Tuesday, November 1, 2022

10 Myths About Autism

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There are a lot of myths and wrong beliefs about autism. We've run into quite a few since Davy's diagnosis in 2021 at the age of 7. I actually first suspected he had autism when he was 3, but thanks to some of the common myths about autism, I had a hard time getting anyone to take my concerns seriously, including medical professionals. So, I thought it might be a good idea to address some of the most common myths. 

1. All autistic people are alike.
This is the same as saying that all people with blonde hair are alike. It's just not true at all and trying to put all autistic people in a box can be very hurtful to them. If you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism. Each one is a unique, amazing individual with different personalities, traits, and characteristics. 

2. Autistic people flap and rock.
Flapping and rocking fall under the category of stimming which is a repetitive behavior that people with autism often do to calm or regulate themselves. Stimming comes in many different shapes and forms though, not just flapping or rocking. Davy's favorite stim is what we call "book and pen." Ever since he was an infant, he has spent hours flipping pages in books and when he was a toddler he added the "pen" which can be any object that is shaped similar to a pen. "Book and pen" is where he sits (usually on the floor) with a book (the bigger the better) open on his lap, flipping through the pages one by one while flipping and fidgeting with the pen in his hands.  

3. You can grow out of autism.
Nope. Autism is a neurological and developmental disorder, which means that it's something that is hardwired into a person. A person can learn to manage its symptoms with therapies, but it's not something that can be outgrown. 

4. Autistic people can control their behavior.
When Davy is in the middle of a meltdown, he's out of control. There's no talking or disciplining him out of it. The best thing to do is be aware of his triggers and when he's getting overstimulated so I can try to stop the meltdown before it starts. 

5. Autistic people don't like being touched.
Some people with autism are hypersensitive to touch and don't like it, but others are hyposensitive and crave it. Davy is hyposensitive and he loves hugs and often crashes his body into furniture or the floor intentionally because he craves that sensory input. 

6. Autistic people don't have or want friends.
People with autism often have difficulties making or keeping friends, but that doesn't mean they don't want or need them! 

7. All autistic people are geniuses.
Okay, some are, but that doesn't mean they all are. Davy may not be a certified genius, but the way his brain works amazes me. About a tenth of all autistic people have savant abilities. 

8. People with autism don't have a sense of humor.
Some people with autism may not understand certain jokes, but that doesn't mean that they don't have a sense of humor. Davy has a very unique sense of humor that is different than most people's, but hilarious nonetheless.

9. People with autism don't have empathy or feelings.
Just because they express their feelings in different ways doesn't mean that people with autism don't have any or are not empathetic towards others. A friend of mine with autism explained to me that she feels emotions so intensely that they're overwhelming and she shuts down.

10. Autism is overdiagnosed or isn't really a real disorder.
Ever heard this one? "Kids in my day didn't have autism!" Actually, in your day, kids with more severe symptoms of autism were often institutionalized and weren't mainstreamed and kids with less severe symptoms went undiagnosed and misunderstood, often causing irreparable damage. It's very real and it often went undiagnosed in the past. Thank goodness things have changed! 

Which of those myths have you heard or did you believe at one time?


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