Sorting it all out

Note: In case it’s not obvious, the myths are highlighted. The facts follow.

1. Autism is one disorder. Autism Spectrum Disorders include Asperger Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.

2. Children with Autism have a hidden or exceptional talent. Children with Autism have unique strengths and occasionally exhibit savant behaviors, though the latter are not typical in most cases.

3. Autism can be cured. Current research suggests that when intensive therapeutic interventions are conducted at an early age, children may be able to overcome symptoms of Autism to the extent that physicians may remove Autism from the child’s diagnosis. While this may occur in some cases, Autism is a lifelong condition for most individuals.

4. Children with Autism are unable to build social relationships. Developing relationships is difficult for children with Autism. However, the wide spectrum of Autism results in children with varying degrees of social skills, and relationships are definitely possible.

5. Individuals with Autism cannot communicate. Communication skills vary from child to child. [Children] with Autism may be able to communicate their wants and needs, but may struggle to understand more complex social communication. Many children with Autism develop functional language through the use of pictures, sign language, and assistive technologies.

6. Autism is the result of bad parenting. Autism crosses all economic, geographic, and ethnic borders. It is unknown which environmental factors may play a role in the development of Autism, but the “refrigerator mother” theory (lack of warmth in parenting) has been proven to be false.

7. Autism is a mental disorder. While symptoms of Autism may mimic symptoms of a psychological disorder, Autism is a biological disorder that effects the brain’s development.

8. All children with autism are the same. Autism is a spectrum disorder. There is a broad range of symptoms that vary significantly in character and severity.

9. Children with Autism can’t make eye contact. Children with Autism can make eye contact, but may do so less frequently than other children. Many children with Autism do not understand the purpose of making eye contact because their ability to understand non-verbal language is limited. Eye contact can be taught through therapeutic intervention.

10. Autism is caused by the MMR vaccine or mercury. Current studies refute the belief that the MMR vaccine or mercury causes Autism.*

Andrea Lemke is a special education teacher, Autism consultant, and President of Shining Abilities. Please visit this site for other resources including “10 Facts about Autinsm,” “10 Things to do When Your Child is Diagnosed with Autism,” “10 Tips for Teaching Children with Autism,” and “10 Tips for Attending IEP Meetings.” 

© Andrea Lemke

*Note from Dr. Bluestein: With all due respect to this research, I feel the need to add that I have heard from 6 or 7 parents over the years who claim to have seen significant changes in their children’s behavior, cognitive abilities, and personality in the immediate wake of a vaccine. Please note that I am not anti-vaccine, despite having had reactions to some (which may or may not have been related, but were significant and very real.) I look forward to further investigations and research from independent and disinterested entities on this matter.

Related resources:

The Animal School
Conditions with ADHD “Look-Alike” Symptoms
The “Ideal” Student: The students we were taught to teach
I’m Hyperactive, You’re Hyperactive: Implications for a diagnosis
Multiple Intelligences: Many ways to be “smart”
Working with Different Modality Strengths and Limitations: Characteristics and strategies

Movement and Learning with Aili Pogust
Technology and Special Needs with Don and Gracie Tillman
Theater and Autism Spectrum with Brian Haney

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