Autism: Fact vs. Fiction
Within society today, it has become increasingly common that the effects and challenges individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience to be misconstrued, misunderstood, or falsely labelled. This ignorance can often lead to serious issues. How can the world properly care for our autistic population if we refuse to understand them? In fact, research conducted and released by the National Autism Spectrum Disorder Surveillance in 2018 expressed that one-in-66 Canadian children are diagnosed with ASD. According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, approximately one to two percent of the Canadian population is on the autism spectrum. That means there are approximately 135-thousand people with autism in Ontario alone. Canadians mustunderstand the difference between what is fact and fiction when it comes to the most common misconceptions of autism in order to streamline the lives of autistic individuals.
Before understanding the difference between the facts and the misconceptions regarding autism, we must first gain a broad understanding of what ASD entails. ASD is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder that can affect the way in which an individual communicates and experiences the world around them. This disorder can affect body language, social interaction, and sensory processing capacities. Autism exists on a wide spectrum, meaning it can be experienced in a variety of different manners to a variety of different degrees. The spectrum also suggests that individuals with autism will require unique levels of support for their needs.
For example, an individual diagnosed with Level 1 ASD will only require minimal support functioning in their everyday lives. They are often able to speak in full sentences; however, they will require support in certain social situations as it may be difficult to initiate or maintain a conversation. In comparison, someone with Level 3 ASD, the most severe case, will require a very substantial amount of support. Certain people with this form of autism can communicate with words while others are nonverbal, and they may be over or undersensitive to certain sensory inputs. These individuals also often have extreme difficulty coping with changes to their normal lives, which can cause great stress and alter their usual behaviour.
Fiction: Vaccines Cause Autism
There is absolutely no evidence supporting the statement that childhood vaccinations cause autism. One of the reasons why certain people may believe this to be true is because there was a study produced in 1998 that linked autism with vaccines; however, it has been retracted as several studies continue to disprove this belief. In fact, thimerosal, which was previously a common vaccine ingredient, was once thought to be a cause of ASD. However, since thimerosal has been removed from vaccines, the prevalence of ASD has increased rather than decreased. Therefore, the development of autism has absolutely nothing to do with vaccinations.
Fiction: Poor Parenting Or Unloving Mothers Causes Autism
Although the exact cause of ASD is still unknown to researchers, it has become assuredly established that autism does not develop as a result of parenting methods or how a child is raised. Environmental issues can contribute to the symptom severity of an individual with autism; however, genetics is one of the major reasons why someone may develop autism. For example, the second child of a couple who has previously given birth to an autistic baby is at a higher risk of developing ASD than a child from a family that does not have any history of autism.
Fiction: Autistic Individuals Cannot Form Relationships
Some people may believe a person with autism is incapable of forming relationships or even experiencing love or empathy due to their impaired abilities with social interaction, but this notion could not be more false. Individuals with autism experience the same, if not more, emotions as neurotypical people do such as love and affection, even if they sometimes have a difficult time expressing them. Just because autism makes social interaction difficult, it does not mean individuals on the spectrum prefer social isolation. In fact, people living with ASD can and do form fulfilling relationships with family, friends, spouses, and children. As long as individuals without ASD are capable of being sensitive to the daily social struggles of someone who is on the spectrum, genuine emotional connections that are long-lasting can certainly be attained.
Fiction: Everyone With Autism Is Nonverbal
Autism exists on a spectrum, meaning that the neurological effects on one person can be incredibly different than others. Therefore, not all people living with ASD are nonverbal. In fact, many autistic individuals are capable of forming full sentences, or at least speaking in some capacity. Only about 25 percent of people with ASD are nonverbal, while the rest are capable of speech to different degrees.
Fact: Autism Is Incurable
There is currently no cure for ASD. Nonetheless, it has been proven that early diagnosis and proper treatment can significantly and positively impact an autistic child’s development over time.
Fact: Autistic Adults Can Live Productive Lives
It is certainly possible for an adult with autism to live a productive life just like their neurotypical peers. In certain cases, as long as the autistic child has access to proper treatment and emotional support, they are fully capable of growing up to become independent, contributing members of society with a strong sense of self-reliance.
In conclusion, it is crucial that individuals who do not have ASD learn the common misconceptions often portrayed about autism in order to properly discern the truth from the lies. Whether or not you have someone in your family with autism, a friend with autism, or simply encounter those with ASD in public settings from time-to-time, we must do our best to educate ourselves in order to properly care for the population diagnosed with ASD. It is important that society is considerate of those on the spectrum as they would greatly benefit from the support and understanding of the world around them.
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