While organizations like Autism Speaks and the Autism Society have helped shed new light on Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and its community, many myths about the condition still persist today. Here are a few of the most common Autism falsehoods, misconceptions, and stereotypes—alongside the facts that debunk them.
Myth: Autism is caused by an adverse reaction to vaccines.
Fact: Extensive medical research on the topic has uncovered no proof that vaccines cause Autism.
Myth – Autism is exclusively caused by environmental factors.
Fact – While exposure to well-known toxins like mercury, lead, and arsenic have been linked to ASD, the scientific community doesn’t recognize these substances as a leading cause of Autism. Instead, research conducted on twins suggests that genetic factors may account for 60% to 90% of cases. Complications during birth are also strongly linked to ASD.
Myth: Autism is a curable mental health disorder
Fact: Autism is classified as a neurological disorder, meaning it stems from structural abnormalities in the brain and nervous system. It may be mistaken for a mental health disorder because individuals with ASD are more likely to have co-occurring mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Myth: Individuals with ASD do not experience emotions.
Fact: Individuals with ASD often struggle to express their emotions, but they are very capable of experiencing the neurotypical range of emotions.
Myth: Individuals with ASD are prone to violent outbursts.
Fact: Research shows that violent behavior is the exception when it comes to Autism, not the norm. Some individuals on the severe end of the Autistic spectrum may become aggressive in response to certain stimuli (such as sensory overload or abrupt changes to their routine), but it is highly unusual for individuals with ASD to be categorized as dangerous.
Myth: Individuals with ASD always have genius-level aptitude in one particular skill (aka “savant syndrome”).
Fact: Only as many as 1 in 10 individuals on the autistic spectrum have been observed to possess savant syndrome. Furthermore, savant syndrome is not exclusive to individuals with ASD and has been observed in people with other developmental disorders.
We hope this article has settled the score on some misconceptions about ASD. If someone you know needs assistance managing life with ASD, check out the Valley Oaks Health website for a list of assistive mental health services we offer.