Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects around 1 in every 100 people.
While most individuals with autism are diagnosed as children, some individuals can and have been diagnosed well into their adulthood.
And while certain traits or characteristics are common among people with autism, such as a sensitivity to sensory input or social communication challenges, every person’s experience of ASD is entirely unique. This is precisely why autism is referred to as a “spectrum.”
The number of autistic traits present in a person and how these traits manifest will vary in a multitude of ways from individual to individual.
Unfortunately, in part because autism is such a complex condition, various myths and misconceptions about it and about autistic people have cropped up over the years. These myths are misleading and offensive at the minimum.
At their worst, they can encourage discriminatory and even violent behaviour against people with ASD and their families.
If you suspect your child or someone else close to you may have ASD, it’s best to seek a professional autism diagnosis Singapore residents trust.
Once you’ve received a reliable assessment, you can then determine what therapeutic interventions are necessary for your child.
It’s also helpful to familiarise yourself with common misconceptions about ASD, as understanding the condition better will enable you to give your child the understanding, support and care they need to thrive.
Here are four common myths about autism, debunked:
Autism Is an Illness
Many people assume that autism is a disease that can be cured with medication or medical procedures, or that people with autism can receive therapy to cure their condition.
This is not the case. In fact, the notion of “curing” autism doesn’t even factor into the discussions people with ASD have with their families and the professionals working to support them.
And while everyone experiences autism differently, many individuals with ASD believe that their autism is a significant part of their life and identity and would not even want it taken away from them given the chance.
Autism is a neuro-developmental condition that can take many forms.
Learning difficulties, difficulties with socialising and communication impairments are all common indicators, and their presentation in affected individuals can also range from mild to severe.
People with autism seek therapy and professional support not to “cure” the disorder but to figure out how to live with it healthily, productively and independently. With proper care, many people with ASD are able to live long and meaningful lives.
Autism Comes from Vaccines
The myth that vaccines are a leading cause of autism is one of the most prevalent and dangerous misconceptions surrounding the disorder.
Many people continually refuse life-saving vaccines because they’re afraid that these will cause them or their children to develop ASD.
These “anti-vaxxers” are highly vulnerable to infectious diseases and also risk spreading disease to others, endangering their community’s health and even human lives.
The spurious connection between vaccines and autism has also driven further discrimination against people with ASD and their families globally.
This myth comes from a fraudulent 1998 study published in the well-known medical journal The Lancet.
This study, which was authored by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and 12 of his colleagues, drew a tenuous link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, intestinal inflammation and autism based on observations of 8 vaccinated children with intestinal inflammation.
A lengthy investigation of the study revealed that the conducted experiment fell well below acceptable scientific standards.
The study’s results were also debunked as non-replicable, non-indicative of their conclusions and outright deceptive.
Wakefield’s co-authors later withdrew their names from the article, and Wakefield himself was eventually stripped of his medical license and expelled from England.
Autism Is a Childhood Disorder
Because autism is frequently diagnosed in childhood, some mistakenly believe that only children experience it.
These people may think that one can “grow out of” ASD, either independently or with help from therapy and other supportive interventions.
On the contrary, autism is a lifelong condition.
Autistic traits not only manifest differently in different people but may also change and develop as the affected individual goes through life.
The main objective of therapy for people with autism is to address particular areas of concern, such as speech, learning, skills development, socialisation and others.
Proper support helps mitigate the condition’s many challenges and enables people with autism to lead functional and fulfilling lives, but they don’t “grow out of” the condition in the strictest sense.
Children with Autism Are Violent or Aggressive
Another harmful myth is that children with ASD are more violent than their peers in terms of either the frequency or the severity of the violent behaviour.
Recent research has disproven this misconception and found that violent or aggressive tendencies are no more common in children with autism than they are in any other children.
Any child may resort to shouting and hitting others when they don’t get something they want or are otherwise stressed or upset.
Ultimately, this behaviour is a sign that the child is struggling to cope with intense emotions and is unaware of how to manage them appropriately.
Making an active effort to understand and learn about ASD is crucial to the lifelong process of supporting and advocating for loved ones with autism.
The better informed people everywhere are about this often misunderstood condition, the easier it will be for people with autism to access the support they both need and deserve.