often normal or above average. In saying that, it is possible for someone with autism to also concurrently have learning disabilities.

Image via Pexels.

This story originally appeared on How to Adult With Joy.