Many causes have their awareness days or months, as autism has April, but what happens the rest of the year when people come across individuals with autism unaware of the characteristics of the disorder that spans a spectrum of symptoms and traits? The unawareness leads to myths about what it means to have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
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.
MYTH ONE: People with autism don't interact with others
While social behaviors and communication is a symptom of ASD, every individual 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. While my son did not know how to express his pleasure or displeasure with something or someone before early and intensive ABA Therapy, his interactions were always intensely present, both negatively and positively.
Because he could not always find the words to express his feelings of displeasure or frustration, he may have thrown something across the room to get attention to his needs or wants. But likewise, when he was happy and couldn't find the words to express those feelings, he demonstrated his joy and love in equally large measures.
After intense ABA, he not only communicates fully but interacts and expresses emotions in neurotypical ways.
MYTH TWO: Children with ASD are undisciplined or badly behaved
Again, these differences 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 these children do not 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.
In preschool, prior to ABA Therapy, my son couldn't find the skills to communicate with peers. When he wanted to play with a classmate, he threw a toy at her. To this day, he struggles with guilt for that action. But if a child with autism can't tell you he wants to play with you, he might just steal the toy from you or engage in a challenging behavior because it may be the only way they know how to communicate.
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 disorders
On 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
Talk to your clinicians and doctors to discuss any symptoms you feel may be signs of other issues not under the autism spectrum.
To learn more about how Centria Autism can help you and your family learn more about autism truths and navigate a diagnosis and insurance verification, or treatment of ABA Therapy, please set up a free consultation with us at https://calendly.com/centriaautismintake/15min.