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Misconceptions about people with autism

20th December 2018

It’s estimated that around 700,000 people in the UK may be autistic, which is more than 1 in 100 in the population. Many people we know and love have autism, but there are still a lot of misconceptions and myths surrounding the disorder. In this blog post, we’re going to debunk some misconceptions surrounding autism in the hopes that we can help spread understanding.


‘People with autism have no empathy’

The first myth we’d like to address is that people with autism are often accused of having little to no empathy. In fact, people with autumn can be very compassionate and care deeply about those around them. What those with autism sometimes struggle with is channelling their feelings into everyday interactions. The disorder can make it difficult to pick up on someone’s expressions, body language, and tone of voice, so it’s not always easy for these individuals to detect emotional nuances. Once the individual is aware of these emotions, however, they are able to communicate their compassion.


‘People with autism are stupid’

This is a particularly nasty and harmful misconception. Autism is a developmental disability, not an intellectual one. It has been shown to affect someone’s ability to communicate and interact with people, but none of these traits affect the person’s intelligence or ability to learn. There is no reason to assume that an individual with autism isn’t intelligent, though sometimes some people have an ‘uneven educational profile’ that could contribute to this misunderstanding. This is to say that some individuals are a lot better in some areas than others, which is falsely aligned with low intelligence.


‘Autism is curable’

Another harmful assumption is that autism, as a disorder, is curable. This can be a little insulting to those who possess it, as we have to ask ourselves should we be trying to cure it? Some people with autism would rather not have it, though others in equal measure argue that the condition isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a different way of being and experiencing life, but this is as much as an opportunity to learn new things as it is a ‘problem’. Scientifically, there is no cure for autism and there has been no discerning its exact cause, but there are ways to manage the symptoms the individual doesn’t like and embrace those that they feel positively about.


‘People with autism have mental superpowers’ or the ‘Rain Man’ myth

Parents of autistic children and autistic adults alike are equally frustrated with the assumption that autism bring with it mental superpowers. This harkens back to some people with the disorder excelling exceptionally well in one area in comparison to others, creating the ‘Rain Main’ effect. It is largely agreed upon that as many as 1 in 10 people with autism have these gifts, but this kind of interest in their supposed superpowers leads to how ‘marketable’ they are. This is a damaging assumption for all individuals who do or don’t possess what some might call a gift, because it is simply a part of them.


Everyone with an autism is an individual, and it’s important not to stereotype or generalise. They are just as diverse and unique as neurotypical people, and it’s important to remember that autism is not an over-arching personality type.

Because everyone with autism is different, its vital we see each individual as such. Here at Falcon Housing Association, we support those on the autistic spectrum in finding supported living accommodation in the North East and Durham. If you or someone close to you is considering supported and independent living, we’d love to talk with you. Enquire online or speak to a member of our friendly staff on 0191 260 0551.


If you liked this blog post, you might also find interesting 5 misconceptions about Down’s syndrome.