LANSING, Mich. — Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD ). have heard someone say it or say something like it: “He doesn’t look autistic” or “She seems pretty high functioning.” While intentions may be good, phrases like these can make parents feel misunderstood and alone.
“For parents of children with autism, navigating challenging behaviors in the community can be a difficult, stressful, and sometimes isolating experience,” says Brian Kaminski, MA, BCBA. “They often feel the burden of the perceived judgment of others who are unaware of the challenges they may be currently facing.“
Many causes have awareness days or months, as autism has April. But, what happens the rest of the year when people who don’t understand the spectrum of symptoms and traits of autism come across individuals with autism? The lack of understanding leads to myths about what it means to have autism.
In fact, ASD is a neurological condition characterized by difficulties with social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and emotional control. Because it is a spectrum disorder, each child is affected differently with his or her own unique set of characteristics, abilities, strengths, and challenges.
And while there is a scientifically proven, evidence-based therapy called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to help those with ASD live more independent, successful lives, there are still hurdles within our society many have to overcome throughout their lives.
In honor of Invisible Disabilities Week, October 13-19, Centria Autism would like to address some common myths about ASD.
MYTH ONE: People with autism don’t interact with othersWhile social behaviors and communication is a symptom of ASD, every person with the diagnosis is unique. Some have not learned yet how to verbally communicate while others interpret social cues or nonverbal language differently than neurotypical individuals.
ABA provides a different way to teach communication skills to individuals who learn differently. But individuals with autism are just like all human beings who need and benefit from social interactions. Because children with autism can’t always find the words to express their feelings, they sometimes shut down. Social interactions with children who have autism may not be typical, but are, nevertheless, present.
MYTH TWO: Children with ASD are undisciplined or badly behavedDifferences in communication abilities across the spectrum and without ABA Therapy can result in public and private tantrums, which is misperceived as parents’ inability to discipline what unaware people believe are just badly behaved kids.
When children don’t have the communication skills to express what they want or need, their message may come across with physical output. If an individual with ASD is deficient in communication skills this can also lead to confrontations based on misuse or misinterpretation of nonverbal cues in social situations. For example, someone with ASD may not pick up on the cues associated with someone talking to them with crossed arms.
MYTH THREE: People with autism are savants Many affiliate autism with Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man. While it may be true some with ASD are very good with numbers or maps or have other intellectual strengths, a person’s capabilities or limitations are no definitive attribute of autism. There is also the opposite misconceived myth as well—that those with ASD are intellectually disabled. With Autism comes many exceptional abilities as well as exceptional challenges.
People diagnosed with ASD have IQs that vary from low to high just like those not diagnosed with ASD. Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning its characteristics vary significantly from person to person.
MYTH FOUR: Those with ASD cannot be diagnosed with other mental health disordersOn the contrary, Autism is often diagnosed with what is called comorbidity or co-occurring physical and mental health conditions. These conditions are essential for family doctors and clinical staff to be aware of so they can be treated on their own and because of their potential impact on the progress of the ABA Therapy treatment for ASD. Some of the more common conditions include:
- Sleep disorders/disturbance
- ADHD and other mental health disorders
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Feeding/eating challenges or intolerances
● 1 in 59 children have autism
● Centria Autism helps parents of children with autism navigate through the complex system of insurance, care and just knowing that they are not alone.
● Centria operates in 11 states and employs over 3,500 experienced and trained staff and services thousands of children.
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