By Desiree Kaur
Hi! My name is Desiree and I am the founder of Project Haans. As a mother on this journey with my son, Haans, I have encountered many misconceptions of autism. Since I regularly host rooms on Clubhouse, I asked self-advocates, caregivers and practitioners about misconceptions of autism they have heard of. So, this article summarises some of the misconceptions individuals have heard and experienced first hand.
Firstly, autism is a spectrum. It has been classified as a neurological deficit by the DSM-5 represented in 3 levels. These levels allow practitioners to determine the level of support needed. Since it is a spectrum, no two individuals on the spectrum are the same.
Autism is the mother’s fault
Autism is generational and only happening now
Autism is a new age diagnosis because of our diet and exposure to gadgets. There are some who claim that autism did not exist decades ago. The fact is, no one knew what autism was back in the day. Most were said to have mental retardation and institutionalized. Just because we did not know about it then, does not mean it did not exist.
Autism will go away if you put a child in a “typical kindie”
Autism is caused by bad parenting and gadgets
Autism is a neurological condition. It is not caused by how one is brought up. Parenting skills do not cause a neurological condition. While overexposure to gadget for any child can impede social and communication skills, it is an unfair judgement to say that gadgets are the sole cause of autism.
Autism is physical and people “look” autistic
No one “looks” autistic. A person with autism does not look “different” physically. It is sometimes confused with the features of someone with Downs Syndrome too. The brain of someone with autism, functions differently from neurotypicals. For example, neurotypicals may run on an Android operating system, whilst someone with autism is on iOS. While everyone is able to function, they do so differently.
Autism is a disease
Autism is not something to cure . People do not “suffer” from autism, in fact this term is offensive to many. Research is still ongoing on the causes with no significant known cause. Autism is classified as a neurological deficit or condition. The terms disease, illness and ailments are not appropriate to describe autism.
Autism is all about meltdowns
Autistics are either highly intelligent or have a below than normal IQ
Approximately 1 in 10 autistic people have savant skills. Savant syndrome is not exclusive to autism. Being autistic does not mean a person has an exceptional talent or skill. Additionally, it is unfair to assume if an autistic isn’t a genius then they must have lower than average intelligence. Non-speaking does not mean not intelligent. Remember, autism is a spectrum. The intelligence levels varies according to each individual.
Autistics have no empathy nor understand emotions
Just because someone understands and processes things differently than society expects, does not mean they do not understand it. Feelings , emotions and empathy are subjective. Expressing it differently or not expressing it for all to see, does not make it wrong or non-existent. Since feelings and empathy are felt and not necessarily on display for everyone to see, it is unfair to say that one does not experience it at all.
Someone with eye contact can’t have autism
The lack of eye contact is not exclusive to autism. There are individuals with autism who have no issues with eye contact whereas for some, it can be physically painful or even frightening to look someone else in the eye. Masking is also something that many adults with autism have mastered with a lot of practice. Furthermore, having good eye contact does not necessarily mean a good exchange in communication. People can still communicate without eye contact.
This is not an exhaustive list of all the misconceptions out there. Culture and values from across the globe also play a role in the misconceptions of autism. While some cultures still find it hard to accept and understand autism, it is later accepted conditionally with the notion that an autistic, must be talented or highly intelligent. It is as if, the special talent or skill compensates for the autism diagnosis.
Nevertheless, more and more are speaking out their truths about these misconceptions. Even more are out there advocating, educating and providing solutions for an inclusive society that embraces diversity without even trying. If you have a story to share about neurodiversity, email us here .
“Can we have inclusion without trying? Trying means it is an effort. When something is effortless, it means acceptance has been attained. Embrace diversity & inclusion.”