Two kids were running ahead of me. One was a pretty girl, with beautiful eyes and a curly ponytail. The other was a boy, happy and smiling, his eyes filled with special energy.

 My son was diagnosed with autism and apraxia of speech shortly before his second birthday. Being physicians, my husband and I expected it. We saw signs of autism, and frankly it was a relief to get the official word. Diagnosis meant access to therapy of all kinds. Speech therapy, behavioral therapy, occupational and physical therapy. And the diagnosis also meant that we could now educate ourselves and the world our child would live in.

It’s 2020 and never too late to spread awareness. Here are some myths and truths about autism.

1. Autism affects only boys. 

Not true. 25% of diagnosed children are girls. Because of how differently autism presents in girls, they are often underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

 2. Autism is curable. 

This is absolutely hogwash. Sure, some kids lose their diagnosis, and others become virtually indistinguishable from their typically developing peers, but this is because these kids have worked their entire lives to make the progress you see. They are and will always be autistic; it is just that their autism isn’t immediately apparent to you.

3. Vaccines cause autism. (Or diets/parenting/screens).

 This always horrifies me. There is no proven, scientific data linking autism with vaccines. There are rumors and conspiracy theories, but not one shred of scientific evidence. Again, there are no randomized controlled trials out there showing any connection between diets or screentime and autism. So throw that guilt away and embrace your child’s autism as an integral part of them.

4. Autism means that the child has some special secret talent.

 No, this is not a universal truth. Some kids on the spectrum are talented or gifted at a particular skill, but on the whole, they are just like their typically developing peers. Sometimes they have special skills, and sometimes they don’t. And both are ok.

5. Autism is contagious.

No, it certainly isn’t, but the stupidity of people who believe this might be. Spread the word.

 6. People with autism need support all their lives. 

Well, sometimes they will and sometimes they won’t. Some autistic children grow up to need extra support with living skills. Some children grow up into fully independent adults. And some need housing in a care facility that best suits their set of challenges. Each one of them deserves our compassion, support and empathy.

 7. Autistic people have no emotions or empathy. 

This is completely untrue. People with autism have exactly the same amount of emotions as you and me. Sometimes they’re unable to express themselves and sometimes they choose to not engage in social niceties.But they see and feel everything the same way as the rest of us, and so it is inappropriate to assume otherwise.

 8. Autistic people want to be “normal”. 

Not true.  People with autism are often happy with the way life made them. They walk around with the same joys/worries/sorrows/expectations as the rest of us. Sure, they might wish that certain things weren’t as hard for them, but they are usually very accepting of themselves and their diagnosis. They need not be forced into our perspective of “normal”.

9. Autistic people are all the same. 

This is laughably incorrect. The autism spectrum is a wide, wide spectrum. And a dynamic one, too. A child with autism may not have the same (or even similar) challenges a few years later. Everything is changing, evolving and if you’ve met one person with autism, then you have met one person.

10. An autism diagnosis is the end of the world.

Individuals with autism are not inferior or less intelligent than us. All of us humans fall under this enormous umbrella of neurodiversity. Some of us have anger issues, some of us are good at painting. Some love to dance and some of us cannot sing to save our lives. We have our unique set of skills and weaknesses and the same holds true for people with autism.

See, they are different but not less. They view the world differently and may require extra time or patience. Sometimes even more assistance to do tasks. But at every level, they are human beings, deserving of the same opportunities and acceptance the world has to offer. An autism diagnosis is NOT the end of the world. It is the beginning of a brave new one, full of wonder and magic.

Two kids were running ahead of me. One was a pretty girl, with beautiful eyes and a curly ponytail. The other was a boy, happy and smiling, his eyes filled with a special joy.

That boy is my 9-year-old son with autism. The girl is my daughter, 5 years old and feisty to boot. She bickers with him every morning and sneaks in cuddles when he’s accepting of those. They’re chalk and cheese, yet two peas in a pod.

This is our autism. And this is our story.

(Author’s note: April 2, 2020 is World Autism Awareness Day. Spread the word. Awareness, Inclusion, Acceptance.)

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