Today, we are joined by the international community to celebrate the 11th annual Autism Awareness Day. This special day aims to promote solutions for individuals across the autism spectrum and calls for strategic partnerships along the support of the autism community.
This year’s theme “It Takes an Autism-OK Village” is a take on an African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.” This saying taps the huge responsibility of an entire community in making sure that children will grow in a society devoid of ignorance. Ultimately, the theme serves as a multi-sectoral call for building an autism-inclusive global society, through institutional mechanism and collective action.
Unfortunately, some commonly held beliefs about Autism still continue to spread. This lack of understanding can make it difficult for people to understand the movement and help people on the autism spectrum get the support they need.
In order to fully grasp the movement, it is necessary that everyone is fully informed about the facts. Let’s get a run down on some of the common misconceptions about autism.
People with autism don’t have the same skills and difficulties
It is a fact that people with autism share difficulties in the aspect of socializing and communicating with other people. Their behaviours are also restricted and repetitive. However, every person with autism is not that different from all of us; each of them is unique and has different abilities and interests. One of their many wonderful characteristics is their ability to focus intensely on details which pique their interest.
They have no empathy
Autism can make it difficult to pick up on someone’s expressions, body language and tone of voice. But this exceptionality does not mean that they don’t have the ability to empathize. People with autism are one of the most compassionate and caring individuals. What they struggle with is fitting their feelings of sympathy into everyday interactions with different kinds of people.
People with Autism lack intellect
Autism greatly affects an individual’s ability to communicate and interact with people. But not having the ability to communicate just like how people usually do is not equivalent to stupidity.
It’s easy to see an area in which someone with autism is struggling and assume that they have an intellectual disability. Keep in mind that autism is a developmental disability, not an intellectual one.
Autism is a mental illness
In children with autism, the brain develops differently to typically developing children, affecting many areas of development.
A person with autism might also have a mental illness: depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder, et cetera. However, these don’t necessarily go with autism; the most you can say is that autism is often stressful and stress puts people at greater risk of many mental (and indeed physical) illnesses.
Autism is caused by bad parenting
Back in 1940s, Leo Kanner, one of the first psychiatrists to identify autism, blamed a ‘lack of maternal warmth,’ which causes children with autism to withdrew into themselves because their parents failed to give them the necessary compassion.
Autism is not caused by bad parents. In reality, many parents of children with autism are devoted to their sons and daughters, and wholeheartedly spend their time guiding them. Autism is nobody’s fault and it’s not caused by emotional damage: it’s just how some people are.
Until now, the struggle continues for genuine laws and policies on ensuring equal treatment for people, regardless of disability. Issues such as funding for support, access to services, and non-existent health care system still serve as an obstacle in addressing the rights of people with disabilities.
Through awareness on the autism advocacy, we continue to see outcomes and opportunities that generate solutions. However, awareness is not enough. More support and services are still needed for people with Autism and we can only achieve those through collective action. This Autism Awareness Day, let us all take a step further from simply being aware to actively participating in the Autism Awareness campaign. Ultimately, the entire community’s participation can make the biggest difference.
Rizzolo, M. (2017, April 28). AUTISM, OUTCOMES & A CALL TO ACTION. Retrieved March 31, 2018, from https://c-q-l.org/resource-library/resource-library/all-resources/autism-outcomes–a-call-to-action
11 Myths About Autism. (n.d.). Retrieved April 2, 2018, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/node/113471