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Curious Misinformation: Dispelling Common Myths About Autism Spectrum Disorder

Compiled by Benjamin Fainstein, Literary Manager

February 26, 2020

Adapted from “Autism Myths and Misconceptions” available at pbs.org

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an umbrella term for a category of neurological and developmental disorders that have particular shared characteristics; people on the autism spectrum often have atypical behaviors in the realms of communication and socialization, but it is important to recognize that each individual’s neurology is unique and the ways in which ASD manifests is distinct from person to person.

Misconception: ASD is a new thing.

Correction: The first clinical description of a patient with ASD appeared in 1943, but historical cases identifying children on the spectrum can be traced back to 1799.
Misconception: ASD has a specific or determined cause.

Correction: No evidence has yet led to a comprehensive consensus on the source or root cause of ASD.
Misconception: Identifying individuals on the spectrum can be done easily and systematically.

Correction: The diversity of disorders spanning the spectrum, in addition to the unique ways in which they manifest in each individual, means that everyone on the spectrum has their own challenges and gifts. It would be a mistake to assume a person’s neuro-typical/atypical status based on a first impression.
Misconception: Folks on the spectrum do not feel emotions or form significant bonds with other people.

Correction: People on the spectrum have emotions and feelings, just like anyone. Some individuals on the spectrum may express their emotions in ways that appear unusual or perplexing to neurotypical individuals, but it’s pure myth that everyone with ASD lacks feelings. Many people on the spectrum lead thriving social lives and are quite capable of experiencing and expressing the full range of human emotion.
Misconception: Individuals on the spectrum are either severely mentally disabled or intellectually gifted.

Correction: Again, there’s no distinct standard. Approximately 10% of individuals on the spectrum possess “savant” abilities (extraordinary cognitive powers), while another percentage of people with ASD do live with mental disabilities. Yet the majority of folks in the ASD community may experience neither of these, or a calibration of the two completely unique to their own brain.

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