As autism diagnoses have been on the rise for many years, many more people are now aware of autism than in the past. However, along with this increased awareness, lots of people also have mistaken beliefs about autism. This Autism Awareness Month, we wanted to briefly explore some of these autism myths so that readers will have a better understanding of a disorder that is now diagnosed in 1 in 59 American children. Keep reading to learn about four common autism myths and explanations of why they’re not supported by the evidence. Be sure to share your new knowledge with anyone you know who might have some mistaken beliefs regarding autism!
Autism is caused by vaccines
This myth stems from the 1998 publication of a paper in a medical journal that claimed there could be a link between the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. After lots of publicity, details emerged regarding financial conflicts of interest, scientific ethics violations, and cherrypicking data. In the years since this paper was published, the head author has had his medical license revoked. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention elaborates about this myth, numerous studies since have concluded that there is no link between vaccines and ASD.
Poor parenting leads to autism
For a period in the middle of the 20th century, there was a harmful theory of “refrigerator mothers” whose lack of affection led to autism in their children. Some experts believed that mothers who didn’t outwardly express love could trigger autism in their children. This has been disproven, but some people still believe that autism results from the way parents behave toward their children. This stereotype can make an autism diagnosis even more difficult for parents.
All people with autism are the same
There’s a phrase that’s often said regarding autism: If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. This bears repeating because people will sometimes lump people with autism together as if they’re one group with little variation. In reality, autism is known as a spectrum disorder because its impact can vary widely between different individuals. The best way to understand someone with ASD is to get to know them, rather than accepting certain stereotypes that are often wrong.
People with autism don’t have feelings
Autism can make it difficult to respond emotionally in various situations, but just like everyone else, people with autism experience joy, sadness, frustration, and all kinds of other emotions. Treating people with autism as outsiders who are different from others only alienates them, when instead we should be doing our best to include them and treat them kindly.
We hope that delving into these common autism myths helped to clarify some questions you may have had. To continue spreading awareness about autism this April (and throughout the rest of the year as well), sport some autism awareness gear!