Autism can pose numerous challenges, both to the people living with it and their caretakers. But life is made even harder for those people when misconceptions about autism run rampant, and we should all be doing our best to educate ourselves. Here are five common beliefs about autism that are actually myths:
Busting Common Myths About Autism
While autism diagnoses are indeed relatively new (the first being made in 1943), doctors now know that autism has been around for at least several hundred years and probably longer. So while the rate of autism diagnoses has increased by 119.4% over only 10 years (in 2000, one in 150 U.S. children was diagnosed with autism, whereas in 2010, 1 in 68 children was), it’s simply not known whether autism itself is becoming more common.
While autism generally comes along with changed mental processing, it is not a mental illness. It’s classified as a neurological disorder; people with autism have brain structure abnormalities and unusual neurotransmitter patterns.
There is no credible evidence that vaccinations cause autism. Children with autism often develop normally until between 18 and 24 months of age, but then stop progressing or even regress in their skills. Because many vaccinations are also given to children in this age range, some people wrongly infer a causal relationship.
While autism does make it difficult for some people to form close social relationships -- and the devastating effects of that social isolation should not be overlooked -- it’s important to recognize that people with autism can and do build meaningful personal relationships.
Although there’s no known cure for autism, there are a wide range of therapies and tools available to help people with autism manage symptoms and behaviors.
If you or someone you know is a caretaker for someone with autism, one tool that’s good to know about is a weighted blanket. The benefits of a weighted blanket are simple yet profoundly helpful for some people: A sensory weighted blanket draped over the body or even just the shoulders of a person with autism can provide just the right amount of pressure to have the same calming effect as a hug without added social anxiety. These weighted sensory blankets typically range in price from $60 to $175 -- and can often be reimbursed through insurance -- so using weighted blankets to help with autism is an affordable and low-risk route.
Had you mistakenly believed any of the myths discussed above? Do you have an opinion on using weighted blankets to help with autism symptoms? Join the discussion in the comments.