4 Autism Myths — Dispelled
Myths about autism spectrum disorder (ASD) abound. Here, clinical neuropsychologist Theresa Regan explains why four of the most pervasive autism myths are pure fiction — and quite hurtful.
Medically reviewed by ADDitude’s ADHD Medical Review Panel
The medical community understands more about autism spectrum disorder (ASD) every year. As scientific research and findings mushroom, however, some long-held and just-plain-wrong beliefs about autism continue to spread. Here, clinical neuropsychologist Theresa Regan sets the record straight on four common autism myths.
Myth #1: Autism is a Childhood Condition
Autism spectrum disorder is a neurologic condition; the behavioral patterns in autism reflect how the brain is wired. Though the characteristics of autism are often first recognized in the developmental periods of childhood, ASD is a lifespan condition: it impacts most adults for their whole lives.
Myth #2: Individuals with Autism Don’t Have or Want Relationships
Adults on the autism spectrum often have fewer relationships that are reciprocal and maintained across time and context. The desire for connection is often there, but people with ASD typically struggle to successfully start, maintain, and understand romantic relationships and friendships.
Myth #3: Autism is a Condition Seen in Boys
Autism is more commonly diagnosed in males, which seems to reflect genetic factors. However, it is generally agreed that women also slip through the cracks because autism’s behavioral characteristics can present somewhat differently in women vs. men. Today, approximately 4.5 boys are diagnosed with autism for every girl diagnosed with ASD. Some researchers feel that if girls were appropriately identified, the ratio would be about 3:1 (boys to girls).1
Myth #4: Autism Is Related to Intelligence and Cognitive Skills
Autism is a condition related to behavior and social connection; none of ASD’s diagnosable criteria have anything to do with intellect. Autism may co-occur with intellectual disability, but they are two separate conditions. That CDC reports that about half of individuals with autism have no intellectual disability. Many suspect a higher percentage but suspect that individuals with high intellectual abilities may go undiagnosed.2
The following information came from Theresa Regan, Ph.D and her webinar “Could I Be on the Autism Spectrum?” The Adults’ Guide to Pursuing an Accurate ASD Diagnosis. That webinar is available for replay here.
1 Nicholette Zeliadt. Autism’s sex ratio, explained. Spectrum. (Jun. 2018) https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/autisms-sex-ratio-explained/
2 Baio J, Wiggins L, Christensen DL, et al. Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years. Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. (2014) https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/ss/ss6706a1.htm#suggestedcitation
Updated on January 12, 2020