Autism can be a frightening disorder, and even today, it’s poorly understood – which may explain why there are so many autism myths
The spectrum of behavioral disorders known as autism can be terrifying, which may be why autism myths are so common. As with anything we don’t understand, we look for any explanations we can find; and often, those explanations are misinformed.
In this article, we’ll take a look at four common myths about autism, and tell you why they’re just not true.
Myth #1: Autism is Caused by Vaccinations
Sadly, stricken children often do express the first signs of autism soon after their initial round of childhood immunizations. Proponents of this myth argue that mercury-based preservatives in the vaccines are the cause.
However, extensive scientific studies have proven no connection between vaccines and autism whatsoever. As far as we can tell, the apparent correlation is a coincidence: unfortunately, autism symptoms tend to emerge at about the same time childhood vaccinations are due.
Incidentally, mercury-based preservatives aren’t used anymore – but some parents still won’t allow their children to be vaccinated. While this hasn’t slowed down the rate of autism, it’s certainly resulted in higher numbers of illnesses (and deaths) caused by diseases that aren’t a threat if the child is vaccinated.
Myth #2: We’re in the Middle of an Autism Epidemic!
Not really. While about 1 in 150 children is diagnosed with autism these days, experts believe that autism isn’t becoming more widespread: we’re just better able to recognize and diagnose it. Add to that the fact that the definition of autism has recently broadened, and the number of cases seems to have surged.
Myth 3: Autism is Caused by “Refrigerator” Parents
For a while, blaming cold, unemotional patients for autism was in vogue, but that’s gone by the wayside in the face of recent discoveries. Setting aside the fact that the parents of many autistic children are warm and caring, it’s becoming clear that autism isn’t an emotional or mental disorder: it’s a biological illness.
According to current understanding, autism is basically a neurological disorder, caused when areas of the brain associated with social behavior and communication are damaged during post-natal development. Why or how this occurs is still not understood.
Myth 4: All Autistic People Have Special Talents
Some do, but by no means all. While there have been cases of autistic “human cameras” who can reproduce with pencil and paper anything they’ve seen just once, and a few who can tell you what day February 5 will fall on in the year A.D. 13,012, “savants” are rare in any collection of human beings.
Autistic individuals have normal human strengths and weaknesses, just like everyone else. Remember, Dustin Hoffman’s character in “Rain Man,” while compelling, was fictional. Don’t let this or any of these other autism myths lead you astray.