10 myths about autism – busted

World Autism Awareness Day, 2nd April 2013

World Autism Awareness Day, 2nd April 2013

Myth #1: Autism is rare.
Reality: According to NHS Choices, there are now some 550,000 people in the UK with autism. That equates to one in every 100 people. Add to the picture the family members and loved ones who care for them, and it’s estimated that autism touches the lives of over two million people in the UK every day.

Myth #2: It only affects males.
Reality: Autism can be diagnosed in both sexes, though studies to date suggest that the condition is approximately four times more common in boys than girls. The National Autistic Society is now exploring whether girls with autism could previously have been misdiagnosed or missed diagnosis altogether on the grounds that they can present with more subtle problems later in life than boys.

Myth #3: Autism is the result of bad parenting.
Reality: While the exact cause of autism continues to be investigated, experts do not believe parenting to be a contributory factor. To quote the National Autistic Society: “There is strong evidence to suggest that autism can be caused by a variety of physical factors, all of which affect brain development – it is not due to emotional deprivation or the way a person has been brought up.”

Myth #4: All people with autism exhibit the same needs.
Reality: Autism is one of a range of developmental disorders known as autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) that affect the way a person communicates with, and relates to, others around them. For example, struggling to make eye contact, the inability to start or participate properly in conversations, or a lack of awareness of other people’s emotions and feelings. The term ‘spectrum’ is used because needs can vary from person to person and range from mild to severe.

Myth #5: Autism is a condition that can be cured. 
Reality: Autism is a lifelong condition. In other words, children with autism become adults with autism. Diagnosed early though, and specialist educational and behavioural approaches can help people manage their autism and achieve better outcomes in life.

Myth #6: The future’s bleak.
Reality: Children with mild to moderate autism and an average to high IQ often grow up to be independent adults with jobs, long-term relationships and children of their own. Children with more complex autism needs are more likely to find it difficult to live independently as adults, but with the right information and support they can go on to enjoy a good quality of life.

Myth #7: People with autism are unemployable.
Reality: While everyone with autism is different, many offer skills that are additional to those that the rest of us can bring: higher concentration levels, acute attention to detail and highly attuned analytical skills, to name just a few. Unfortunately, it’s thought that only 15% of adults with autism in the UK are currently in full-time employment and only 9% part-time – something that the National Autistic Society’s employment support service Prospects and other organisations are working hard to address.

Myth #8: Everyone with autism has an extraordinary talent.
Reality: There are certain individuals with autism who, like Dustin Hoffman’s character in the film Rain Man, have an extraordinary talent – known as ‘autistic savant’ – but they are relatively rare. According to the National Autistic Society, current thinking is that at most one or two out of every 100 people with autism may have an extraordinary talent of some kind.

Myth #9: Autism is on the rise.
Reality: The number of diagnosed cases of ASD has increased over the past 20 years, but whether this means the condition itself is on the rise remains unclear. The increase in diagnosis could be a reflection of greater knowledge of the condition. Whereas in the past, children with ASD may have been mistakenly diagnosed as slow, difficult or painfully shy, today’s health and education professionals are more informed on the condition and alert to autism needs.

Myth #10: People with autism aren’t aware of their condition.
Reality: Dr. Wendy Lawson MAPS, an internationally renowned and respected professional with high-functioning autism, describes living with the condition as: “I know I am alive; I breathe, move, talk and function just like any other human being. However, I understand (because it has been said to me) that other people perceive me as being different to them… life seems to me to be like a video that I can watch, but not partake in.” Something to think about the next time you’re in the company of someone with the condition.

This blog post was written at the special request of the Communications Support Base at Duncanrig Secondary School in East Kilbride, Scotland as part of their efforts to increase understanding of ASD for World Autism Awareness Day.

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© Lesley Dougall Copywriting Limited and 10thingsby.com, 2013. Unauthorised reproduction of content is not permitted. To request permission, email copywriter@lesleydougall.com or tweet @lesleydougall

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