5 Misconceptions of Autism

5 Misconceptions Of Autism That Everyone Needs To Be Educated On

Autism is a subject that I know is avoided or is touchy to some.

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Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder is a condition that identifies the different social and communication skills an individual will have troubles understanding. It becomes challenging to them.

The CDC states that every 1 in 68 children is diagnosed with this disorder in the U.S.

From an outsider's perspective, autism is a subject that can be misinterpreted in many ways. The media, government, and all sources have had thoughts on how one is diagnosed or if it is even a disorder. This has caused people to come up with different myths and misconceptions about the topic.

Over the course of college, I have been exposed to different scenarios that have made me understand the root of these different misconceptions.

1. Vaccines cause your child to have autism 

According to the CDC, (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), there is no direct correlation between getting your child vaccinated and your child being diagnosed with autism. This myth is derived from an ingredient in vaccines called thimerosal. Which happens to have mercury in it, which people assumed to cause the disability. In 2004, the IOM found that there was no correlation between vaccines that had thimerosal and children being diagnosed with autism.

2. Autism is considered as one condition

Autism is better known as Autism Spectrum Disorder. Which means autism varies on the spectrum, as there is low functioning autism and there is high functioning. Low functioning is when a child has a hard time completing different day to day activities. Such as brushing your teeth, eating on your own, etc. High functioning autism results in being used to order and schedules. I experienced in the camp I was a counselor for that the kids enjoyed having a visual schedule. I learned that having everything written out and showing what was coming up next was something that was essential to get through the day.

3. Individuals with autism can’t function on their own

Depending where on the spectrum the individual may be, the functions will vary. This ties back to determining whether they are high functioning or low functioning. There are several programs implemented that assists children and adults with ASD to get them through school or find a job. This doesn't mean that they are unable to function on their own. They are just given the resources needed so they can have the same opportunities that typically developed individuals do.

4. Individuals that have autism are disabled intellectually

In fact, children and adults with autism have either normal or high IQ's. When working with kids with autism I noticed that these individuals have a specific spark of interest to a particular subject. Such as science, trains, specific bugs, etc. If you were to ask them about their favored topic they can tell you almost anything and everything about it. They are the brightest kids I have ever met. They make you see different aspects of life and how they see it through their eyes and it can give you a different outlook on life as a whole.

5. Emotions aren’t understood at all by someone with autism

It is easy for people to assume that individuals with autism experience emotions differently than a typically developed individual. In fact, emotions are just expressed differently with individuals. Communication is different, therefore the emotions will be projected differently as well. Autism does also cause the inability to underestimate the different emotions others are experiencing or expressing when interacting with an individual with ASD.

Explore Odyssey's featured Autism Awareness content here.

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Why Working With Special Populations Doesn't Make Me A Good Person

What you're missing from the bigger picture.
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"What do you do?" might be one of my least favorite questions. Let me tell you why.

I am currently a registered behavior technician at a wonderful program (MAP) nestled in the heart of North Carolina. Usually, when I tell someone what I do, their response is either an uncertain nod or a plain look of confusion. At that time, I break it down by saying, “Basically, I work with children who have autism."

Now, more times than not, the response I receive is along the lines of, “Wow, that's so amazing of you", or my personal favorite, “Good for you. I could NEVER do that."

I understand that working with special populations isn't for everyone, just like being a neurosurgeon isn't for everyone. But, working with special needs children doesn't make me a good person, a saint, or a hero. Every time someone tells you he/she is a teacher, do you gasp and express how much you could NOT be a teacher?

What about when you meet a pediatrician? These people work with children just like I do. I'm certain if you spent one day in my shoes you would see just how much you COULD do my job.

Maybe not all of the technical work, but after a day with these children, you would be humbled by how much you could learn from them.

After all, these children are just children. They want to be accepted just like every other child.

They want to be understood and to be part of a community just like the rest of us.

My job has given me the opportunity to get to know a handful of the more than 3.5 million Americans on the spectrum. I've gotten to know each of their personalities, their quirks, and what makes them unique. I can't help but imagine a world where everyone gets to know these individuals as I have.

