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Autism Acceptance Month 2013: Twelve Myths about Autism

autism, autism spectrum disorder, autism awareness month, world autism day

The month of April is set aside as Autism Awareness Month, a time to spread the news about the growing epidemic of autism spectrum disorders and to encourage ground-breaking research to find a cure. However, most people are probably by now aware of autism and what it means to have the condition, but are we doing all that we can to support those families affected? One advocacy group is striving to change the focus of April to “Autism Acceptance Month,” dedicated to changing the public conversation toward acceptance and making life better for those individuals living with an ASD.

Autism Acceptance Month has been launched by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. The time is set aside to challenge ignorance, prejudice, fear, and hysteria about autism and autistic people. Autism Acceptance Month spreads the word that autism is both a neurological disability and a natural part of human diversity. Autistic people are valuable members of our society and should be treated with respect.

Unfortunately, some myths still prevail that cause fear about autism spectrum disorders and those affected. The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network strives to dispel those myths so we all can take a step closer toward understanding and acceptance:

1. Autism is contagious. You can’t catch autism. Autism is something people are born with, like blue eyes or red hair. In this case, people with autism are born with a brain that is very good at some things but has trouble with others.

2. Autism is caused by vaccines. Studies continue to find that vaccines, even multiple vaccines in one day, do not cause autism.

3. Autism is a disease. It is not a disease, but a developmental disability. It is a difference that causes those affected to have difficulty communicating and interacting with others.

4. Autism is a tragedy. When parents are first faced with the diagnosis of autism in their children they may feel sad or scared. But with the right support, autistic people can live full lives. They can go to school, work, live in the community, get married, start families, vote, pursue their interests – anything that anyone else can do.

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5. Autistic people are eternal children. Autistic children grow up to be autistic adults. An autistic 20 year old is not a toddler in a 20 year old body. They are intelligent adults, just like other 20 year olds.

6. You can grow out of autism. Autism is a life-long developmental disability. The same percentage of adults and children are autistic. However, with early intervention and the proper support, some facets of autism can be improved.

7. Autism means not being able to speak. Communication disability is part of the diagnostic criteria for autism, but most do develop the ability to talk. About 15-20% of autistic people do not develop oral speech.

8. Autism means intellectual disability. Intellectual disability is not a part of autism, but some people (about 15-25%) have both autism and an intellectual disability.

9. Autistic people lack empathy. No – autistic people are people, not robots. They feel love and empathy for others just like we do. They may have difficulty showing it, but they feel it just the same.

10. All autistic people are savants. Just as not all autistic people are intellectually disabled, not all are intellectually gifted, either. However, about 10% of autistic people have savant skills such as a photographic memory or calendar calculation.

11. Autistic people suffer from autism. Autistic people suffer from prejudice and discrimination. Autistic people suffer when they do not get the support and accommodation they need, when they receive substandard or segregated education or living environments, when they are kept out of the community or kept unemployed, when their civil and human rights are violated, or when their access to communication and the rights to make their own decisions are denied.

12. Only boys are autistic. Boys are more likely to be affected, being diagnosed with the disorder 10 times more often. But girls can be autistic as well.

The vision of the Autism Self-Advocacy Network is to promote both awareness of the facts about autism and to promote acceptance and support of resources so that every person has the opportunity to achieve his or her fullest potential in life. For more information, visit www.autismacceptancemonth.com or The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network on Facebook.