7 Common Myths About Autism Debunked!

autism myths

Autistic Pride Day is observed on June 18th every year. The aim of this day which stands for pride in autism is to spread a message that people with autism are not diseased but different. 

Autism, in simple terms, is a developmental disorder which is characterized by social and communication deficits, unusual interests and repetitive behaviors. According to a 2015 study published in the journal Psychological Medicine[1], 1 in 132 people worldwide suffer from autism spectrum disorders (ASD), which are a group of complex neurodevelopmental disorders. In India, the prevalence rate of autism is 1 in 500 which accounts for more than 2,160,000 people[2]. 

So on this autistic pride day, let’s clear some of the common misconceptions about the condition and help people (in general) to be aware of the condition and spread the message that autism, just like any other health condition, doesn’t need to be looked down. 

Debunked: Common Myths About Autism

There is no doubt that there is a lack of awareness of autism. This is one of the key reasons why numerous misconceptions and misinformation are still prevalent in the world. So here we debunk some of the common misconceptions about autism. These are:

Misconception: It is a disease of the rich. It doesn’t affect the poor

Reality: Autism is a developmental disorder that affects the ability to communicate and behave. Unlike popular belief, the condition knows no racial, ethnic or social boundaries which means that it can affect anyone. Although the exact cause of autism is not known, there are certain factors that can increase the risk of suffering from this condition. These could be if the person suffers from genetic mutations, if the parent’s age is 40 years or more at the time of conception, or if the child has an immediate family member who is autistic. 

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Misconception: It is common only in Western countries

Reality: No, autism is not common ONLY in Western countries. It is also quite common in the subcontinent including countries like India. However, unlike Western countries where there is proper information about the condition including the treatment and support groups, not much is known in India. Lack of awareness and proper diagnosis of the condition make it a lesser-known developmental disorder 

Misconception: Autism is a result of poor parenting

Reality: Many people blame autism on poor parenting, which is absolutely not true. Reason being, autistic kids go through an emotional meltdown, wrangle with teachers, do not pay attention in school, make weird sounds or actions and not respond when called by his/her name. All of this is blamed on poor parenting. However, in reality, these are the signs and symptoms of autism. 

It is interesting to know that in the 1950s, a theory known as “refrigerator mother hypothesis” came into the picture. This theory suggests that autism is caused by mothers who lack emotional warmth, meaning they do not take care of their kids or love them. However, the hypothesis was ruled out long back due to lack of substantial proof. 

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Misconception:  It can be cured with a friendly environment at home

Reality: Autistic kids are not those who are naughty or are misbehaved. They suffer from a condition which makes them subnormal and the characteristics they exhibit indicate they need professional help to cope up and lead a better life. Moreover, autism cannot be cured as it is not a disease but a developmental disorder. With accurate diagnosis and treatment options, the quality of life of the person with the condition can be improved, but this requires support from parents and family. The proper support and care from family can help autistics to lead a better life.

Misconception:  It may spread from one child to another

Reality: If you believe that your child can get autism by touching an autistic kid, playing with them or staying with them, then you are WRONG. A child may not get autism because his classmate or friend has it because it is NOT a contagious disease. It does not spread from person to person. It is a developmental disorder which affects a person’s ability to speak, write, communicate and behave.

Misconception: People with autism have high IQ

Reality: It is a common misconception that every autistic kid has an exceptional intelligence quotient (IQ). Not every but some, relatively rare kids are gifted in the areas of art, music and arithmetics. They form only a small percentage of all the kids with autism. These people exhibit genius IQ levels and exceptional musical abilities. Autistic kids with such exceptional IQ levels are known as autistic savants.

Autism is a lifelong condition and every person with the condition is one of a kind because the symptoms can differ from person to person. There is no cure for autism but early intervention can improve the quality of life and help autistic kids to do better. The treatment options for autism vary from one person to the other. Hence, it is important for everyone to know about the condition so as to actively participate and help in the management of the condition and improve the quality of life of an autistic kid and adult. 

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Swati Mishra, Medical Editor)

Recommended Reads:

World Autism Awareness Day: Know 5 Early Signs Of Autism In Children

Understanding ADHD: Causes, Symptoms & Management


1. Baxter AJ, Brugha TS, Erskine HE, Scheurer RW, Vos T, Scott JG. The epidemiology and global burden of autism spectrum disorders. Psychol Med. 2015 Feb;45(3):601-13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25108395/

2. Autism. Rehab Council Of India (RCI) Book. http://www.rehabcouncil.nic.in/writereaddata/autism.pdf

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