10 Myths about ASD

I am not sure where the phrase ‘ignorance is bliss’ came from, but when it comes to real people and real life I’m not convinced it’s very helpful.

In my experience, as a mum and carer of a child with special needs, ignorance can lead to misunderstanding, judgement and division. Whereas knowledge allows for empathy, openness and communication.

I wanted to correct a few wrong assumptions about autism. This list isn’t exhaustive and it comes with a big disclaimer that each person with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an individual. We all have different ideas, preferences and experiences – that goes for their carers too!

Here’s the top 10 myths that I’ve encountered:

  1. Not all people with ASD have a ‘specialist interest’. H loves the Gruffalo, and goes through short phases of obsessive enjoyments of things, but his life isn’t dedicated to it. 
  2. Lining up cars or toys wasn’t H’s thing – people with ASD have some common traits, but they’re each unique.  
  3. Having autism doesn’t mean you’re really clever. Some people are but others have learning difficulties/delay. Some speak while others are non-verbal. Asking whether a child is ‘high functioning’ or ‘low functioning’ isn’t great. A much better question to ask is what their strengths are or what they find difficult.
  4. People with ASD like playing on their own, don’t they? Some will but more often than not I feel like H loves people, but hasn’t got the skills to follow the social cues, manage the situation or communicate his needs. Playing with a child who has ASD or talking to an adult with autism can require patience, love, grace and selflessness. If you want to see the best examples of this then watch young children, they are often the best at including, loving and treating everyone as equals. 
  5. Did you know that people and children with ASD can regress? It’s really tough to watch and we have only had it on a minor scale with H. They can loose skills they once had and make development leaps backwards. It’s so tough. 
  6. Autism doesn’t have a cure. You can help manage the symptoms, ease the anxiety but there’s no ‘magic pill’. When you’re a parent who wants to ‘fix’ things, that’s tough to accept.
  7. Deep breath… the MMR vaccine does not cause ASD. This is a painful thing to hear, especially when the evidence is lacking. Personally, I believe that vaccines are something to be celebrated – see what life was like before them!
  8. ASD is not just being socially awkward. We all know lots of people that struggle socially! Autism is a neurological condition in which the sufferer cannot control or turn it on and off. It’s so much more than being socially awkward so please avoid phrases like ‘that’s a bit autistic’.  
  9. Almost as many girls have ASD as boys. They are often better at masking it so therefore it’s often missed but recently there has been an increased awareness and diagnosis. It’s really important that resources and research is done to help these girls and those who support them. 
  10. Don’t assume they have to change to manage the environment. Why can’t we change the environment to suit them? It’s happening a little with initiatives like ‘Autism Hours’, shops changing their environment to be more inclusive of those with sensory needs.

We all get it wrong, but don’t let that put you off making friends with people with ASD, their carers or wider family.

Asking questions is so much better than to make assumptions. Personally I love it when people ask, it shows their desire to love and include rather than judge.

Having ASD is hard and being a parent carer is tough but we can make it easier. Be ready to listen, don’t assume, learn their ways and make sacrifices to include them.

Any more to add to my list?

Cover Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

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