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Source: Health Central
April 2, 2008
Autism is one of five major Pervasive Development Disorders. It is estimated that 1 in every 150 births in the United States will include autism. The rate of autism in our country is growing at a rate of between 10% and 17% each year. Even so, many people do not understand autism and there are a number of myths surrounding the diagnosis.
Myth # 1 – Autistic People Are All the Same
Many people believe that if they have met one person with autism, then all people with autism will be the same way. Or maybe they have seen a movie that has a character with autism. They may believe that everyone with autism will act the same way as the character.
Autism, however, is a spectrum disorder. People can be severely autistic to highly functional and everywhere in between. All autistic people do seem to have problems with social communication. They have difficulties with conversation, eye contact and understanding the emotions within a conversation. Other than that, each person with autism is unique. Each has their own set of symptoms, which might include: repetitive or limited interests and activities and developmental delays in both gross and fine motor skills.
Myth # 2 – Autistic People Do Not Talk
Based on what we have seen on television, many people believe that everyone with autism does not talk or has a limited vocabulary or limited abilities to speak. Although most people with the classic autistic diagnosis can be non-verbal or close to non-verbal, there are many people with autism that are extremely verbal and have high reading skills. Because the diagnosis of autism includes those that are a little autistic and those that are severely autistic, there are many levels in between. This would include those with autism that are non-verbal to those with other symptoms of autism but speak a great deal. The incidence rate of those at the higher end (higher functioning) of the autism spectrum is increasing more than the lower end of the autism spectrum. Additionally, when autism is identified early and parents seek early treatment, the chances of talking increase. As many as ¾ of children with autism are able to speak and master language skills.
Myths # 3 – People with Autism are Incapable of Having Relationships or Feelings
People with Autism are quite capable of having relationships and most have developed relationships with family members. They have feelings and are often empathetic to other people. Depending on their level of autism, they may have difficulties expressing their feelings in words or in reading the emotional cues in conversation. They may show empathy in unusual ways. However, because someone is not able to show emotion in the way we feel is “normal” does not mean they cannot feel emotions. Parents often learn to understand their autistic children’s moods and emotions and learn to relate to them in a way to foster love. Many people with autism have developed romantic relationships. People with autism may not like being touched or hugged but can develop other ways of showing emotion.
Myths # 4 – People with Autism are Dangerous
As a society, we many times fear what is unknown. Since most people do not understand or have knowledge about autism, it is feared as dangerous. There have also been a number of reports in the media about violence by people with autism or Asperger Syndrome. Although some people with autism do show violent tendencies or exhibit violent behavior, this is not a symptom of autism. Very possibly, this is caused by frustration or sensory overload. People with autism rarely will seek revenge or act out of malice.
Myth # 5 – People with Autism Can’t Do Anything
Just as with all disabilities, people with autism have limitations in their abilities. They can, however, accomplish many things. They are often creative and are able to view the world from a different perspective. They need supportive caretakers that believe in their potential and will nurture their unique talents. On the other hand, people with autism do not automatically have genius abilities, as shown on the popular movie Rainman. People with autism are just like the rest of the population, some show amazing abilities and some show average abilities. There is a high rate of some level of mental retardation among those people with autism. Some experts place this number at around 80%. IQ and abilities will vary, depending on the individual person.
Each person with autism is unique, just as each of us are. They will have their own interests, likes and dislikes. Although people with autism may not be interested in the same things as you does not make their interests any less important. People with autism are just that, they are people.