According to statistics published by the National Autistic Society, 95% of people have heard of or about autism before. I can say with quite confidently that the amount of people who actually understand this disorder is much lower. That made me want to write this post, about autism misconceptions I hear on a daily basis.
Autism only affects men / is a ‘male disorder’
The high diagnostic rates in men lead some to believe that autism mostly affects males. It’s true that a man is much more likely to receive their diagnosis by the UK average of 5-years-old. Women, on the other hand, can often be left waiting well into their teenage years, or even later. Recent research, however, has discovered ‘atypical traits’ which offer an explanation of how autism presents in woman, which is slowly but surely closing the gender gap.
Hans Aspergers original belief was that women couldn’t be autistic at all, so research has definitely improved. Despite his beliefs, the male to female autism divide could be as small as 2:1. One day, it might not be so ludicrous to suggest that there may not even be a gender gap years into the future.
Autistic people lack empathy
After receiving an autism diagnosis, the lack of empathy belief was something even I convinced myself was true. Despite what the media wants to say about us, though, we are not void of feeling for other people. In fact, many autistic people, including myself, lean towards the hyper-emphatic side of the scale. This can lead to the opposite problem, where we end up caring too much about things. It’s reasonable to suggest that this misconception comes from our logical approach to problems where non-autistic people might be more emotional.
Autism is caused by vaccines
Even writing this makes me frustrated. Andrew Wakefield came up with this theory for his own financial gains, with no medical evidence to back him up in the slightest. He lost his medical licence and the paper he wrote was discredited due to a lack of medical evidence decades ago. Even with the many studies there have been since he was discredited, some parents still believe that avoiding vaccinating their children is the right option. Obviously, autism is a lot worse than measles, mumps or rubella, right?
There’s a cure for autism
Cure culture angers me. It’s something that’s been around since autism was first recognised as a disorder, with treatments only set to worsen as time continues. From homeopathic treatments which land people in hospital, and bleach enemas which turn organs to liquid, people are desperate to cure their loved one’s ‘broken’ brains. Through desperation, a lack of education or ignorance, people are deceived into believing these are good things.
Autistic People Are Geniuses
Mention autism, and most people will jump straight to an image of Sheldon Cooper or Rain Man. I can’t even begin to tell you how much misrepresentation annoys me. There is something called Savant syndrome, which affects 10% of autistic people in some way. When you consider how many of us there are, this is a very small amount of us.
Autism is a learning disability
If people don’t assume you’re a genius, they assume you have a learning disability. I couldn’t tell you the amount of times I’ve had to try and explain myself in situations like this. It is a common comorbidity, with the National Autistic Society suggesting 44%-52% of autistic people could have one, but it’s not guaranteed. Autistic people without a learning disability are still the majority at 48%-56%, so it should not automatically be assumed that every autistic person has an accompanying learning disability.
Of course, more misconceptions about autism exist than the ones I have mentioned here. I’d be here all day if I wrote them all down, so I chose the ones I hear the most.
Are there any misconceptions you’ve heard that aren’t in this list? Be sure to comment them down below.
Thanks for reading, and until next time,