Consider the following….
Autism is a condition that’s exclusive to children.
Autism is rare.
You can tell if someone has Autism just by looking at them.
People with Autism are geniuses.
If you’re Autistic, you don’t understand humour.
Autistic people can’t learn new skills.
People with Autism don’t want to make friends.
Everyone understands Autism, or at least, most people think they do. The points above are all popular misconceptions that the National Autistic Society have identified. Using Twitter – and the twin hashtags #AutismMyth and #AutismFact – they’ve spent the last 18 months or so trying to correct some of the most persistent falsehoods.
Let’s take the first point on the list, for instance: Autism is not exclusive to children, it’s a lifelong condition. It’s not rare, either, with more than 700,000 people affected in the UK alone. That’s around one in 100 people. There’s a good chance that someone on YOUR street is Autistic. That is a fact.
Myths and misconceptions can cause great damage and often do more harm than good. Next week – on April 2nd, to be precise – we’ll be among those marking World Autism Awareness Day. Like the National Autistic Society, our main focus will be on debunking certain untruths.
There’s no magical cure for Autism, so understanding is important. Because it is a neurodevelopmental problem, it takes time and expertise to tackle the issues and make a difference. Parents are the first responders and recognising certain signs – little or unusual eye contact, communicative difficulties and certain repetitive behaviours, for instance – is crucial in diagnosing the condition. That said, Autism is often over-diagnosed and, as mental health professionals and parents, it’s important to consider that something else altogether might be amiss. Sometimes a school, family or psychological explanation is more appropriate than a neurological one and it can take much reflection and exploration to make a definitive diagnosis.
Sometimes children fit the diagnosis but their parents are reluctant to accept the label. Given the myths that are listed above (not to mention innumerable others doing the rounds) this is understandable and – as tends to be the case in most things pertaining to mental health – stigma presents problems. It’s for just this reason that organisations such as the National Autistic Society – and events such as World Autism Awareness Day – are so important.
Here at CPUK, we discuss with our patients whether or not to name any diagnosis. Regardless of that decision, we do find that making a diagnosis (if this is appropriate) tends to be useful as it helps those affected to understand the problem and to access the required resources and support.
If YOU are concerned about Autism, we’d advise getting help and support as soon as possible. The National Autistic Society has some excellent resources available and, here at CPUK, we’re always on hand to offer assistance.
Forget the myths and focus on the facts . . .
Be aware, be prepared and let’s tackle Autism – and the misconceptions that surround it – together.