April 2nd is World Autism Day

World Autism Day

World Autism Day

We thought this would be the ideal opportunity to clear up some of the myths of Autism. 50 somethings, unless there is a family member with Autism, probably have very little idea about the condition. The impact it can have on families is huge and we wanted to share some truths about Autism with you.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people behave and interact with the world around them. It can be mild, moderate or severe.

An estimated 1 in 70 people have autism; that’s almost 230,000 Australians. Autism affects almost four times as many boys than girls.

The main features of autism are:

  • Difficulty in social interactions and
  • Challenges with communication
  • Restricted and repetitive behaviours and interests.

As with many medical conditions, there are many myths surrounding Autism. Where something isn’t understood it can often fall foul to the imaginations of the creative!

So, let’s address some of these myths…

Myth – Kids with autism don’t want to make friends

It is clear that in the majority of cases this is not true. Just as with some people who do not have autism, there are those who choose not to form close relationships with others; they keep themselves separated. It is fair to say that the majority of people who are affected by autism do want to make friends do want to socialise.

The challenge for those on the spectrum is that they don’t know how to socialise and that results in them making mistakes. It takes patience and working with the children to help them work out how to do it. The desire is there but because of previous mistakes, it can prove too challenging to try again without feeling anxious or overwhelmed. You must work with their desire to connect and help them to do so.

Myth – Children with autism can’t learn

This myth is absolutely untrue.  Autistic children can learn but they need good teachers. We need to learn how to relate to them and understand that learning can be difficult even without the challenges that Autism presents. It can prove to be a long process and requires persistence and the support of family, friends and teachers.

Myth – Autism is caused by bad parenting

Parents of children with Autism need our support and not berating and being accused of bad parenting. Let’s clear this up. This is absolutely NOT true. The truth is that many parents of Autistic children will accuse themselves of bad parenting because their children are not responding as a child without Autism would. This is, even more, the case where there are siblings.

Myth – Just like Rain Man, people with autism have savant skills

Not everyone can recite the telephone book or tell someone they meet on what day of the week they were born. Some people can do some incredible memory ‘tricks’, but this isn’t something that you see every day.

Many children on the spectrum do share some strengths, such as being visual learners or having a good visual memory. These strengths can be used to help children navigate the world.

As a parent, it is important to feel supported and there are a number of organisations who can help with this. The first step is to visit your GP who can talk you through what is next.