Myths About Autism

There are many myths and misconceptions about autism. Here are some of them.

Autism is the childhood form of schizophrenia

Some early researchers believed that autism was the childhood form of schizophrenia. This explains why it was sometimes called 'infantile psychosis.' However we now have evidence that autism is distinct from schizophrenia, with different causes and effects.

Autism is caused by a lack of maternal affection

Professor Bruno Bettelheim believed that autism was caused by a lack of maternal affection. This led to the concept of the 'refrigerator mother' i.e. a mother who was emotionally distant. This theory has since been disproved.

We now have evidence that autism has nothing to do with lack of affection from parents. Most mothers and fathers of autistic children are extremely caring and loving parents.

Autism is caused by the MMR vaccine

The idea that autism is caused by the MMR vaccine was first suggested by Dr. Andrew Wakefield in a research study published in 1998. However this study has since been shown to be seriously flawed. There have been many studies which show that there appears to be no causative link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

For more information please see MMR vaccine 'does not cause autism'(Open in New Window) published on the NHS Choices website.

Autism can be cured

Autism is a lifelong condition. Unless there is a specific medical condition causing autism symptoms the concept of cure is not appropriate as autism is a term used to describe a range of developmental conditions with no known cause. It is also the case that autistic individuals may have particular abilities that are of huge benefit to society and may have superior technical, analytical or creative abilities. Where autism represents a disability, appropriate education and support, can reduce or mitigate the adverse effects of autism can be reduced and autistic children can go on to fulfil their potential.

For more information please see Outcomes and Interventions

All autistic people are the same

Each autistic person is a unique individual, with individual abilities and needs.

People with autism are all savants

A savant is someone who has a severe developmental delay as well as extraordinary mental abilities not found in most people.

However most autistic people do not have extraordinary mental abilities. Most have average or below average IQ.

For more information please see Intellecutal ability and autism

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15 Jun 2022