My brother Ethan was diagnosed with autism as a toddler. At the time, my family had no real understanding of what autism is or how it would affect our dynamic. But over the past 13 years since Ethan’s diagnosis, we’ve learned so much, both from him and from other families like ours. Most importantly, we’ve learned how to overcome obstacles together and find a new appreciation for life. It may not have been the life we expected, but we learned to embrace our new normal, which turned out to be pretty amazing.
While we know a lot about autism now, many people still aren’t very familiar. They see it portrayed on TV shows and in movies and have opinions about what it means — both for the individual and the family — which only adds to the judgments people may have. As we navigated (and continue to navigate) through this journey, I’ve learned that talking to people in an open and honest way is the best way to eliminate any stigma surrounding autism. Here are the five biggest misconceptions about kids with autism.
1. All Individuals With Autism Are Like What You See on TV and in Movies
There’s a saying in the autism community: “If you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve only met one child with autism.” Each person is so uniquely different and shouldn’t be shaped by a stereotype. The Good Doctor, for example, showcases an individual with autism as a genius, so all individuals with autism must be a savant, right? Though it’s true that many individuals with autism (primarily those on the higher end of the spectrum) can thrive academically and lead a fairly independent life, there are also individuals like my brother. My brother has some language, is getting better at being independent, and can verbalize his wants and needs, but as far as a future of living on his own? That’s still very uncertain for him.
You might think the diagnosis would be a unifying factor, but in actuality, there’s a whole spectrum of individuals with their own unique needs. Autism affects each child differently, and those differences need to be acknowledged and supported equally.
2. Autism Is a Dead-End Diagnosis
Just because autism may come with many challenges doesn’t mean the capabilities of an individual with autism are necessarily limited. I’ve heard many stories from other families about receiving the diagnosis and learning their child may never be independent or able to have a conversation, only for…