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Common Autism Myths

[More Theories & Myths]

Autistics are not autistic for inexplicable reasons. They are autistic because their brains are wired differently, resulting in a different experience of consciousness, emotions, sensations and life.

A person cannot be autistic just because of social shyness, or because someone called him autistic. In this page, I will explore the common myths I have encounted.

1. “Refrigerator moms or bad upbringing causes autism

An autistic child usually refuses to accept hugs & other forms of touching commonly provided to typical children, suggesting that bad parenting may cause autism. However, this theory was already debunked many years ago.


2. “Autism does not exist at all

Some people (including autistics) deny the existence of autism/ aspergers. Extremists consider it a “fabrication” while moderates consider it an excuse for social shyness or for covering up some character deficiencies. Even parents who believe in autism may refuse to mention "autism", believing that it is a label that will make their child more autistic.

A quiet person who likes to keep to himself is not necessarily autistic. However, a young boy who consistently makes peculiar movements, mutters technical facts repeatedly, never shares his experiences with other people and throws a tantrum whenever he is interrupted probably has autism. Autism is real and it will exist whether it has a name or not.


3. “Autistics choose to have autism”

Because non-autistics have great difficulty imagining the autistic experience, some of them believe that autistics choose to behave differently because of malice, attention-seeking, dependency & self-esteem problems.

I knew someone who insists on this with zeal. When confronted with evidence of brain differences, he dismisses it as caused by prolonged autistic behavior. He also dismisses strong evidence of biological significance like inheritance & the male-female ratio as insufficiently substantiated.

Humans have complex brain mechanisms to handle social interaction, while color and movement perception are in simpler parts of the brain. If people can be color blind or change blind, then it is not conceivable that they can also be people blind. Claiming that a deaf person chooses to be deaf, or that a quadriplegic chooses not to walk, hardly sounds reasonable.


4. “Autistics are arrogant and smart-alerk”

I had the opportunity to see both sides of the autism divide. As an autistic, I strongly disagree with this remark. As a non-autistic, I agree with it for myself and for many of the high functioning people I know.

As an autistic, I resent people telling me what to do and behave. Every time I do things, I must compromise with society. I want to do some things and I believe that I can accomplish them regardless of how other people try to discourage me. A statement labeling me as arrogant is just another remark to force me to obey again.

After I had a taste of the non-autistic world, I developed a very different perception. Unlike autistics, most people are far from being sure and confident of their ability. They are also more aware of the commitments and struggles needed to master skills and gain reputation. Having great confidence in one's ability without a past track record is seen as arrogance. Thinking that we know what is best for everyone else without their input is smart-alerk.


5. “Smart people will never have autism"

While most autistics are mentally retarded, but there are a minority who have above average intelligence. Autism might remove social instincts but it can also sharpen the intellect. While other children are making friends and playing games, they focus on mastering skills and learning from textbooks and computers.


6. “Autistics have the same personality”

While autistics have social difficulties, this does not make them all the same. As a comparison, there are deaf people with all stripes and colors.


7. “Autistics do not have emotions ”

Autistics definitely have emotions but some may appear not to have any. Compared to non-autistics, they may have relatively weak emotions. They may also remain unaware of their desires and emotions.


8. “Autism is a Learning Disability”

Autism is a developmental disorder. This means that autistics do not develop their social skills and functioning to the level of their peers. While most autistics may have learning disabilities (perhaps as a side effect of sensory overload, inability to hear verbal instructions clearly and other autistic syndromes), not all autistics are like that.


9. “One should / should not cure autism”

This concerns autism politics, and may be a misleading statement. Please refer to my autism FAQ instead.

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