10 Biggest Myths About Autism From Moms Who Know

Mom Moment 81

autism awarenessBy now you've probably seen the numbers. One in every 88 kids today is being diagnosed with autism. There are autistic kids on TV shows, autistic kids in the news, autistic kids in your kid's classroom. It's safe to say Americans know that autism exists.

But that doesn't mean they know the first thing about the spectrum disorder. This is the next hurdle for parents of kids on the autism spectrum: breaking down the myths that follow their kids everywhere they go. Think you know better? Test your knowledge with these autism myths:

1. Moms of kids on the spectrum are "Refrigerator Moms." The term comes from the '50s, when there was an assumption that autistic behaviors stem from the "emotional frigidity" of a child's mom, and it's a complete myth. As Erin Mast, committee chair of the Central NY Community of Autism Speaks and mom behind A Million Pieces for Autism, says, "I am NOT a refrigerator mom. I loved my kids from birth and continue to love them today."

2. Autistic kids have no empathy. "This is not the issue," says Shannon Rosa, editor of Thinking Person's Guide to Autism and mom of a boy with autism. "The issue is generally processing social signals and body language. Autistic people are often more empathetic than non-autistics, plus have fewer filters to protect themselves from other people's emotional states."

3. Autistic kids need to be taught to make eye contact. "Um, no!" Rosa says. "Eye contact is physically painful for many autistics. Others can either make eye contact or talk, but not both at the same time. Responses come in many forms, other folks need to learn to respect that. If I ask my son a question, and he responds verbally, that's good enough for me."

4. Kids on the spectrum are just like Dustin Hoffman's character in the movie Rain Man. "Everyone assumes that all people with autism have savant skills, especially memory type things," Mast explains. "That is not the case. Like any human being, each person has skills that they are better at than others, but not all have a savant skill."

5. Non-speaking autistics always have an intellectual disability. Not true, says Rosa. "Many autistics communicate by typing, by AAC (alternative and augmentative communication), etc. Having written that, I don't pine away waiting for my mostly non-speaking son to suddenly start typing his thoughts to me. If he did, that would be great (especially for him!). But I love him for who he is right now."

6. Autistic children can't stand to be touched. Not true at all, says Leigh Merryday, mom of a child with autism and blogger at Flappiness Is. Need more proof than that? Just check out the pictures of her hugging little Callum on her blog where she describes him as "quite a friendly and affectionate little guy."

7. There is an autism "epidemic." Sure, the numbers are up, but this is a big no, Rosa says. "First, autism is not a disease. Secondly, due to changes in diagnostic criteria, most of the children diagnosed with autism today would have different diagnoses 20 years ago. If there's any crisis, it is one of underdiagnosis, as that infamous '1 in 88' CDC study revealed."

8. Kids with autism have no sense of humor. These moms will tell you the exact opposite. As Rosa says of son Leo, he "is a gleeful imp."

9. Autistic children don't feel love. Another one that gets under Merryday's skin because it's absolutely untrue. A New York Times feature on a couple -- both with autism -- falling in love did a lot to break down this stigma.

10. Autistic children are mentally retarded. If they're not being labeled savants, it's the exact opposite, Merryday has found. But when researchers took a long, hard look at the long-standing assumption that kids with autism suffer from mental retardation, they found it was far from the truth. Some kids on the spectrum are harder to test than others, but that doesn't mean they are lacking in intelligence.

What autism myths bother you?


Image via BLW Photography/Flickr

autism, behavior, elementary school


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Noahs... Noahs-Mom

The myths that bother me are::: Clearly autism is a parenting issue. If we as parents would discipline our kids better spank them harder more often (yes all things I have been told) they would be fine.

Also that if you have an autistic child you as the parent are less worthy, or just plain stupid. Becwe have two autistic kids clearly we are mentally disabled and dumb as a box of rocks. 

Just because they don't speak doesn''t mean they can't hear what you are saying!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pinkmani Pinkmani

I honestly believe autism is caused by the harsh chemicals in baby products and food that causes the developmental delays. 

mrssu... mrssundin

People need to remember that each child with autism is different. My daughter has autism and has no empathy what so ever and she can make eye contact and yes she does not like to be touched. But this is how autism affects her and how it will affect someone else is different.

Autiz... Autiziumom

Mmmm all bother me! It clear people have no clue about us and that's why we r more miss understoood then ever! We need to speak out more n more!

Elizabeth Ann Garrison

I get tired of people berating me for my diet during pregnancy (which they have no clue what is was that I ate but obviously I did something wrong), did I vaccinate? did I breastfeed? did I feed him all organic homemade baby food? Then clearly his autism is my fault, I am a horrible mother, and I should feel ashamed of what I've done to my son. People honestly have no idea what autism IS, what is like to autistic or raise a child like unless they have done it themselves. I actually have had friends contact me and ask what happened with my son so they can avoid do that in their pregnancies.

CPN322 CPN322

I can't believe people think most of these!! Though my sister is a savant when it comes to animals(scientific names and all) and does not like to be touched unless she is being hugged by someone she loves but all autistic children are not the same. Why do people think they are??? Most of these bother me.

CPN322 CPN322

Pinkmani - that could be true, but what about cases where the parents used the same products on all the children in the family and fed the children the same food but only one is autistic? That is the case for my family. In my sisters case, we found hers had a lot to do with vitamin deficiencies. Things like cod liver oil have done wonders for her, and boy was it a long, screamed filled road to finding that out.

Melissa Ruel

That it can be cured totally is the one that gets me. Yes, we can teach our kids to have better eye contact, verbal skills, and read social situations. There are children that go from one diagnosis to another because of this (some people with social anxiety disorders are mildly autistic people that no longer "fit" the diagnosis). When someone asked me about it, we likened it to cancer going into remission: the cancer might be gone, but that person will always be at risk of it coming back.  We can help with skills but my son will always have autism.

Rando... Randomlady

It bothers me to no end when people know exactly how to cure it because we haven't thought of this before, "just talk to him! that's all you gotta do, talk to him and he'll start jabbering away!" cause you know, we keep him in a closet and feed him table scraps instead of interacting with him all day. -_- people.

Flori... Floridamom96

Wow. People actually believe this stuff?

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