April is Autism Acceptance Month
Published: Mar. 18, 2024
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April is Autism Acceptance Month

Part of accepting and celebrating autism is clarifying some common misconceptions and myths.

MYTH: Autism is caused by vaccines 

This myth has been debunked by numerous research studies available here . We have not yet pinpointed ONE underlying reason for autism but genetics is a likely cause; which is why see it commonly in second born children if a first child is autistic, twins, or if a parent is autistic. 

Autism research is continuously ongoing; however MANY LARGE studies have ruled out the vaccine/autism myth.

MYTH: Autism is being overdiagnosed

Autism currently impacts 1 in 36 children in the U.S. This is significantly lower than other developmental conditions such as ADHD, Language Delay, Dyslexia, and Learning Disabilities. 

We expect for the prevalence to continue to rise as people become more knowledgeable about autism and as minorities gain more accessible access to evaluations and support; which has been lacking for decades. Better screening and more awareness=more diagnoses. 

MYTH: Person first language (people with Autism) is best

While most professionals are taught to use person first language in their trainings, the vast majority of the autistic population prefers identity first language (autistic person) to symbolize that autism is a core part of who they are and not something that can be taken away. Individual identity language should always be respected. 

MYTH: Autism is caused by bad parenting, certain foods, or screens 

Autism is NOT caused by a parenting style, food, or a screen. It’s WHO a child is. This harmful myth regarding parenting style and autism traces back to the 1950s with the Refrigerator Mother Hypothesis, which wrongly suggested that emotionally distant or neglectful mothers could traumatize their children into developing autism. Despite being scientifically discredited long ago, remnants of this myth persist today and this narrative is disrespectful to the loving parents of autistic children. 

MYTH: Autism only impacts boys 

Boys are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls; but this can largely be due to the way autistic characteristics can present in different sexes. Autistic girls are commonly diagnosed much later or under-diagnosed because girls may mask more, which means they learn to minimize the visibility of their autistic characteristics.

MYTH: Autism can be “cured”

Some people think autism is a disease that can be “cured” with medications, detoxes, or treatment. In reality, autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition. There is no treatment to “cure” because there is no disease! It’s part of an identity of an individual. 

Autistic people can still lead independent, healthy and productive lives, especially with the help of therapy and other professional support.

MYTH: Autism is easy to identify 

Autism can present in so many different ways and no two people will experience or express their autistic traits in the same manner. Many traits can be subtle and are not always “that different” from typical people. Additionally, many autistic people learn to mask or hide their autistic traits early on in order to be accepted and please other people. 

MYTH: Autistic people lack empathy 

People with autism experience empathy just as much, if not more than others, although they may demonstrate it in ways that are less easily discernible to a neurotypical person. We often expect certain emotions to be displayed in certain, neurotypical ways, like empathy being expressed with eye contact, listening and leaning in, or a hug. Individuals with autism often feel those emotions, but may be anxious about the expectation of displaying them, leading them to appear cold or indifferent. 

MYTH: Autistic people are anti-social and won’t make eye contact 

While all autistic people will have social communication differences, this does not mean they will be anti-social. Many autistic people seek out and have meaningful relationships. Most autistic people make eye contact at times, even though they may have differences in how they use eye contact (such as combining eye contact with spoken language or nonverbal language).

MYTH: All Autistic kids do or act the same

Autism is a combination of characteristics and not just one or two things. When considering autism, it’s important to look at the child holistically as well as consider the frequency, intensity, quality, and duration of autism traits – as well as circumstances surrounding those traits.  

For more on autism characteristics visit the CDC website. 

Of note, remember the diagnosis is a holistic one looking at all domains of development. It’s always best to speak to your child’s clinician if you are concerned about your child’s development in any way. 

This blog was written by Pediatric Associates Dr. Mona Amin from our Fort Lauderdale South office.