A child who is rocking back and forth, having a tantrum, a mathematical genius or a genius of some sort, that is what most people imagine when they hear that someone is Autistic. These are the stereotypes created in the minds of people. Truth be told there are so many misconceptions about Autism and most of them are influenced by news, films, TV. I want to address some of the myths I have come across.
Autism is a mental health illness: This is so far from the truth. Diagnosis of Autism has no relationship with mental health issues but like every human being, autistic people can experience good or bad mental health. Although, some (not all) Autistic people can have dual diagnosis of both autism and mental health difficulties. So, parents and carers, stop worrying about whether your child is going to develop mental health difficulties because you just might be the one who ends up stressed over nothing and that’s not good for your own mental health. But if your child does have both diagnosis, support him/her through recovery and ensure he/she gets help from both the mental health services as well as the Autism service because they are separate diagnosis dealt with by different departments.
All Autistic people are genuises: Dustin Hoffman made Autism popular in his role in the movie ‘Rain Man’ but sorry to burst your bubble, not all autistic people are geniuses or have some extraordinary talents but that should not stop us from appreciating their strengths at any level. In as much as I always encourage parents to look for the positive news regarding autism, I also want parents to understand that every achievement no matter how little should be celebrated as long as the child is doing the best he/she can at that particular time.
Autism Equals Intellectual Disability: I have a friend (she doesn’t mind that I’m telling her story but her name won’t be mentioned) who said she used to cry her eyes out when her son got his diagnosis because she thought his autism was going to “give” him intellectual disability, now her son is a twenty-one year old man studying in a third level institution.
Some people believe that Autistic people are either geniuses or have intellectual disability. Intellectual Disability is a different diagnosis and not every Autistic person has intellectual disability, in the same vain, not every person with intellectual disability is Autistic.
There is one form of Autism: This is 100% false. Some Autistic people have the same traits, like sometimes engaging in repetitive behaviours, finding communication with people challenging; but symptoms differ from person to person and no two autistic people are the same. Your child is unique in every way and you should be considerate to your child’s individual needs.
The Truth: Autism Spectrum Disorder is a spectrum disorder, and it presents in and affects people in a variety of ways. Autistic people experience different symptoms, and it is important to understand that they are not all negative or limiting, neither are they all extraordinary. Parents and carers should continue to focus on each child and their individual areas of strength and growth, as well as the personality qualities that set them apart and make them unique hopefully we can come to a better understanding of how to help all children live happy, fulfilling lives and draw on their many strengths to help them succeed in the world.