Dispelling common myths about autism

Apr 10, 2019


There’s no denying it: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is often misunderstood. And that may help explain why so many myths about the disorder exist. 

ASD (what many people refer to simply as autism) is a developmental disability that, among other things, affects how someone communicates, interacts with others, behaves and learns. Autism is now called a spectrum disorder because the symptoms can vary—from mild to more severe—in different people with the same disorder.  

Check out the following autism misconceptions, along with the facts from Autism Speaks and other experts. 

8 autism myths debunked 

Myth 1: Autism affects boys and girls equally

Actually, males are four times more likely than females to be diagnosed with autism. But anyone can develop the disorder. 

Myth 2: People with autism can’t feel emotions

They have feelings like everyone else; they just express them differently. 

Myth 3: People with autism can’t understand other people’s emotions

Autism may make it harder for people to tell what you’re feeling when you have a sad face or use a happy voice. So it helps to communicate emotions more directly. 

Myth 4: People with autism don’t need friends

Because autism affects social skills, people with ASD may seem like they want to be left alone. But it’s probably because they have trouble interacting with other children or adults. 

Myth 5: Vaccines cause autism

Despite what you may have read or heard, research shows that vaccines do not cause autism. New cases of autism are on the rise—but not because of vaccines. It’s likely because we’re more aware of ASD and doctors are diagnosing it earlier. 

Myth 6: Autism can be caused by bad parenting or emotional neglect

This myth is based on a theory that was debunked a long time ago. Sadly, it wrongly attributed autism to some mothers’ alleged lack of emotional warmth. No one knows exactly what causes autism. But scientists think genetics play the biggest role.  

Myth 7: Autism can’t be treated

While autism is a lifelong disorder, early treatment (known as early intervention programs) can make a difference in a child’s life. That’s why it’s important to watch for autism signs during early childhood. For instance, you might notice that a child: 

  • Has delayed or absent spoken language skills, such as not responding to his or her name when called.  
  • Has unusual repetitive behaviors—for instance, hand flapping, twisting or rocking. 
  • Doesn’t make eye contact.  
  • Doesn’t engage in make-believe play. 
  • Often fixates on parts of objects, such as the wheels of a toy car. 

Remember, autism has many other possible signs. Those are just a few. Your doctor can answer any questions you have about your child’s development.  

Myth 8: Autism treatment is covered by insurance

Many insurance companies exclude autism from their coverage plans, though most states now have laws designed to help protect families with autism to some extent. 

Be a positive force for change  

You’ve taken a great first step by reading up on ASD. Want to use what you’ve learned to help make a difference? You might start by supporting the autism community in your neighborhood and in your schools.