Four Common Myths About Autism
According to current numbers, 1% of the world's population is autistic. That's seventy-five million, two hundred and seventy thousand people. Despite this huge number, the public's perception of autism is incredibly inaccurate. The number of people who believe all sorts of ridiculous and offensive things about autism is staggering. And the worst bit is some of these people don't even mean to be offensive.
According to Maya Angelou, "If you don't like something, change it." In this case, what I don't like is the number of myths that are accepted as "the truth." I'm talking about misconceptions that are held by the general public (and unfortunately some medical professionals). Therefore, in this article, I'm going to talk about, explain, and debunk four of the most touted-about autism-related myths.
Please note: this is by no means a comprehensive list. There are dozens, possibly hundreds, of myths about autism. I’m only getting into four - I don’t even mention Peppa Pig.
Myth #1: All Autistics Are Savants
Many people equate autism with socially inept genius. Einstein is an exception confused for the rule. For the record, he was a socially inept genius. I, as a certified non-genius autistic, disprove this myth. This isn't to say there aren't genius or savant autistics - but having the diagnosis of autism doesn't guarantee genius.
Myth #2: Autistics are Less Empathetic/Don’t Feel Emotions
This one is just offensive. Yes, we feel emotions - we just don’t show them in traditional ways. Many autistic people have trouble with their tone of voice and facial expressions not matching what they’re feeling, which is probably where this myth comes from. I myself sound like Eeyore some of the time. But not showing empathy in traditional ways does not mean we don't have it.
Myth #3: Vaccines Cause Autism
The types of people who believe vaccines cause autism are the same sorts of people who don’t believe man-made global warming is a thing - people who don’t want to face the facts. Simply put, there is zero, I repeat ZERO evidence for this claim. Andrew Wakefield (the British doctor whose paper created this myth) had his medical license revoked. This means he may no longer legally practice medicine in the UK. Having no medical license put a wrench in his plans to ruin more autistic lives, so he and his family immigrated to Austin, Texas, where he continues to insist there is a link between vaccines and autism.
Myth 4#: Autism Is Inherently Bad
Again, offensive. Something that is extremely important to understand is that autism is a highly individualized experience. Those words are important - individualized experience. Autism is more than a diagnosis - being autistic completely affects how a person will live their life. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Being autistic means going through life in a way that is different than the vast majority - and those differences do come with benefits. (Challenges for sure, but also benefits.)
For example, I have the ability to think about something from almost anyone's perspective, probably from years of conscious practice. And I have the ability to hyper-focus, which is how I wrote this entire article in 9 hours. I also have an incredible brain for facts. For example, I know that the original series of Star Trek was so popular, it had reruns despite only having 79 episodes (a show back then needed at least 100).
There is one thing I want to make absolutely clear- I don't speak for all autistics. This article does have facts, but it also has some opinions. And those opinions are mine and mine alone. Not every autistic person likes that they're autistic, and some even wish they had been "born normal." Remember that autism is nuanced and complicated - I'm just one voice.
I hope this article has broadened your understanding of some myths that surround autism. I also hope it's given you lots of questions. Feel free to email us about any of them. Alternatively, ask someone autistic who you know IRL. But please, for god's sake, do not go to Autism Speaks...
Coming soon- Autism Speaks, and why we hate it