A world where we accept all of those who might appear or act different from us and educate ourselves on these populations. A world where that education helps us see that they aren't so different from us after all.

Working with individuals with special needs doesn't make me a good person, because I do it for selfish reasons.

I work with them because I don't know what my life would be like without them. They have taught me so much and changed my life in so many ways. I get to play a small hand in these children's lives. I get to help them learn fundamental life skills you and I take for granted.

But, I also get to leave work every day having learned a lesson. These children have taught me to be a better version of myself and to appreciate even the smallest of things life has to offer. Each day they challenge me to laugh more, have more fun, and not take myself so seriously. They show me more love than I ever knew possible. Maybe it isn't with their words. Maybe it's with the smiles and giggles when we're singing their favorite song, or the way they look at me when they finally get something they have been working so hard to learn.

The hugs, the kisses, and the moments where our two worlds collide and we finally connect; these are the moments that remind me how much these children have to offer the rest of us. If only we would take the time to let them teach us, we would be more selfless, less judgmental, and have a greater appreciation for life.

April is National Autism Awareness Month.

My hope is that this month we work to spread awareness for Autism, as well as other special needs. We take this time to learn something new, to help educate others, and to stop looking at these individuals as though they need special people in their lives to help teach them and focus more on opening our minds to the things they can teach us.

Explore Odyssey's featured Autism Awareness content here.

Cover Image Credit: Katharine Smith

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10 Things People With Autism Are Exhausted Of Hearing In 2019

Like, seriously?

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Since Autism Awareness Month is here, I thought I would share some things that people with autism often hear but they are tired of hearing it is time that we all end stereotypes and start raising awareness in order to gain acceptance.

As people on the spectrum, we are tired of being placed in this bubble. We are way more than a disability. We are human and we want to live our lives like everyone else.

1. "You don't look autistic."

I didn't know that we had to have a certain look—that's like telling someone they don't look gay or they don't look like they are from Africa. You are really getting into stereotypes, aren't you? Are we supposed to have green skin, horns, red eyes? No one with autism has a certain look.

2. "You can be normal if you tried."

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I would be rich. What is normal anyway? If everyone was normal then the world would be so, so boring. Normal is just a setting on a washer.

3. "You should work harder at fixing your traits (the annoying ones)."

We are all annoying in some way (disabled or not), but telling a person with autism to act "normal" is like telling someone in a wheelchair to just get up and walk. We often mask our symptoms because we don't want people to know that we are dealing with sensory overload. We are working hard to meet you halfway—we put up with the things that annoy us, so do the same, OK?

4. "Must have been vaccinated, huh?"

Seriously, just stop! There is no proof that vaccines cause autism so take a seat.

5. "You must be really good at math."

Please stop comparing us to "Rain Man"—don't forget that it is a movie. Not every one of us is good at math. I'm actually bad at math and better at English.

6. "How can you have autism? You're a girl."

While yes, boys tend to get diagnosed more than females, it doesn't mean that we don't exist.

7. "I'm so sorry."

What is there to be sorry for if we are happy and living our lives? You have nothing to be sorry for.

8. "Don't get offended if I use the R word. Free speech y'all!"

NEVER use that word! I got called that a lot growing up, and I still hate that word to this day. Yes, I am for free speech being a journalism major, but there is a difference between using free speech for your rights and using it to be a jerk.

9. "Does that mean you don't have to work?"

Ummm some of us actually want jobs. We don't want to live off the government, we have our own bills to pay, we actually have passions and dreams that we wish to achieve.

10.  "You must be violent and a danger to others."

That is one of the most dangerous assumptions that you can make about us. Because not only does it increase stigma, but it will also make people think differently of us.

I believe that if people spent more time educating themselves about what autism is instead of making assumptions about us then maybe this would be a less ignorant world. So not just in April but all year round, educate yourselves on what autism is because with awareness comes acceptance.

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