12 Autism Myths That Need To Be Cancelled
They're not helpful. At all.
There are loads of myths about autism. It’s probably because we don’t learn about it properly at school, and end up stitching together an idea about what it means to be autistic via the influence of films, TV, news stories...
The fact that there are so many misconceptions matters because it makes life a lot harder for autistic people. That’s why this Autism Awareness Day we’re debunking 12 autism myths, so that you know the difference between fact and fiction. Let’s get started.
1. There’s only one way to be autistic
Although many autistic people have similar traits like finding communicating with other people challenging and engaging in repetitive behaviours, autism is a spectrum condition. Symptoms vary from person to person, and each symptom also has a spectrum of its own.
Basically, there’s no one way to be autistic. Each person’s condition is unique to them.
2. You can always tell if someone is autistic
Nope. The way someone looks or comes across doesn’t necessarily show you what they’re feeling and experiencing inside. Autism is a hidden disability.
3. Autistic people don’t feel as many emotions
Just because autistic people struggle more with social cues and interactions doesn’t mean that they don’t feel a full spectrum of emotions. They do, but they won’t always express their emotions in the ways you might expect.
4. Autism is a mental health problem
Wrong! Autistic people can experience good or bad mental health the same as anyone else, whereas autism is a lifelong disability. That means, by the way, that giving autistic people tips about how to ‘get better’ is not a thing – autism doesn’t go away, nor should it need to. It’s a way of being.
5. All autistic people are geniuses
Lots of people believe that autistic people are geniuses who can all do complicated maths and remember things in microscopic detail, but this is a massive stereotype - ‘savant’ abilities like those are rare. In the UK, just under half of all people with autism have a learning disability. Others have average to above average IQs. So it varies. Which leads us to...
6. They always prefer science and maths
Autistic people have all sorts of interests and strengths, including in the arts. They’re not all obsessed with train schedules and aeroplanes. Stereotype alert.
7. They’re always oversensitive to senses
Some autistic people are oversensitive to sounds, sights or textures, but some can also actually be under-sensitive to them.
8. Autistic people aren’t interested in sex
Disabled people in general often get desexualised by society, which is ridic as having a disability doesn’t automatically mean you don’t have a sex drive. Autistic people have desires too, they just may need more help understanding the nuances of sex and relationships.
9. You have to say “people with autism” rather than “autistic person”
Loads of people identify as an “autistic person” rather than always saying, “person with autism”. Neither are offensive to use. As a general rule though, when you meet an autistic person, roll with whatever terminology they’re using to describe their condition. It’s their call.
10. Everyone’s on the autism spectrum
Some people seem to think that every single person in the world is on the autistic spectrum when actually there’s only a fraction of people who are (in the UK, a bit more than 1 in 100).
11. Labelling autistic people as “high functioning” or “low functioning” is legit
If you meet an autistic person who comes across in a way that you don’t recognise as autistic, you shouldn’t label them as “high functioning”. Autism is complex, and people with the condition can struggle more in some areas and excel in others – it’s not really a question of high or low. (The more suitable terminology to use is “minimal support needs” versus “high support needs”.)
12. Autism is over-diagnosed
Nope! If someone has been diagnosed with autism it’s for a reason, no matter how confused you are about the diagnosis. Plus, women are still going under-diagnosed. There are theories about this, including that women may be better at masking their condition in social conditions. But it’s still being looked into.
So there you have it, 12 autism myths debunked! The main thing to remember is that no two people with autism are the same and you should always try to be considerate to each person’s needs.
Have a fab Autism Awareness Day and make sure you take the time to learn more, spread the word, and find out here how you can help support the National Autistic Society in their mission to make the world a more autism-friendly place to be.
The National Autistic Society Helpline offers impartial, confidential advice and support on autism for anyone affected by, or researching autism. It is open from 10am – 4pm Monday to Friday excluding Bank Holidays. Click here for more details.