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  • Writer's pictureMonarch

Autism Myths

A heart celebrating autism and neurodiversity

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental diagnosis, in that differences are present from birth. See our previous blog post to learn more about autism. There are many misconceptions about autistic individuals. To help shed light on differences related to an autism spectrum disorder, it is important to have an accurate understanding. Resources are also provided below and when possible, links are included highlighting autistic individuals to bring awareness to their personal experience. 

Myth: Autism only affects males. 

Individuals of all genders can be autistic. There is still a misconception that only males can be diagnosed with autism. Autism is diagnosed more frequently in males; however, as researchers learn more about autism, they are beginning to develop guesses about why that is the case. One reason seems to be that females learn to mask (hide or disguise) autistic traits to fit in. In addition, differences related to autism can look different in males and females. 

Myth: Vaccines cause autism.

There is no evidence of a connection between autism and vaccines. None. This “controversy” began in 1998 when researchers published a paper stating that a vaccine “caused” autism. The study included 12 children and was later labeled as “fraud”. Follow up studies have found no evidence that vaccines cause autism.

Myth: Autism is a learning difference. 

Autism spectrum disorder is not a learning disorder. The term learning disorder is used to categorize differences in areas of learning (e.g., reading, writing, and/or math). Differences in autism can be related to social interactions, preferences for routines, communication, and/or intellectual skills. Autistic individuals can communicate verbally, with communication assisting devices, or through other means. 

Myth: An individual can only be diagnosed with autism as a child.

Since autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, this means that patterns of differences are present from birth. Meaning, someone is born with autism. Differences can be supported, welcomed, and embraced, yet differences remain present throughout an individual’s life. An individual can be diagnosed with autism at almost any point in their life.

Being autistic is a part of who a person is. Ambitious about Autism and many other organizations celebrate autistic individuals. Ambitious about Autism has videos created by autistic individuals explaining what differences related to autism spectrum are like for them personally. Which, for someone who does not have autism, is beyond helpful! 

Myth: Autistic individuals cannot form friendships.

Differences in social interactions and communication are a criteria for an autism spectrum disorder. However, these differences do not mean that an autistic individual cannot form friendships. Autistic individuals might interact differently, but a difference is not wrong or bad; it’s just different. Despite differences in communication, autistic individuals desire friendships and social connection. 

Myth: Everyone is a little bit autistic. 

Differences related to autism are true differences. These differences can result in an autistic individual having a different experience of the world. That different experience is valid and real. Some people might (incorrectly) view autism as just being socially awkward or shy. While autism occurs along a spectrum, it is also based on differences within the brain that are present from birth. Just because autism occurs along a spectrum does not mean everyone is somewhere on that spectrum. 

A related term and view that tends to be more inclusive is Neurodiversity. Neurodiversity aims to celebrate a broad range of neurological differences, including autism. Neurodiversity tends to be a broader term that is focused on celebrating each individual’s unique strengths, challenges, and ways of interacting with the world. Everyone is neurodiverse! 

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