The Costa Rica News (TCRN) – Awareness for autism has grown exponentially in the last decade thanks to outspoken advocates, accurate media representation and active social media campaigns, but there are still a lot of pervasive myths about the disorder. It’s not as uncommon as people think – nearly 1 in every 110 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder – so it’s important to dispel these myths. Here are a few of the most common.

Myth: People with autism don’t want to make friends.

Fact: While autism can make social skills much tougher to learn, people with autism want friends and loved ones as much as the rest of us do. They are often introverted and have difficulty connecting with other people, but that doesn’t mean they are unfriendly. If your children say that someone with autism seems unfriendly, remind them that just because they don’t communicate the same way that others do doesn’t mean they don’t want to be friends.

Myth: Autism is a new disorder.

Fact: Although the disorder as we know it today wasn’t described until 1943, there are descriptions of children with autism dating back to the late 1700s. The disorder itself has been around for hundreds of years. It just wasn’t until this past century that we were able to identify it.

Myth: Everyone with autism is like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.

Fact: Although the 1988 movie Rain Man did do a good job of portraying someone with severe autism, the disorder includes an incredible amount of variety. Many people with autism can be very high-functioning and can lead relatively normal lives, especially with the help of communication therapists like Lindsey Stone. Not all people with autism have extraordinary memory skills either, although their intense focus can help them to improve the skills they do have very quickly.

Myth: There is a cure for autism.

Fact: Right now, autism cannot be cured. A lot of foods and vitamins have been presented as the “cure,” but none of them truly cure the disorder. Scientists are not even entirely sure what causes it yet. That doesn’t make the outlook bleak, however. With behavioral therapy, many people with autism can learn the communication skills and social skills they need to function throughout their lives. Some may live their lives without others even knowing they’re on the autism spectrum at all.

Myth: People with autism don’t have feelings.

Fact: This is just completely false. Autism doesn’t keep people from feeling happy, sad or angry. Someone with autism may express their emotions in very different ways from the people around them. You may not be able to tell when someone is feeling a certain emotion, but they certainly have feelings.

Myth: Autism is caused by emotionally distant parents.

Fact: Because we don’t know exactly why some people have autism and others don’t, there are a lot of theories about what causes it. One of them is that emotionally distant parents cause autism in their children. Though science is still figuring out why autism occurs, it’s been firmly established that parenting style has nothing to do with it.

If you hear someone spreading these myths about autism, speak up! The best way to raise awareness about autism is to spread the truth about it and encourage people to research the condition for themselves.

The Costa Rica News (TCRN)

San Jose, Costa Rica

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