It frustrates me when it's assumed that Emilia must be a mathematician or something. She's bright but in a very unique way. She struggles to understand the world but sees and senses things that others don't
Paul, Emilia's Dad
Awareness of autism is growing, but there is still a lot of confusion around what autism is, what causes it and how it affects people in very different ways.
Here we set you straight on 8 common myths about autism.
- Autism is caused by vaccines
The biggest myth of all is that vaccines, specifically the MMR vaccine, cause autism. The safety of vaccinations has been repeatedly tested across large groups of people. High quality research studies involving hundreds of thousands of people have consistently shown that vaccinations do not cause autism.
- Autism is a childhood condition
Autism is lifelong. In fact in the UK there are more autistic adults than children. Autistic adults have been overlooked in research, though, so we're supporting a number of studies to find the best ways to support them at every stage of their life. Research suggests that outcomes can change for people over time if they get the right support, for example with language and communication and anxiety.
- Autistic people have a special talent
We know a lot of parents and autistic adults get asked about this, and it can be frustrating. We all have strengths and weaknesses and autistic people are no different. Being autistic doesn't necessarily make you the next Einstein. Research suggests that around 28% of autistic people have special talents but we don't know why.
- Autistic people have learning difficulties
With the right support and a suitable environment, many autistic people are very able and independent. Around 1 in 4 autistic people speak few or no words, but they can find other ways to communicate. Some autistic people take longer to process information, but it doesn’t mean they don't understand. Autistic people also have strengths over those without autism. For example, strong attention to detail and a special ability for seeing patterns in data can bring many advantages.
- Autistic people are anti-social
Autistic people may need support with social skills or interact differently with the world around them, but most autistic people enjoy having relationships. People show their social difficulties in different ways. Some are quiet and shy or avoid social situations, others speak too much and struggle to have two-way conversations. Unspoken communication can be confusing for autistic people - body language, tone of voice and sarcasm can be difficult for them to read. These challenges can make it difficult to make friends, build relationships or get on at work. Taking time to get to know autistic people and understand their differences in an environment where they are happy makes all the difference
- Autism can be cured
Whilst autism is different for everyone, the majority of autistic adults and families that we speak to feel that autism is a big part of their life, and not something that they would take away. Our research aims to give autistic people the support and services they need to live a long, healthy and happy life. Autism is a complex condition that affects everyone differently, so we focus our efforts on the questions that autistic people tell us they want answered.
- Only boys are autistic
Autism appears to be more common in boys. But girls are more likely to 'mask' their autism, learning the skills to interact with the world better than boys. This can mean that many autistic girls get a diagnosis much later in life than boys.
- Autism is caused by bad parenting
Autism is not caused by bad parenting. Research has proved that parenting is not to blame. We are funding studies at the moment to support parents and help them better understand autism. This approach can improve an autistic child’s communication skills. Parenting style can certainly help an autistic child to cope with the world, but it is definitely not the root cause of autistic behaviour.
"When I’m not comfortable in an environment, my autistic traits are emphasised and my behaviour can be difficult for people to understand."
David, autistic adult.