Autism is in the news front and center. Reports of the latest statistics from the Center for Disease Control, research, therapies, schools, and of course the inevitable feel good story of an autism success story. Unfortunately, with autism being discussed by experts and laypeople alike, there are bound to be falsehoods reported and perpetuated. Let’s look at some of the myths and facts of autism. With help from the experts at Johns-Hopkins School of Education, Autism Speaks, and Autism Awareness we have complied several of the most common myths about autism that we hope to dispel with education and honest discussions.
Myth: Autism spectrum disorders are not increasing in incidence. They are just being better diagnosed, and diagnosed earlier so the numbers are increasing.
Fact: Autism spectrum disorders are increasing across the globe at an alarming rate. Some states are considered to be in an autism epidemic. Many states experienced a 500-1000% increase in the past few years. No one knows the cause or causes for the increase. Better and earlier diagnosis can only account for a fraction of the current increases in numbers.
Myth: People with autism can’t feel or express any emotion—happy or sad.
Fact: Autism doesn’t make an individual unable to feel the emotions you feel, it just makes the person communicate emotions (and perceive your expressions) in different ways.
Myth: Autism is caused by bad parenting.
Fact: In the 1950s, a theory called the “refrigerator mother hypothesis” arose suggesting that autism was caused by mothers who lacked emotional warmth. This has long been disproved.
Myth: Therapies for people with autism are covered by insurance.
Fact: Most insurance companies exclude autism from the coverage plan and only half of the 50 states currently require coverage for treatments of autism spectrum disorders.
Myth: Autism spectrum disorders get worse as children get older.
Fact: Autism spectrum disorders are not degenerative. Children and adults with autism should continuously improve. They are most likely to improve with specialized, individualized services and opportunities for supported inclusion. If they are not improving, make changes in service delivery.
Myth: Certain intensive, behavioral based programs “cure” autism spectrum disorders if they are delivered at the right age and intensity.
Fact: There is no cure for autism spectrum disorders.