6 Common Myths About Autism
Do vaccines cause autism, and can autism be cured? There are plenty of myths out there about this curious condition. Here are the facts.
By Diana Rodriguez
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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Though there's still much about autism that isn't completely understood, there's a lot that we do know. If you're a concerned parent or guardian, start by learning the facts about autism.
Common Autism Myths Debunked
Here are some common myths about autism and the truths behind them:
Myth No. 1: There's an autism epidemic going on.There is no autism epidemic; however, more diagnoses are being made today than in the past. Exactly why this is so isn't fully understood. One theory? Some researchers speculate that the rise in autism diagnoses has more to do with better diagnostic methods. Plus, the diagnosis of autism has expanded to include autism spectrum disorders, which encompass more symptoms and conditions, and thus more cases.
Myth No. 2: Childhood vaccines can cause autism.There's been much discussion about autism and vaccines, with many new parents refusing to vaccinate their children for fear that the vaccine will cause autism. But an August 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine concludes the following: There is no correlation between autism and vaccines. In fact, the exhaustive report (which looked at more than 1,000 studies), found that vaccines are generally safe for kids.
Myth No. 3: All autistic children are actually geniuses.Every child is different, and being autistic doesn't change that. Children with autism aren't necessarily geniuses. Just like other children, they have their strengths and weaknesses, and a wide variation in IQ scores. Some autistic children do show real strengths, whether it's with numbers (as in the movie "Rain Man") or memory, yet these are often countered by real weaknesses, like physical difficulties or difficulty understanding the concept of a game.
Myth No. 4: Autistic children don't feel emotions.Children with autism can love, and they can become frustrated, and even angry. Autistic children feel emotions — it's just that they don't express them in the same way that other children do. They may have difficulty with physical affection or expressing their frustration (resulting in a major tantrum), but that doesn't mean that they don't feel. Parents of autistic children will have to learn how their child expresses affection and emotions, and adjust their behaviors to express affection back in a way that makes the child comfortable.
Myth No. 5: Autistic children can't speak.Autism has a huge range of symptoms and a wide range of severity within those symptoms. While some children may have little trouble communicating verbally, others may have more limited communication skills. Others are in between, using incorrect grammar, tenses, and pronouns, or using sign language to compensate for verbal difficulties. But most children with autism do learn to communicate.
Myth No. 6: Autism can be cured.Unfortunately, there is no cure for autism. It's a biological condition that can't be stopped or reversed, but treatment can be very successful in helping to manage autism. Therapy can help autistic children learn to overcome some of their developmental delays and allow them to lead a happy and normal life. However, no drug, food, or therapy can completely alleviate autism.
Autism, like most everything else, isn't exactly as it appears in the movies or on TV. So whatever your preconceptions about autism are, if they are based on myths, rumors, or anything that's not founded in reality, they're not likely to be true. Know the facts about autism, and help to clear up the myths.
Video: 7 Misconceptions About Autism
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